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DOE to close four more schools, including Jamaica HS

Jamaica High School, a long-beleaguered school in central Queens, is among four more schools the Department of Education today said it would phase out beginning at the end of the school year.

The other schools are the School for Community Research and Learning, a Bronx high school; the Academy for Collaborative Education, a middle school in the Bronx; and PS 332, a neighborhood K-8 school in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. All four schools have poor state test scores and problems maintaining enrollment and discipline, according to the department. They join four other schools whose proposed closures were announced yesterday.

According to the school governance law passed in August, the proposed closures must be given public hearings and approved by the city school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy. The panel has never rejected a DOE policy proposal.

At more than 1,500 students, Jamaica is the largest school the department has so far this year indicated it would close. It has jumped on and off of the state’s list of “persistently dangerous” schools, and its graduation rate has hovered below 50 percent. This year, it has more than 500 ninth-graders but fewer than 200 twelfth-graders, according to DOE enrollment data.

Back in September, Arthur Goldstein, who teaches at Francis Lewis High School, offered some recent history about Jamaica’s trials in a column on GothamSchools asking why more wasn’t being done to help Jamaica improve. He wrote:

The city labeled Jamaica a “priority” school, and then an “impact” school. Ultimately, the state labeled the school “persistently dangerous.” Under NCLB, this triggered a letter home to all Jamaica parents, offering them an opportunity to transfer their kids to another school. Understandably, the school population dropped precipitously. Was Jamaica persistently dangerous, or was it just reporting more incidents than its neighbors? …

The DoE’s position was that Jamaica needed surveillance cameras, police, and metal detectors to improve. [UFT chapter leader James] Eterno felt it would’ve benefited more from additional counselors, teachers, and social workers. But that was not to be the case.

Below are the city’s bullet-points about why it is moving to close the schools, taken from an e-mail sent to reporters by a DOE spokesman, William Havemann:

Phase-out of PS 332 (23K332):

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of PS 332 Charles H. Houston, an elementary and middle school in District 23 that currently serves students in grades K-8. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new kindergarten classes starting in September 2010.
  • The school has earned a C grade on its annual progress report for three consecutive years.
  • Student performance at PS 332 lags behind student performance district-wide:
  • In 2008-09, 51.8% of PS 332 students were proficient in ELA, compared with 58.9% of students district-wide.
  • In 2008-09, 61.2% of PS 332 students were proficient in math, compared with 85.9% of students district-wide.
  • Demand for the school is low.
  • Only 60% of the students attending the school are zoned to the school.

Phase-out of the Academy of Collaborative Education (05M344)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Academy of Collaborative Education (ACE), a middle school in District 5 that currently serves students in grades 6-8. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new sixth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • ACE earned a C on the 2007-2008 Progress Report and a D on the 2008-2009 Progress Report, including Fs in both the Environment and Student Progress sections.
  • There is widespread dissatisfaction with the school across all constituencies:
  • The school earned zero points out of fifteen on the Environment section of the 2008-09 Progress Report.
  • Only 44% of students feel that their teachers inspire them to learn, and only 27% of students feel safe at school.
  • Zero percent of teachers feel that order and discipline are maintained at the school.
  • Only half of the school’s parents indicated that they were satisfied with their child’s education.
  • Safety is a serious problem at the school:
  • The school was named to the State’s list of “Persistently Dangerous” schools in August 2009, even though other schools in the same building do not experience the same level of safety incidents as ACE.
  • Student achievement at the school is consistently low:
  • In 2008-09, only 38.1% of ACE students were proficient in ELA.
  • In 2008-09, only 47.0% of ACE students were proficient in math, a more than 10 point decline from the 2007-08 in a year when most schools experienced significant gains on State math exams.

Phase-out of Jamaica High School (28Q470)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of Jamaica High School, a Queens high school that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate at Jamaica High School has stagnated below 50% for years:
  • In 2008, the graduation rate was 44.5%.
  • In 2009, the graduation rate increased slightly to 46.2%. This slight increase still leaves the school twenty points below the projected Queens average of 67%.
  • Jamaica received a C on its 2006-2007 Progress Report, a C on its 2007-2008 Progress Report, and a D on its 2008-2009 Progress Report, declining in all three sub-categories.
  • Students fall behind early in their education, and the school doesn’t successfully get these students back on track.
  • Only 46.7% of first-year students accumulated ten or more credits in 2007-08.
  • In 2008-09, this figure declined, with only 44% of first-year students accumulating ten or more credits.
  • Demand for the school has increased slightly, but remains extremely low.
  • The school currently enrolls 1,527 students, and is significantly under-enrolled despite the presence of severely overcrowded high schools elsewhere in Queens.

Phase-out of School for Community Research and Learning (08X540):

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the School for Community Research and Learning, a high school in the Bronx that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The school graduates fewer than half of its students:
  • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 47.3%.
  • In 2008-09, the graduation rate was 43.9%.
  • The school received a C on its 2006-2007 Progress Report, a B on its 2007-2008 Progress Report, and the lowest possible C on its 2008-09 Progress Report — with a D in both the Progress and Performance sections.
  • Students fall behind early in their education and the school doesn’t successfully get these students back on track:
  • In 2007-08, 48.9% of first-year students accumulated ten or more credits.
  • In 2008-09, 53.1% of first-year students accumulated ten or more credits.

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