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New York City: 26 Schools to Close Due to Low Performance

New York City's department of education announced earlier this week that 26 schools will be closed, phased out, or "truncated." The nation's largest school district is one of a number of urban districts that are planning to close or phase out large numbers schools this year.

Fifteen schools were proposed for phase-out on Monday and two for closure. On Tuesday, seven schools were proposed for phase-out and two for truncation (middle school grades removed from a school that currently holds elementary school and middle school grades). The district spread the announcements over two days so that communities and schools could be notified in a "respectful way," said Erin Hughes, a spokeswoman for the district.

The closings were prompted by low performance, the district's deputy chancellor, Marc Sternberg, said in a statement: "We expect success. After a rigorous review of academic performance, we're proposing to phase out a select number of low-performing schools. We've listened to the community and provided comprehensive support services to these schools based on their needs. Ultimately, we know we can better serve our students and families with new options and a new start."

The district will create action plans and consider additional supports, including SIG grants, for 32 additional schools that were considered for closing.

The district says that it will make every effort to ensure that students in schools that are being phased out receive high-quality educations even as the school is being prepared for closure. Maintaining morale in schools that are being phased out can be a challenge: Here's a profile of a Chicago high school in the process of being phased out from this fall.

GothamSchools describes the closings plan as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration "trying to make the most of its last chance to close schools."
Bloomberg's administration has also overseen the creation of hundreds of new schools, many of them charter schools.

The academic performance of the schools on the cut list is fairly dismal. The high schools' average on-time graduation rate in 2010-11 was 54.5, and the average proficiency rates in English/language arts and math for the elementary and middle schools hovered in the 20 percent range, the district reports. Some have argued that this administration has not made an effort to improve these schools before closing them. CBS News describes local parents as "furious" about the closings. Sternberg says the decisions are difficult but necessary: "These are difficult decisions that we've arrived at after thoroughly evaluating each school's record—and now is the time to take action. We expect every school to deliver for our students, and are working hard to offer families more high performing choices."

The decisions are not yet final: The proposed school closings will be considered by a district in March. Expect more pushback. In 2011, the United Federation of Teachers sued to stop announced school closings in the city school system. And student groups in the city filed a civil rights complaint against the district's closings policy last year, following multiple reports criticizing the New York school system's approach to shutting down schools.

An announcement about Chicago school closings and phase-outs is expected in March. And in Philadelphia, a recent hearing on school closures opened with boos and catcalls for William Hite, the district's new superintendent, who says closing schools in Philly will help rightsize the district and address budget woes. This piece from the Philadelphia School Notebook offers a provocative anecdote: An alumnus of Strawberry Mansion, a Philadelphia school slated to be closed, criticizes Hite for closing the school—but sends his own daughter to a charter school. In many urban centers, an increase in charter enrollment has gone hand in hand with a decline in enrollment in the traditional public schools.

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