"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prince Bloomberg Must Obey Law: School Closures Halted

In a rebuke of the Little Dictator of Manhattan, the Courts have ruled. From NYTimes:

A judge on Friday blocked the closing of 19 schools for poor performance, finding the city engaged in “significant violations” of the new state law governing mayoral control of city schools.

The ruling, a setback to one of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s signature education policies, means the city will have to start over in making its case to close the schools, this time, the judge wrote, with “meaningful community involvement.”

Unless the decision is overturned, it will most likely result in all the schools’ remaining open for at least another year. The law requires the closing process to begin at least six months before the start of the next school year.

The decision cleared the path for high school acceptance letters, which had been delayed because of the lawsuit, to go out to eighth graders around the city.

The decision, by Justice Joan B. Lobis of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, was a victory for the United Federation of Teachers and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which joined more than a dozen elected leaders and parents in suing to stop the closings.

They argued that the city had failed to comply with the mayoral control law passed last year, which required the Department of Education to give detailed “educational-impact statements” describing the effect of each closing on students and surrounding schools.

Justice Lobis agreed with the plaintiffs’ contention that the department had issued boilerplate statements, which she found lacked “the detailed analysis that an impact statement mandates.” She found other procedural violations, including insufficient public notification before hearings.

. . . .

“We are thrilled,” said Christine Rowland, a teacher and the United Federation of Teachers’ representative at Columbus High School. “I think there’s a chance now. It was so hard for us to get anyone to listen in the very tight space of time we’ve had.”

The city has closed 91 schools since 2002, many of them large high schools, replacing them with clusters of smaller schools and charter schools in the old schools’ buildings. Mr. Bloomberg credits the closings with significantly improving graduation rates, which average over 70 percent at the small schools and 63 percent citywide.

When a school closes, current students are allowed to stay until graduation, but no new classes are admitted.

The moves have always generated controversy, particularly when schools proposed for closing had shown some progress. For example, 12 of the schools scheduled to close this year received a grade of “proficient” on their last city quality review, and hundreds of students and alumni citywide spoke out in favor of effective programs at the closing schools, like one devised for mothers and pregnant teenagers at Robeson that offers day care and teaches parenting skills. . . .

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