William E. Grady High School is one of 33 schools slated to lose half of its staff as Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushes reforms of “persistently low-achieving” schools throughout the city. But Grady is hardly “persistently low-achieving,” having jumped from a D last year to a B this year in the Department of Education’s annual Progress Reports.
That’s got teachers and administrators at the school crying foul, after having already been forced to make major changes less than a year ago.
“The reaction at the school is anger, because we have been evaluated since we got put into the transformation model last September. Everyone who has walked through the door – whether from the state or the city – was praising it and giving it high marks…and, yet, Grady is closing,” Chris Manos, a teacher of automechanics and Grady’s UFT Chapter leader, told Sheepshead Bites. “Why is the mayor doing this? And the real reason is that it’s just a political ploy. [The mayor is] angry because the evaluation system didnt pass through the union so they’re trying to break the union by hurting the schools and the students.”
The Brighton Beach high school was forced into a transformation model last year, one of the most rigorous of the four models for school development under federal School Improvement Grants. The program was supposed to bring $2 million annually to each of the target schools, and the schools were to be evaluated over three years.
However, that plan ground to a halt after the Department of Education and the teachers’ union missed a federal deadline to implement a new teacher evaluation program. The deadlock caused the city to miss out on a $58 million federal grant.
Now the city has switched gears, focusing on a new federal program that doesn’t require a teacher evaluation. However, Manos said it throws all of the progress made at the schools out the window, and destabilizes the environment.
“What’s going to happen is that freshmen, sophomores and juniors are going to come in next year and they’re going to find all the teachers that they have a bond with [are gone], and they have 50 percent new teachers. How is that fair to a child?” asked Manos. “They’re going to come and have 50 percent more people who have no loyalty, who are not part of the Grady family. We have a dedicated staff and the reports have shown that, but the DOE doesn’t care.”
Grady is not alone. According to a report by the New York Post this morning, Bloomberg’s list of 33 targets includes seven schools that received an A or B grade this year. In Southern Brooklyn, four schools are on the hit list – though two of them scored Bs.
The local schools slated for staff slashes under the newly-announced program are:
- Grady High School (25 Brighton 4th Road) – received a D in 2010 and a B in 2011
- Sheepshead Bay High School (3000 Avenue X) – received a C in 2010 and a D in 2011
- John Dewey High School (50 Avenue X) – received a C in both 2010 and 2011
- Franklin D. Roosevelt High School (5800 20th Avenue) – received a B in both 2010 and 2011
The Daily News suggests the Department of Education included the improved schools because the city needs a “dramatic response to the state’s assessment of their performance, [or else] the city could lose up to $2 million a year for each of the schools.”
The teachers’ union is blasting the plan, though, saying it destroys any semblance of credibility within the Department of Education.
“When you decided that you would close a school that got an A on your own bloody school progress reports…you lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the people of New York,” United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey said at a recent Panel for Educational Policy meeting (as recorded by the Post).
“The story here is that the hard work of the school is being ignored due to the mayor and the chancellor’s political agenda,” Manos said. “It is a disgrace that this mayor – this man who in my opinion lost all of his credibility by hiring Cathy Black and trying to ram her down our throats when she had nothing to do with education – and he’s making the decisions? That’s a disgrace.”