DOE Doesn’t Learn

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What will it take to convince the city Department of Education that its shoot-first, ask-questions-later approach to improving schools isn’t working?

Despite the opposition coming from communities the schools serve, the DOE is bent on closing South Jamaica’s PS 140 and two Campus Magnet high schools — Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship and Law, Government and Community Service. In DOE vocabulary, these schools will be “phased out.”

PS 140 received an F on its most recent progress report, and the two high schools each received a D. City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the schools required immediate action.

Although it’s clear community leaders do not support the DOE approach, Walcott added, “We’ve listened to the community and provided comprehensive support services to these schools based on their needs.”

We don’t believe Walcott is listening to community leaders. If he were, he would have abandoned this approach two years ago.

The first thing the DOE should do is find out why these schools are “low performing.” Is it the administration? Is it the teachers? Is it the challenges faced by students coming from broken homes? Until the DOE knows the answers to these questions, what sense does it make to wield its axe and phase the schools out?

Campus Magnet is the former Andrew Jackson High School, which was broken into four smaller schools in 1994. The magnet schools included Humanities and the Arts; Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship; Math, Science Research and Technology; and Law and Government.

At first, graduation and attendance rates improved significantly, but the schools’ graduation rates in 2010 were about the same as the graduation rate of Andrew Jackson in 1992.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie argued that the schools were performing poorly because the DOE did not give them proper support.

“The proposed closings,” he said, show “how this administration has refused to listen to reason when it comes to our children’s education.”

The city’s approach to fixing the schools in Queens’ poorest neighborhoods has been a failure. We hope Walcott will realize this before more damage is done.

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