In a sudden reversal Monday, the Department of Education removed seven highly rated schools — one in Manhattan and six in Brooklyn — from of its list of public schools forced to undergo closure and staff overhauls for the new school year. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
All along it was hard for the Department of Education to explain why it planned to shut down seven schools this summer for poor performance, after giving them high grades just last fall.
On Monday, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott gave in to public pressure, and in a brief email to reporters announced the seven highly rated schools will stay open.
Walcott's statement reads in part, "When we began this process, we proposed closing and replacing these seven schools where we had seen some improvement, but where the pace of change was not quick enough for our students. After careful consideration, including school visits from my leadership team, we have come to believe that these schools have strong enough foundations to improve."
The one Manhattan school is Harlem Renaissance High School.
The six in Brooklyn are:
Cobble Hill School of American Studies
I.S. 136 Charles O Dewey
Franklin D. Roosevelt High School
W. H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School
Brooklyn School for Global Studies
William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School.
The schools were among the 33 the DOE planned to close, replacing their principals and half the teachers. The mayor announced the plan in his State of the City address, after failing to agree with the teachers' union on a new teacher evaluation system.
Almost immediately, the administration faced questions over how it could close six schools it had recently rated Bs and a seventh, Maxwell High School, that had been steadily improving for years, going from an 'F' to a 'D' to a 'B' to an 'A.'
Those annual letter grades are a signature initiative of the Bloomberg administration, so the chancellor was in the awkward position of having to defend closing an A-rated school while still claiming that the grades mattered.
"It's not just the letter grade. And the letter grade is extremely important and we take great pride in the letter grade, but you also have to take a look underneath the hood, per se, as far as the schools are concerned," Walcott said in January. "And we still have a number of concerns about Maxwell."
The teachers' union says closing schools with high-letter grades became a political liability for the mayor.
"I think it's clear that when the Department of Ed and the mayor propose closing schools that under their accountability system were considered 'A' and 'B' schools, it made a mockery of their whole system," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
Just last week, the Department of Education applied for millions of dollars in federal funds to implement the closure plan in each school. The chancellor said he has now withdrawn the applications for these seven spared schools.
Another 26 public schools will be closed this summer, reopened under different names and led by new principals, and their teachers and staff will be forced to reapply for their jobs.