School closures are premature...or too late
Mar 01, 2012 | 12019 views | 0 0 comments | 334 334 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Department of Education's plan to close 33 schools across the city seems, at face value, short-sighted.

No one would argue that some of the city's high schools are in drastic need of improvement. Graduation rates at many of the schools hover around 50 percent, which is unacceptable. But the city needs to focus on why those schools perform so poorly, and then give the schools the resources and tools to achieve, not just paint them with a broad brush stroke and label them as "failing."

First, this sends the wrong message to parents and teachers, but more importantly the students. While the intended message is that the school and the system are failing our children, the unintended message is that the students themselves are failing and beyond redemption, with the only solution being to blow up the entire system and start from scratch.

Last time we checked, that's not the mission of the Department of Education. It's to give students and teachers the tools and resources to succeed, not simply abandon the city's current high school students because they are beyond help.

We're sure that's not the DOE's intent, but that is the way it looks when the city announces it will be closing "failing" schools, each of which that serves thousands and thousands of students.

We have spoken to a lot of people who have reached middle age and rave about the education they received in the New York City public school system, and yes, some of them even attended the large "failing" high schools the city is now considering closing.

What's changed since then? Does the system all of a sudden not work, or has the system over the years refused to subtly adapt to changes in society and education?

We think the latter, and we don't think it's necessarily too late to try.

The city's reasons for closing the schools and replacing them with several smaller high schools make sense. Smaller class sizes means more attention paid to each student. If that's the case, why isn't it that approach being tried out in the current schools?

And isn't this the same Bloomberg Administration that pleaded with the state for control of the city's schools, replacing the Board of Education with the Department of Education? That was almost a decade ago, so if these schools are failing, who's technically to blame for that?

Perhaps there are very valid reasons why entire school communities needs to be scrapped and new ones built from scratch. No one is advocating for poorly performing schools. But if there are valid reasons, the city and this administration are failing at making those reasons clear, and instead look like headstrong bullies intent on getting their way.

That approach may have served Mayor Michael Bloomberg well in other areas during his time in office, but when it comes to educating people's children, it's not the best approach to take.
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