Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Data debunks Bloomberg administration claims of school failure and success

Monday, January 18, 2010
Data debunks Bloomberg administration claims of school failure and success

The New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg / Schools Chancellor Joel Klein administration is in an unprecedented fury to close down large high schools, called comprehensive high schools in the education field. The city is working to replace the schools with small schools, also called small learning communities. While the city has touted the small schools as the panacea for problems in education, academic studies and actual city data show that the city has not made improvements in students' performance.

The real "bible" for every education activist, whether the activist be a student, a parent or an educator should be NYC Schools Under Bloomberg, and Klein: What Parents, Teachers and Policymakers Need to Know. (Lulu, 2009, ISBN 978-1-56592-479-6) It has contributions by academics, education activists and journalists, Diane Ravitch, Deborah Meier, Deycy Avitia, David C. Bloomfield, James F. Brennan, Hazel N. Dukes, Leonie Haimson, Emily Horowitz, Jennifer L. Jennings, Steve Koss, Maisie McAdoo, Udi Ofer, Aaron M. Pallas, Steven Sanders, Sol Stern, Patrick J. Sullivan and Andrew Wolf.

David C. Bloomfield, a professor of Education Leadership, Law & Policy at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, contributed Small Schools: Myth and Reality to the New York City Schools. The essay indicates how private foundation money has dictated public policy. During the 2000s the (Bill) Gates Foundation dispensed $100 million into the creation of small schools in New York City. That foundation has channeled money through intermediary private foundations, the largest of these being the New Visions Foundation, as the Gates Foundation channeled $61 million to the New Visions Foundation. (Bloomfield, p. 49, 50)

The city touted "college readiness" as the sure-fire product of these conversions. Yet, huge percentage of the school graduates require remediation courses when they enter CUNY schools. Bloomfield cited the following excerpt from a study, that shows that New Century High Schools (another of the private foundations that has reshaped New York City Schools):
Examination of the Class of 2006 graduates in the two groups of schools indicates that graduates of comparison-group schools were more likely to earn a Regents diploma or Advanced Regents diploma, however, than were NCHS graduates (67 percent versus 46 percent). When the unit of comparison is students rather than graduates, however, the difference is less stark, with 41 percent of comparison-group students and 36 percent of NCHS students earning a Regents or Advanced diploma. (Bloomfield, p. 53-54)

As Bloomfield noted, this difference indicates that the New Century school students performed worse than students in the traditional high school students, as measured by receiving a Regents diploma.
He added (p. 54):
Like their large-school colleagues, most New York City small schools graduates earned so-called "local Diplomas," rather than Regents diplomas; these are so deficient that New York Sate is eliminating them because they fail to meet accepted standards of college readiness. It appears that, counter to their stated mission, the small schools are putting graduation over education without the academic rigor that [small school] advocates claim.

Remember, we are ultimately concerned with the students' long-time interests; but Bloomberg / Klein have failed with these school conversions:
Small schools students, too, have suffered from their schools' focus on reaching the administration's self-defined benchmarks rather than providing a substantive, well rounded education preparatory to post-secondary [i.e., college] opportunities. (Bloomfield, p. 55)

From Diane Ravitch's introduction to the collection of essays:
In late 2008, the Gates Foundation announced that it was curtailing support for small high schools because its own research showed that students in these schools were mot making as much progress in reading or mathematics as their peers in large high schools.
(Ravitch, p. 3)
Bloomberg made the mission of transforming the schools with the goal of making students "college-ready." The facts show that his makeover of the schools has been a failure toward the goal of college preparedness.

Bloomfield noted a study indicating that the future of a new school school does not improve over the earlier large school "unless the academic profile of incoming students is improved, a DOE contrivance well documented by Jennifer Jennings [New York University sociology professor] and Aaron Pallas [Teachers College, Columbia University professor of sociology and education]." (Bloomfield, p. 55. He pointed to "Jennings writing as Eduwonkette, 'Why Has the Education Press Missed the Boat? The Case of Small Schools,' Education Week, vol. 27, no 39, June 4, 2008 and Jennifer L. Jennings and Aaron Pallas, 'Who Attends Small Schools?,' presented at the American Educational Research Association annual conference, San Diego, CA, April 13-17, 2009.")

