24 High Schools Placed on Chopping Block As City Releases New Report Cards

By Jill Colvin on November 26, 2012 7:36pm 

CITY HALL — The Department of Education has put 24 low-performing high schools on alert they could be closed because of low grades on new school report cards released on Monday.

The schools include several that received last-minute reprieves in recent years, including the High School of Graphic Communication Arts in Hell’s Kitchen and the Choir Academy of Harlem, as well as several large high schools, including DeWitt Clinton High School and Lehman High School in The Bronx and Flushing High School in Queens.

The news of the potential closures came despite the fact that the city's high schools performed slightly better overall this year than last year on their annual ratings, which are based on a combination of factors, including attendance, graduation rates and how well schools prepare kids for college-level classes.

The average school score rose from 62.8 in 2010-11 to 64.6 in 2011-12, with more schools receiving B's and fewer receiving C's, D's and F's.

Overall, schools on Staten Island performed best, with half receiving A's and half B's — and none receiving C's, D's or F's.

Brooklyn had the worst overall score, with just 25 percent of its schools receiving A's and 2 percent receiving F's.

Among the cream of the crop were Manhattan Village Academy in Flatiron, which received 96.6 out of 100 points and the It Takes A Village Academy in East Flatbush, which received 98.7.

Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky attributed the improvements to new graduation standards, which, for the first time, required every student to pass five Regents exams to graduate.

The prospect of not receiving a diploma was a major factor in motivating students to succeed, Polakow-Suransky said.

“If my kids are not going to graduate…it’s a very different type of pressure,” he said. “For both teachers and kids, the motivation is much stronger.”

Nonetheless, the report cards showed that a troubling percentage of students were not college-ready.

Just 44 percent of the city's 2011-12 high school graduates were deemed ready for college, meaning they wouldn't be forced to take remedial classes at the City University of New York if they decided to attend, officials said.

That was the case even though nearly 60 percent of graduates had taken a college preparatory course, the city said.

And out of all the kids who began high school in 2008, just 29 percent were college-ready by the end of the 2011-12 school year — up only about a point from last year.

The numbers also showed that many students are not attending college, even if they graduate.

Just less than half of students who began high school in 2008 had enrolled in a two- or four-year college within six months of their scheduled graduation date. Even among those who graduated, nearly 30 percent had not enrolled in college, officials said.

Polakow-Suransky said the college readiness numbers were similar to other districts around the country, but he acknowledged the city needs to do more.

“It's our obligation to make sure people who leave our system have real choices," he said.

The city usually flags schools that receive three years of C's or a D or F on their progress reports for intervention.

The schools on the chopping block will all now begin a process of "early engagement," which is the first step toward more drastic action, including closure.

The list of 24 high schools that could be closed includes the middle school portion of the West Bronx Academy for the Future, a school serving grades 6 to 12 that the Department of Education classifies as a high school.

The DOE's school closure policy has come under intense fire from education advocates and elected officials who believe the city should be investing more to turn failing schools around instead of shutting them down.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who has succeeded in stopping some previous closures, slammed the DOE for failing to do more to help struggling schools.

"We are still waiting for an honest report on the lack of progress the DOE has made in supporting students, teachers and schools across New York City," Mulgrew said.

Last month, the DOE put 36 elementary and middle schools on alert that they, too, will face closure if they don't improve.

School officials stressed that being targeted for "engagement" does not necessarily mean a school will be closed.

The high schools targeted by the city are:

Manhattan:

High School if Graphic Communication Arts

Coalition School for Social Change

Academy for Social Action: A College Board School

Choir Academy of Harlem

Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School

The Bronx:

Holcombe L. Rucker School of Community Research

Herbert H. Lehman High School

Leadership Institute

Bronx High School of Business

Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications

West Bronx Academy for the Future (middle school only)

Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology

DeWitt Clinton High School

Bronx Regional High School

Brooklyn:

Freedom Academy High School

George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School

Juan Morel Campos Secondary School

Foundations Academy

Boys and Girls High School

W.E.B. Dubois Academic High School

Sheepshead Bay High School

Queens:

Flushing High School

Law, Government and Community Service High School

Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School

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