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City picks 71 struggling schools for lower-stakes discussions

Sustaining an annual tradition, Department of Education officials will hold meetings with teachers, parents, and students at 71 low-performing schools in the coming weeks.

But with the department’s leadership set to change over when Bill de Blasio becomes mayor Jan. 1, the meetings are not a prelude to a round of school closure announcements, as they were in the past. Instead, they’ll be used to develop plans to help the schools get better, as de Blasio has said should be the response to low performance in almost all cases.

The Bloomberg administration’s strategy for improving the school system has rested heavily on closing struggling schools and opening new schools in their place. That strategy drew fire from school communities that said the city had not tried to fix the schools before closing them.

Responding to that criticism, the city began holding “early engagement” meetings at schools with low scores several years ago to show communities that it had considered their explanations for their poor performance before making closure decisions. It also began creating “targeted action plans” for the schools it decided not to close.

The “early engagement” terminology is gone this year, reflecting the gentler approach to school improvement that the department is cultivating as the Bloomberg era of school reform comes to a close. Now, the meetings are being billed as “conversations with struggling schools” as a way to figure out what they need to improve.

“Avoiding a one-size-fits-all model, we’ve differentiated our supports and interventions because each school is different,” Deputy Chancellor Saskia Levy Thompson said in a statement. “Today, we’re beginning that listening process again to determine what these schools do well, identify areas for improvement, and develop a unique action plan for each school.”

Several times this week, department officials have touted a new statistic: Of the schools that developed targeted action plans in the past two years, more than three quarters saw their annual letter grade improve, and 40 percent gained two or more letter grades.

Levy Thompson said the 71 schools chosen for the meetings, which will begin shortly, are both in the bottom 15 percent of schools citywide on this year’s progress reports and are seen within the department as not being on track to get better.

The schools include Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, which received its third straight F this year, but not Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, the other school to extend the same unprecedented spree. A former top department official became Clinton’s principal this year.

The list also includes three schools that until this year received support from the College Board. The nonprofit cited shifting organizational priorities when it withdrew its support this year, but it had previously pulled aid from one school when it began to struggle.

And it includes a few schools saved from closure in the past, including Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which kept its middle school open after powerful politicians came to its aid, and Bushwick Community High School, a transfer school that the department removed from a list of schools facing “turnaround” last year.

The full list of schools that will hold community meetings in the coming weeks is below:

Manhattan: P.S. 137 John L. Bernstein Henry Street School for International Studies Marta Valle High School P.S. 198 Isador E. Ida Straus Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers Independence High School P.S. 145, The Bloomingdale School Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts Coalition School for Social Change Isaac Newton Middle School for Math & Science P.S. 123 Mahalia Jackson P.S. 194 Countee Cullen P.S. 200 The James Mccune Smith School Academy for Social Action: A College Board School Frederick Douglass Academy P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte P.S. 152 Dyckman Valley High School for Health Careers and Sciences Bronx: J.H.S. 162 Lola Rodriguez De Tio Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies P.S. 146 Edward Collins M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar Holcombe L. Rucker School of Community Research Felisa Rincon de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy Banana Kelly High School P.S. 070 Max Schoenfeld P.S. 073 Bronx P.S. 126 Dr Marjorie H Dunbar I.S. 313 School of Leadership Development New Millennium Business Academy Middle School Bronx High School of Business Thomas C. Giordano Middle School 45 P.S. 021 Philip H. Sheridan P.S. 112 Bronxwood School of Diplomacy P.S. 092 Bronx P.S. 195 P.S. 212 Peace and Diversity Academy Bronx Regional High School Brooklyn: P.S. 067 Charles A. Dorsey M.S. 113 Ronald Edmonds Learning Center P.S. 305 Dr. Peter Ray Brooklyn ElementaryFoundations Academy School for Legal Studies Automotive High School P.S. 309 The George E. Wibecan Preparatory Academy Boys and Girls High School W.E.B. Dubois Academic High School The High School for Global Citizenship School for Democracy and Leadership P.S. 114 Ryder Elementary Olympus Academy P.S. 202 Ernest S. Jenkyns P.S. 306 Ethan Allen Multicultural High School I. S. 381 P.S. 165 Ida Posner P.S. 327 Dr. Rose B. English Brooklyn Collegiate: A College Board School Brooklyn Secondary Mott Hall IV I.S. 347 School of Humanities P.S. 377 Alejandrina B. De Gautier Bushwick Community High School Queens: Pan American International High School J.H.S. 226 Virgil I. Grissom Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School Richmond Hill High School John Adams High School PS/MS 147 Ronald McNair Pathways College Preparatory School: A College Board School