Queens high school council blasts DOE’s turnaround fix

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Spurred by the announcement that eight persistently low-achieving high schools in the borough would be given the turnaround model, the Queens High School Presidents Council held a breakfast and presentation in Flushing Friday refuting the city’s education policies.

“Our kids are not pawns for our game,” said Jane Rieff, president of the Queens High School Presidents Council.

The group, run by the borough and made up of presidents of the parent-teacher associations of all the high schools in Queens, discussed what they saw as inherent problems in the education system with legislators from across Queens and others with a stake in the system. The meeting was attended by about 60 people and held at the city Department of Education’s office at 30-48 Linden Place, 4th Floor in Flushing. Topics included student college readiness, school progress reports and mayoral control of the school system.

“They’ve dumbed down the top and all they’ve done is falsify the numbers to make it look like the bottom is going up,” said City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens).

Much of the talk also focused at how eight persistently low-achieving Queens high schools were scheduled for turnaround.

When a school goes through turnaround, the principal and 50 percent or more of the staff is replaced. Schools up for turnaround include William Cullen Bryant High School in Astoria, Long Island City High School, Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Flushing High School, Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, August Martin High School in Jamaica, Richmond Hill High School and John Adams High School in Ozone Park.

“Closing schools I don’t believe is the answer,” state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) said. “I’ve made that very, very clear.”

Rieff said the city is not preparing its middle-school children for high school or high school students for college. Many students have said they were unprepared for the college workload compared to what they had to do in high school.

“I am appalled that at the CUNY community colleges, 75 percent of the students need remediation,” state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said.

Rieff and David Solano, another City Council member and Bayside High School PTA co-president, also called into question how progress reports are conducted. Rieff said schools get extra points if grades increase for certain students but not for others and that there is no standard time frame for English language learners to become proficient even though Queens has the largest number in New York.

“The methodology used is not consistent and it’s not fair,” Rieff said.

Dermot Smyth, of the United Federation of Teachers, said while the union was once in favor of it, mayoral control of the school system has been a problem. He said the administration should be looking at the system itself rather than specific problems in the school buildings.

“Mayoral control has not worked,” Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said. “It’s locked out parents. It’s locked out communities.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 12:14 am, February 16, 2012
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