The New York State Report cards indicate that small schools, broken from large schools do not perform better than the traditional large schools. I have presented performance on Regents tests. Now, I recognize that authentic sophisticated learning is more than performing well on a standardized test, the test performance comparisons provide a standard measure from school to school. It is interesting that the data of "the system" or "the education establishment" do not show the small schools as performing better than the larger traditional schools.
Let's focus on the two more difficult New York State Regents tests that are mandated for all students, the Global History test and the Living Environment test. The previous passing grade was 55; for the newest graduating cohorts of students the passing grad is 65. Students that entered the ninth grade in 2007 (the class of 2011) must pass four of the mandatory tests to receive Regents diplomas. (The mandated tests are English, Math, Global History, U.S. History and Living Environment.) Local diplomas will be eliminated, beginning with the cohort of students entering the ninth grade in 2008 (the class of 2012).

Let's look at a sample of schools that have been broken into smaller learning communities, and then let's look at larger, comprehensive schools:
(The New York State Regents test data come from:
*Sampling of small schools, created in the 1990s and 2000s from large schools:
*Erasmus Campus (in the former Erasmus Hall High School, Flatbush, Brooklyn) Business/Technology:
(This small school-within-a-school academy is itself moving to closure; it does not have figures for the latest available year, 2007-2008)
percentages of students getting 55 and 65 scores, respectively, on tests:
Global History, 2006-2007: 66, 26
Living Environment, 2006-2007: 76, 35
*Erasmus Campus Humanities:
Global History, 2008-2008: 64, 18
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 60, 20
*(in Erasmus) Academy for Hospitality and Tourism:
Global History, 2007-2008: 60 48
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 63 37
*(in Erasmus) High School for Service and Learning:
Global History, 2007-2008: 65 48
Living Environment: 80 62
*(in the former Andrew Jackson High School, Cambria Heights, Queens) *Business/Computer Application High School:
Global History, 2007-2008: 49 29
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 85 57
*Humanities and the Arts:
Global History, 2007-2008: 80 66
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 73 46

*Traditional, larger, "comprehensive high schools" in comparable communities, central Brooklyn and east-central Queens:
*Boys and Girls High School, Bedford-Stuyvesant:
Global History, 2007-2008: 69 62
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 76 44
*Clara Barton High School, Crown Heights:
Global History, 2007-2008: 68 35
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 75 56
*Jamaica High School:
Global History, 2007-2008: 66 52
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 71 48

So this settles the issue. It will be necessary to pass four of the Regents exams with at least 65 to get high school diplomas in a few years. By New York State's own requirements, the performance scores in the small schools are not stronger than those in comprehensive high schools in comparable neighborhoods. The small schools are not meeting the challenge. So, why is there the tremendous urgency to shut down comprehensive schools and replace them with small schools? The city is publicizing so-called failures of the comprehensive schools. Why are large schools over-whelmingly the targets? Why are they not treating the small-schools or the academies-within-the schools not receiving comparable scrutiny? As I have just documented, the small schools are "failing" by New York State's own Regents requirements. Even the private foundation that engineered the makeover for small schools (the Gates Foundation) has abandoned the trend of breaking apart large comprehensive high schools.

As I have noted elsewhere on this blog, large schools afford benefits of economies of scale: music, art, performing arts, physical education facilities, including full size basketball courts or competition-ready pools, diversity of foreign languages of study, electives in English and senior year social studies, honors classes and advanced placement classes. Conversely, as Bloomfield noted, "Because of their size, small schools usually lack diverse curricula; depth in specialized faculty, particularly in math and sciences; professional guidance and college counseling; another strengths of comprehensive schools." The break-up of schools entails undue uneconomical duplication of administrative staff, not the least of which is the hiring of multiple $100,000+ principals per school building.
This break-up of comprehensive high schools is a civil rights issue; the break-up of schools has not been forced upon white or Asian communities. These school-break-ups are not happening in Forest Hills, Bayside or Midwood. These school break-ups are exclusively in African-American and Latino neighborhoods: eastern Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan.
Posted by NY_I at 8:33 AM

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