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10 Steps to Protect Students During School Phase-Outs

January 27, 2011

By Ruddie Daley and Judith Defour

We are members of the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, parents and NYC public school teachers. In the last few years, it has been painful to watch parents and children suffer when neighborhood schools shut down. Teachers who work in struggling schools don’t know when their school might be targeted for closure. As a result, they are always worried about how long their job will last, and often they end up leaving the system.

Many CEJ parents have experienced the negative impacts of school closings first hand. When a school is phased out, it falls apart around the students. Teachers and counselors flee for other jobs, community-based programs relocate, afterschool programs, sports and arts disappear, many students drop out, and the rest become increasingly marginalized in the building that used to be theirs.  It is extremely hard for students to succeed in this environment. Furthermore, school phase-out puts an undue burden on surrounding schools, and we have seen that dynamic play out in numerous schools across the city.

We call on the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to put much stronger protections in place for students in the closing schools and their communities- before they phase out any more schools. CEJ has 10 recommendations for how the DOE could better support these students.

1. Create monitoring committees in each school that include parents, students and community organizations and meet regularly during the school’s phase-out to track the process and support students.

  • These committees should also pay attention to how the phase out process is framed to students, teachers and parents in order to diminish feelings of loss or being pushed aside — this could be retention of the school name as a building-wide name – or other creative approaches.
  • These committees should receive regular reports from the DOE about how students in phase-out school are being supported and their areas of need

2. Ensure funded supports for students at phase out schools to help them graduate on time, including

  • Rigorous credit recovery options
  • Predictive assessments to ensure students are on track to get a Regents diploma on time
  • Guaranteed continued funding for academic and enrichment programs, including sports teams, music programs, etc.
  • Intensive supports for students who are not on track to graduate on time, so that they don’t drop out when the school closes

3. Create an office inside zone high schools that are phasing out, so that ninth graders who did not go through high school choice process and show up on the first day of school at the phase-out high school can get oriented about their high school options and support in accessing options, including a seat at a good high school that is not too far from home.

4. Provide extra supports for eighth graders in feeder middle schools to phasing-out high schools, so that counselors, families and students become familiar with high school options beyond the zone high school.

5. If the phase-out will require elementary or middle school students to travel further to school, provide additional support for families to manage transportation challenges.

6. Ensure adequate translation of all materials and meetings in regards to phase-out and new schools, in the dominant languages of the community.

7. Before a replacement for the phase-out school is determined, conduct community hearings, a community survey and needs assessment to determine the types of schools that the community is most interested in and most in need of. This would create confidence and consensus among stakeholders and dispel much of the conflict that has become common when schools close.

8. Provide numerous opportunities for parents, students and community organizations to have input in selecting the new schools that will be placed in their communities.

9. Require that the new schools entering the building serve comparable percentages of ELL and special education students to the phase-out school.

10. To ensure that all students continue to be served adequately, require that new schools entering the building provide comparable specialized programs to the phasing out school, such as:

  • Career-technical programs
  • Bilingual programs
  • Programs for pregnant/parenting teens or court-involved youth

The DOE should not move to close any more schools until these and other measures are in place.

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