Saturday, January 28, 2012

Killing the Comprehensive High Schools: Parents, is this what you really want?

When the city demolished the original Penn Station, it is said that the people gasped in disbelief at what they had done.  And when Madison Square Garden was erected, they knew that they had made an irreversible mistake.  I think many people would be shocked to know that the same is happening to some of the city's most highly regarded high schools.  It hit the Bronx like a sledgehammer  Any of these names ring a bell?

John F. Kennedy High School 
Lehman High School
James Madison High School
Alfred E. Smith High School
Adlai E. Stevenson High School
William H. Taft High School
Christopher Columbus High School
Evander Childs High School
Theodore Roosevelt High School

This is just a partial list of closed schools in the Bronx. Check out the Wikipedia link of New York City High Schools and see which ones are listed as "campus" or "co-located" to see the complete list from all 5 boroughs.

ALL of the schools on my list were closed and replaced by co-located "small schools" and charters.  Now the city has announced the closures of countless other schools including 2 comprehensive high schools in Queens (which as seen relatively few closures compared to other boroughs):  Long Island City High School and Flushing High School. 

How is it possible that ALL of these high schools are failures?  I'm not saying they didn't have problems, but these high schools were traditional high schools with programs, honors classes, AP classes, sports teams, music programs, clubs, etc.  And now they have been replaced by "small schools" with fancy names, that are meaningless.  What the h*** does  "Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts" even mean?  Or "High School for Teaching and the Professions."  Are they serious?  I mean no disrespect to the hardworking students and teachers at these schools, but I can't help but questions the motives of this whole small school charter movement.  Who is it helping?  Who is profiting?  I know as a parent, I would be LIVID if my child didn't have the same opportunities as the REST OF THE COUNTRY because they were relegated to a small school that offered nothing but a fancy name.  If Scarsdale High School were targeted for closure and co-locations by charter schools and small schools,  you better believe those parents would be all over it and would make sure it was stopped.  

Where are the parents in this?  The alumni?  Why is nobody speaking out against these closures.  I recently spoke with the parent of an honors student at Long Island City High School (set for closure in June 2012) who had nothing but great things to say about the school.  His daughter was enrolled in AP classes, participated in science club, math league, and played sports.  And what he liked most was that she didn't have to commute to Bronx Science to get a good education, she could do it in their neighborhood.  He said that the reason he believes the school is "failing" is due to truancy not poor teaching or because it is a "bad" school.  

People are going to wake up one day soon and realize that there are no traditional high schools left and that these small schools and charters are not sustainable and do not produce the results they promised.  They are shorting the city's kids and it seems the whole world is on board.  

I welcome thoughts or comments.


Elouise Tomás said...

Wow, I'm totally shocked about Long Island City High School. (That's the only one on the list I know through personal connections)

sarah G Lilly said...

Ms. Peace, I love your blog, and I am about to start my own. I have jsut been through the most difficult year of my life, although, like you, things in the classroom are the best yet.
My daughters went to La Guardia, but I have taught now for both a small new High School and a Charter School and I an tell you both my schools performed worse than the schools they were trying to replace.
School reform won't work if it doesn't support students with basic services and school traditions like sports music and art. It won't work if families are invited and involved in the school culture. It won't work if teachers aren't supported with supplies, libraries, professional development and fair schedules with reasonable class loads.
It won't work if Principals aren't trained under strong Principal mentors who have a track record of healthy student performance.
I don't think things will get any better until educators make sure their voices are heard on all these issues, including curriculum and testing.