Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Ugly Underside of School Closings: A Telling Incident

Dr Mark Naison
Fordham University

If you think closing schools for low test scores doesn't hurt children, listen carefully. This morning, at 8 :30 AM I got a panicked call from a dear friend and colleague whose daughter, a special needs child, was auditioning for an arts junior high school in the Bronx. The teacher in charge of auditions told her ( something that the principal later confirmed) that the school didn't take special needs children, no matter how talented, and used reading scores as their primary criteria for admission. They let my friends daughter audition, so as not to hurt her feelings, but made it clear that she had
no chance of getting into the school.

This kind of educational triage, which we already know is widespread at charter schools, is now spreading to schools throughout the system,as the NYC DOE
makes it clear that low test schools will lead to school closings and firings of teachers and principals. If you are a principal, it is simply not in your interest
to take children, who because of developmental issues ( or in some cases poverty and stress) do not score well on standardized tests

So what happens to children like my friend's daughter who is bright, beautiful and talented, but doesn't test well? Is she systematically excluded
from the schools with the most resources, and the best programs and services and shunted to schools that the DOE has marked for closing?

School reformers who enthusiastically endorse school closings, like Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, say they are doing so because they represent "the children."

But which children are they talking about? Certainly not my friends wonderful daughter, and the millions of childrens like her, who mark my words, are
going to be casualties of this misguided movement

Mark Naison
February 12, 2011



Unknown said...

You're absolutely right. As a former NYC principal, I often had an internal battle... Should I accept students because of who the are and their potential or accept students who would improve my progress report grade? I tried to find students who could fulfill both but nevertheless, it made me feel horrible at the end of the day. I understand the need for accountability but there needs to be a better way...we need to be accountable for accepting and supporting ALL students.


Dee Alpert said...

The NYC DOE had to terminate its policy of excluding kids w/disabilities and ELLs from the new small schools because it is an obvious violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The parent should contact Advocates for Children or another organization (there are several, but AFC is the largest and best) and ask for assistance in getting the child admitted to this school. The school's statistics (report cards, various NYC DOE reports) would document the school's unlawful exclusion of kids w/disabilities.

The NYC DOE doesn't need more problems re its prior unlawful policy allowing these kids to be excluded. I imagine AFC would not have a lot of trouble handling this case and getting a positive outcome for the young lady.

If you give the name of the school, I'll be happy to dig up the relevant statistics, which you could publish documenting the unlawful exclusion.

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