Thursday, February 17, 2011

State Reports Show Area Schools Still Struggling

By David J. Harvey

Several Queens schools failed to make the grade at the beginning of this year when the New York State Education Department (NYSED) recently conducted evaluations in conjunction with the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). The reports, released on February 11, show that many schools are still struggling to get ahead of their students’ educational needs—and some are falling further behind.

The NYSED/NYCDOE Joint Intervention Team Report and Recommendations focus on several variables, including curriculum, teaching, leadership, professional development and district support.
The evaluations are sometimes terse and biting. At the end of each report is a space for the evaluators to include specific information that could support a recommendation for action from the District.

In the report on John Adams High School in Ozone Park, the evaluator wrote simply, “The Principal has not demonstrated instructional leadership and has not provided teachers with appropriate feedback or [professional development]. The pervasive nature of this lack of leadership has led to systemic failure.”

The report had previously noted that although staff provided substantial data on the school, neither the Principal nor the staff could identify causes for persistent under-achievement or a plan to address the deficiency.

John Adams High School has also seen a rise in “subgroups” performing worse than “all students”—minorities are performing worse academically than previous years, while the school as a whole is performing better.

John Adams principal Grace Zwillenberg told The Forum she could not comment without approval from the NYCDOE. Its press office did not return an interview request by deadline.

Along with John Adams, Richmond Hill High School and Grover Cleveland High School also continued to be ranked among the city’s lowest-performers. Grover Cleveland, it was noted, has actually improved, just not enough.

Despite the continued failure of these schools to meet minimum state educational and structural requirements, the evaluators did not explicitly recommend closing or “reorganizing” the schools.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo released a statement expressing mixed feelings on Tuesday.

“While I am concerned about the conditions mentioned in the report regarding the area high schools, I am pleased that the [evaluators have] recommended to keep the schools open,” he said. “I intend to work with the DOE to ensure that the best education possible is provided for the young students and their families. It is time to move ahead and work together to help these students achieve success.”

While the problems of the three schools vary in stark degrees, there was one section of
each report that nearly mirrored the others— there is little evidence of district support for these schools.

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