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City says it has started letting schools know they risk closure

Some schools who pulled low grades on the progress reports handed out last week are already getting notice that the city is seriously worried about their performance.

Department of Education officials have identified 20 schools — 11 with middle school grades and 12 in Brooklyn alone — for “early engagement conversations” that could lead either to closure or another lease on life. This is the second year that the city, eager to stem some of the public outcry over school closures, has held conversations with low-performing schools before announcing which schools it plans to close. This year’s notice comes even earlier than last year, by a few weeks.

Department officials compiled the shortlist by looking at schools’ progress report grades, their Quality Reviews, the results of state evaluations, and the efforts they’ve already undertaken to improve. But in starting the early conversations, the department hopes to learn why the schools are struggling and whether other efforts could help them, according to Marc Sternberg, the DOE deputy chancellor in charge of school closures.

So far, the DOE has sent letters to elected officials in the schools’ districts, the districts’ elected parent councils, and their superintendents. Next, principals and DOE officials will jointly begin holding a series of meetings with families and teachers to discuss each individual schools’ options.

“We’ll take the feedback into consideration as we explore options to improve performance and support student success, and continue to work with all of our schools to ensure that students have access to high quality options,” Sternberg said in a statement.

One principal, whose school received an F on its progress report, said she was “shocked and humiliated” when she found out her school would be listed publicly.

“Even though the F grade implies that we’re failing, we’re certainly not a failing school and we’re not failing our children,” the principal said.Eleven of the schools are middle schools or include middle school grades, signaling where the department could start making room for some of the 50 new middle schools it plans to open in the next two years.

The schools represent only a small fraction of those with progress report scores low enough to put them on the chopping block. Schools that receive an F, D, or three consecutive C’s or below — this year, 116 schools — can be closed, according to the DOE’s guidelines.

Some of those schools have little reason to worry. Schools that are at full enrollment or even over capacity, such as P.S. 148 in Queens, are rarely closed. And other schools have had good grades in the past, so the department is likely to put them on notice but not out of existence. P.S. 112 in the Bronx, for example, had A’s on the two progress reports before this year’s, when it got a D. And schools with brand new principals, such as P.S. 161 in Brooklyn, are also not likely to be shut down.

Other schools with low progress reports are charter schools authorized by the state, which the city legally cannot close.

But schools not on the list of 20 could still wind up fighting for their existence as the city makes decisions about which schools to replace with new schools. And the department has not yet turned its attention toward high schools, whose progress reports will come out next month.

The schools undergoing early conversations:

P.S. 137 John L. Bernstein, Manhattan
P.S. 277, Bronx
New Millennium Business Academy, Bronx
Ms 142 John Philip Sousa, Bronx
Aspire Preparatory Middle School, Bronx
Satellite Three, Brooklyn
P.S. 256 Benjamin Banneker, Brooklyn
Knowledge And Power Preparatory Academy, Brooklyn
P.S. 019 Roberto Clemente, Brooklyn
P.S. 022, Brooklyn
P.S. 161 The Crown, Brooklyn
Middle School For The Arts, Brooklyn
I.S. 171 Abraham Lincoln, Brooklyn
P.S. 298 Dr. Betty Shabazz, Brooklyn
General D. Chappie James Elementary School, Brooklyn
General D. Chappie James Middle School, Brooklyn
P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott, Queens
P.S. 181 Brookfield, Queens
P.S. 014 Cornelius Vanderbilt, Staten Island
J.H.S. 296 The Halsey School, Brooklyn

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