Thursday, October 6, 2016

Receivership schools, class size and nine years of broken promises to our kids from the DOE: a letter from the Education Law Center

Check out the letter below from Wendy Lecker of the Education Law Center, asking Commissioner Elia if she is going to approve NYC's deeply flawed Contracts for Excellence plan, a "plan" in name only that does not even pretend to reduce class size citywide and thus does not comply with the state C4E law passed in 2007.

Even in the limited number of 90 plus Renewal schools the DOE says it has focused its class size reduction efforts on for the last few years, very few of these schools significantly reduced class size.  Last year, only seven out of 94 Renewal capped class sizes at the original (and fairly modest) C4E goals of 20 students in grades K-3, 23 students in 4th -8th grade and 25 students in high school classes -- which would still be larger than class sizes averages in the rest of the state.

This is flagrantly unacceptable.  Since 2007, DOE has promised to reduce class size in its lowest-performing schools.  For the first 7 years or so, this involved a list of 75 low-performing schools with especially large class sizes.  None of these schools ever lowered class size to acceptable levels, and many of these schools have now been closed.  Others have continued to struggle.  Promises have been repeatedly made to these children, to parents, and to the state, and repeatedly broken, and the state hasn't even bothered to pretend to care. For the last three years, DOE has promised to reduce class size at the Renewal schools.  This hasn't happened either.

The three most persistently struggling NYC schools, according to the state, are all Renewal schools in the Bronx.  They have been on various permutations of the failing list for at least a decade.  They are middle schools, composed primarily of students from low-income families with large numbers of English language learners and special needs children: JHS 162 Lola Rodriguez De Tio in District 7, IS 117 Joseph H. Wade, and JHS 22 Jordan Mott, both in District 9.

JHS 162 and IS 117 have been on the city's priority list for class size reduction since 2007, when the Contract for Excellence law was first passed; JHS 22 since 2009.  Yet DOE has never bothered to cap class sizes in these three schools at levels that would guarantee significant progress. Though JHS 162 did finally lower average class size to 22 last year, many classes remained as large as 28 in all four core subjects, according to DOE data.  JHS 22 actually increased class size last year, and also had classes of 28 students.  At  IS 117, class sizes not only increased, but grew to 29 students per class on average.  Many core classes were as large as 33-34 students --which are so large they actually violate the UFT limits for Title I middle schools  -- supposed to be capped at 30 students per class.

On Wednesday it was announced that JHS 162 will be put into receivership, having made the least progress of the three schools in terms of test scores. Within 60 days, Chancellor Fariña must appoint an outside individual or organization to manage the school, merge or close it. If it is closed it will join the many NYC schools that met this fate without the DOE officials having tried the most obvious method -- and the method they promised to carry out -- to improve them.
Below Wendy's letter is the testimony she earlier submitted on C4E.  The excellent ELC report she cites showing growing class sizes over the last nine years is posted here.

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