Big news! In a dramatic shift from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina's indefatigable devotion to keeping failing schools open in order to unfavorably contrast themselves with former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former Chancellor Joel Klein, the city announced yesterday (see the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Chalkbeat) that they would close three schools, all in Bed-Stuy.
The three schools are Peace Academy Middle School, The School for the Urban Environment, and Foundations Academy. The enrollment at the three schools is, respectively, 47 students, 57 students, and 113 students. Two of the three are part of the city's Renewal Program, now in its second of three years, which promises to improve the lowest 94 schools. (Urban Environment is just an under-enrolled school, although it's unclear to me why it's not on the Renewal School list, with 0% proficiency in language arts and 11% proficiency in math. On the other hand, 89% of students pass their coursework. Either its subgroups are too small to report or the course content is badly unaligned with standards.)
From the Times:
For the last two years, no students at the School for the Urban Environment have been scored as proficient on the state English test.
Foundations Academy had the lowest graduation rate in the city in the 2013-14 school year, 22 percent compared with the 68 percent average citywide, and the fourth lowest in the city the next year, and was in very low demand. Only two eighth graders listed Foundations as their first choice during the high school application process this year, the department said.
De Blasio and Farina differentiate themselves from Bloomberg and Klein in their reluctance to close failing schools that no parent wants their child to attend. In contrast, the latter team closed 150 schools. A recent study from Steinhardt at New York University studied 29 of the school closures and found that while the closures had little impact on students during the phase-out period, benefits accrued for future students:
Closing high schools produced meaningful benefits for future students—i.e., middle schoolers who had to choose another high school because the school they likely would have attended was closing. These students ended up going to schools that were higher performing than the closed schools, both in terms of the achievement and attendance of incoming students and on the basis of longer-term outcomes. In addition, “post-closure” students’ outcomes improved significantly more than students in the comparison group, including a 15-point increase in graduation rates.
So bully for de Blasio and Farina for stepping back from their $770 million Renewal School plan which critics have derided for lack of transparency and meaningful goals, and closing three schools which, regardless of student achievement, are so tiny as to render any effectiveness moot.
"At some point," said Outgoing Chancellor of Regents Merryl Tisch, "everyone has to stop being ridiculous.