Thursday, January 28, 2010

NYC Closing 19 Schools - Welcome to Charter World

New York City is closing 20 public schools, 19 of them operated by the district, and the other a charter school, East New York Preparatory, which is facing imminent revocation of its charter.

This is never easy, and it's gut-wrenching on the parents whose children attend those schools, along with the staff who work there.

At the all-nighter meeting of the City's Panel on Education Policy this week, the Panel voted to approve the closure recommendations of Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein, over the protests of hundreds of parents and teachers attending the public meeting at the Brooklyn Technical High School. Since the Mayor appoints 8 of the panel's 13 members (with each borough president appointing one), the panel approved the Chancellor's closure decisions.

The Bloomberg administration and its Department of Education are making a data-driven education decision about each school's effectiveness. They've concluded that years of low-performance on state exams and poor graduation rates, among other issues, demand these schools be closed. Students would be better off in other schools, or new ones to replace them.

Parents and staff are reacting emotionally, which is completely understandable and must be respected. Their lives are being upended and their pride wounded. But unless they can make a counter-argument that the school's are improving academically or the DOE's analysis is flawed somehow, the closures will proceed, barring some process intervention by a court.

A Familiar Scene for Charter Schools
From a charter school perspective, we've seen this play out several times since 2004 when the first charter school failed to attain renewal of its charter, the John A. Reisenbach Charter School in Harlem. ReadNet Charter School in the Bronx also wasn't renewed, along with several more charters in Syracuse, Rochester, Schenectady and Buffalo.

It's a familiar, emotion scene with parents and staff attending a public meeting on a charter school's closure, wondering how it got to this point and not understanding the rules governing accountability in the charter contract. I can appreciate the parental frustration when viewing some disinterested, smug bureaucrat in the room with the power to pull the plug on your child's school. Parents view it as their public school and they want it to continue.

The most recent charter example of this occurred last month when parents gathered at the New Covenant Charter School in Albany to oppose the recommendation of SUNY staff to close that school. The SUNY Board of Trustees has not yet accepted the recommendation of its staff on closing the school, and it waffled last year from doing so by giving the school one more year.

"Accountability and Transparency" for District Schools?
We've been hearing a lot from the United Federation of Teachers lately on more transparency and accountability for charter schools. But it's charter schools--nine of them, thus far--that have been closed for failing to meet rigorous standards of academic performance and governance. Turns out that "accountability" is merely a political soundbite of the UFT's against charter schools.

The UFT's opposition to these 19 NYC district school closures further demonstrates that the union is unserious about accountability and wants no part of it for district schools.

Peter Murphy
for The Chalkboard
(see me Twitter @ "PeterMurphy26")

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