The city Department of Education has announced plans to close two struggling Queens high schools, and more of the same was expected for the borough’s other six lowest performing high schools.
At a meeting in Brooklyn, the controversial city Panel for Education Policy was scheduled to vote April 26 on whether or not to close Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood and William Cullen Bryant High School in Astoria at the end of the school year and replace both with new schools for 2012-13.
The PEP has never voted against closing a school.
At the beginning of the year, there were nine Persistently Lowest Achieving high schools in Queens receiving federal School Improvement Grants, but the state started to withhold those funds after the DOE and the United Federation of Teachers failed to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system by Jan. 1.
Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered a statewide deal on a framework for a teacher evaluation system, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg and UFT President Michael Mulgrew said plans for the city’s PLA schools remained a sticking point.
In his State of the City address, Bloomberg announced his plans to close the PLA schools. While the DOE noted both schools showed positive trends in student progress between 2008 and 2010, it cited declining metrics in student performance last year and an immediate need to replace what it deemed to be poor teachers as reasons for closure.
The city was also expecting to announce plans to close Newtown HS in Elmhurst, Flushing HS, August Martin HS in Jamaica, Richmond Hill HS, John Adams HS in Ozone Park and Long Island City HS.
Grover Cleveland, at 21-27 Himrod St., was cited for closure due to a four-year graduation rate of 58 percent, which put it in the bottom 20 percent of city schools, and an 81-percent attendance rate, which is in the bottom 17 percent of high schools.
But the school did show progress in increasing the number of students who graduate in six years and for helping an above-average number of students in first-year credit accumulation.
A spokesman for City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said her office was “totally opposed” to closing the school, and would be working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to keep it open.
First-year credit accumulation, which is important as it prevents students from falling behind early, was one of the problems cited at William Cullen Bryant, at 48-10 31st Ave. Last year, only 63 percent of first-year students earned at least 10 credits, putting the school at the bottom 12 percent of the city. It had a four-year graduation rate of 57 percent.
If the schools are closed, a committee made up of UFT and DOE appointees will screen new teachers for hire. Current teachers are allowed to apply, and if the new school has more than 50 percent turnover, it will be eligible for School Improvement Grant funds.
Grover Cleveland will host a public hearing April 2 and William Cullen Bryant will host one the following day, both at 6 p.m.
Queens Vocational Technical High School in Long Island City is the one borough Persistently Lowest Performing school not being considered for closure. A DOE spokesman said the department evaluates each school on a case-by-case basis.
The DOE said its plans for the closed schools will not decrease the number of high school seats in Queens, but the borough will still have a shortage of 155 seats next year. For the 2013-14 year, it is expecting between a deficit of 20 and an excess of 34.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@
©2012 Community News Group
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