217 NYC Schools Could Find Themselves Targeted for Closure

According to the New York Daily News, nearly a fifth of the city’s schools have earned grades bad enough on the latest edition of the annual progress report that they are now facing the possibility of being closed.

This year’s list of schools that have received an F, a D or a third consecutive C grade is nearly twice as long as last year’s. In total, 217 of the city’s middle and elementary schools were found wanting according to the standards set by the state compared to 116 the year before. Although only 14 schools were actually closed last year, Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s plan to close 24 more was thwarted by arbitration after the city’s teachers union threatened to file suit to stop the closures.

Bloomberg’s allegations that the arbiter’s decision barred the students of the 24 schools in question from “shar[ing] in the great American Dream,” were proven false to some degree after the seven of the 24 schools showed improvement on the latest grading data.

Two of the seven — Junior High School 30 and Middle School 391, both in the Bronx — earned a respectable B rating this year. The other five earned C’s. This, despite months of anxiety for students, parents and teachers as they fretted about the school’s future — or lack thereof.

“They put us through all this hell last year and now they’re saying we got a B?” asked Sheila Sanchez, 36, a member of the Friends of JHS 80.

The fight to keep Junior High School 30, one of the 24 targeted for closure last year, drew the attention and support of one its most famous alumni: writer, actor and director Penny Marshall. Sheila Sanchez, one of the members of Friends of JHS 30, said that the fact that the school earned a B just goes to prove that the criteria used by the administration to select the schools that should be targeted for turnaround — which often includes the replacement of up to half the staff — don’t work well.

Schools spokeswoman Erin Hughes defended the city’s move to close the turnaround schools and replace half their staffs — and said good grades this year don’t change the city’s reasons for closing the schools.

“Improvement in any school is a positive thing, but it doesn’t mean that these schools wouldn’t have been able to improve even more with new effective teachers and the state funding that they would have received if we were able to implement the turnaround model,” she said.