Friday, October 12, 2007

Rikers to House New DOE “Prison Academy”

October 12, 2007 (GBN News): Spurred by the increasing number of arrests of students and school personnel, the NY City Department of Education will be partnering with the Corrections Department to create a new, small high school within the Rikers Island prison facility. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told GBN News that school security officers have lately been arresting much “higher achieving” student offenders – a result, he said, of new “performance incentives” which reward officers for arresting students with higher test scores. This, he said, coupled with the recent arrests of well-respected school administrators, will make for a “quality school environment” within Rikers.

The Chancellor went on to say that he expected the new school to have a high graduation rate due to its small size and the quality of its leadership. Its success, he said, “will prove once and for all that our small school policy works.” Mr. Klein also mentioned that students will have an added incentive. “They won’t be released from Rikers until they graduate”, said the Chancellor. And as for incentives for the teachers and administrators, Mr. Klein warned, “It’s either Rikers or the rubber room. They can take their pick.”

Critics said that if the graduation rate is high, it will only be due to the highly selective admissions process. Still, some feel that at least the environment will be less “prison-like” than many of the current city high schools.


Anonymous said...


I am familiar with your humour but need to say you stepped over the line in this one. Having taught on Rikers Island and having done a stint in the rubber room I can tell you that the issues we have confronted with the DOE on Rikers is no laughing matter. The DOE plans a full overhaul of the education system on Rikers after eviserating most of the adult ed programs there. Our guess is that they will close the schools there and reopen them and use the occassion to provide less education services. Rikers used to be a higher level priority but without the ability to generate the data that the DOE is now looking for it has been put on the back burner.

Gary Babad said...

My apologies if my humor seemed somehow disturbing or offensive to you or to anyone. But with all due respect, the situation that you describe seems to me all the more reason to employ dark, biting humor. I fully sympathize with and support those who have unfairly languished in rubber rooms; and, what the DOE is doing to the Rikers programs are no less horrific than what they are doing to the entire educational system and to all of our kids. But my hope has been that my parodies make precisely those sort of points. I do often try to walk a fine line and to write scenarios that could “almost” be believable. When people remark (as they do) that they actually, even for a moment, believe that Alvarez and Marsal would eliminate school lunches to save money, or that Bloomberg would tell kids to bury their cell phones outside, it just shows how “over the line” the DOE folks often are. And, if people read this Rikers piece and “almost” believe that Klein could actually make such crass statements, it says something about the things he actually does say and do.

As parents (and teachers), we often feel such a profound powerlessness in the face of being marginalized out of our own education system. Humor is one way of coping with this feeling, and fighting back. My hope is that when someone who is in, or has been in a rubber room sees a “story” about Joel Klein being mistakenly put into a rubber room by ARIS, or having his Blackberry confiscated by school security, that just maybe that person can enjoy a bit of fantasy of the Chancellor getting a well deserved “comeuppance”. Maybe that person can even get a bit of satisfaction out of it, and can feel at least a bit of our support and encouragement.

Sometimes we just have to laugh so we don’t have to cry.