deja vu

Report: Again, very high-need students at schools up for closure

The Independent Budget Office released a compilation of statistics today about schools facing closure, including their spending distribution and share of high-need students.

High schools up for closure this year actually serve fewer students with special needs than they used to, according to a new report by the city’s data watchdog group.

But because the nine high schools are much smaller than they once were, students with special needs still represent a far higher share of their total enrollment, according to the report released today by the city’s Independent Budget Office. All together, the high schools enrolled a third fewer new students last year than in 2006, the IBO found.

The report marks the fourth time that the IBO has compiled enrollment, spending, and performance data about schools that the city is trying to close. It also marked the fourth time that the office, which state law charges with scrutinizing Department of Education data, has concluded that schools up for closure have higher-than-average concentrations of high-need students.

The new report backs up critics of the Bloomberg administration’s school closure policies, who say that high concentrations of students with special needs, English language learners, and low-performing students have stacked the deck against high schools the city has closed.

The critics include State Education Commissioner John King, who last year warned the city that its enrollment policies had created unacceptably high concentrations of needy students in low-performing schools, and advocates who filed a federal civil rights complaints about the city’s school closures. This year, the schools up for closure once again enroll disproportionate numbers of black students and students from poor families.

But the report also includes data that complicate common arguments put forth by opponents of planned school closures. One argument is that the Department of Education undermined the schools by sending them more high-need students over time. But while the schools all enroll more high-need students than the city average, their share of those students has not increased substantially since 2006, according to the IBO.

And while some schools, such as Herbert Lehman High School, have seen their share of low-performing ninth-graders climb, most schools have enrolled low-scoring students at relatively flat rates. One school, Sheepshead Bay High School, actually saw its proportion of high-need students fall since 2006.

Another argument has been that the schools have not received adequate resources to succeed. But the schools up for closure all received more funding from the city last year than other schools, according to the IBO, and they also spent more per student on counseling and after-school programs.

Department officials seized on the financial data to justify the school closure proposals.

“The IBO report affirms what we already know to be true — that the schools proposed for phase out are not meeting the educational needs of our students,” said Erin Hughes, a department spokeswoman. “The outcomes for students at these schools are poor, despite these schools having more financial resources than other schools.”

Hughes also repeated a claim that department officials have made before: that many schools succeed despite having many high-need students. “Hundreds of other schools across the city are producing remarkably better outcomes with similar populations of students,” she said.

An analysis conducted last year by NY1 found that there are actually very few elementary and middle schools that “beat the odds” associated with their student demographics.

The budget office’s full presentation is below.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.