Friday, December 4, 2009

Jamaica High Closing in Queens

The article in today's city room gives facts, but no conclusive reporting on the causes behind Jamaica High closing in Queens.

Enrollment at Jamaica High School has been falling — it was 2,500 a decade ago — and its graduation rate has remained below 50 percent for years, education officials said. Under the city’s proposal, the school will stop accepting ninth graders in 2010 and slowly shrink.


Here's what I find curious about New York City Public Schools facing these issues. It appears to me that they are treated like businesses, without any of the functionality of a business. They are not run as businesses, yet when the students "fail" to perform, and "fail" to graduate, the entire school is told to shut down.

Who judges the performance of teachers? Why are teachers not fired?

Are systems not evaluated, put in place, or are not different management brought in to use inventive ways to manage teachers, grade teachers on performance and encourage changes to the system that improve the educational lives of students? I really don't know. I have never been inside a New York City public school.

In 2000, I was in a relationship with a woman who studied at Columbia Teacher's College and taught in a public elementary school in Harlem. My memory of her comments on teaching there is that the place was a bureaucratic morass.

Can anyone out there point me to people who study education policy for New York? Can anyone guide me to conclusive studies about the issues involving poor performance of city schools, parallels with teaching and student behavior, programs offered, and issues relevant to the rising or falling of a school's ranking in whatever system that New York City uses to rank these schools?

It seems shocking to me that, based on what I know, we can shut down schools here, but not offer much in the way of for-profit educational alternatives for students who might be well on their way to success but allegedly suffering from inattention or failure to be placed in the right courses, programs or schools in New York.

I say that as an assumption, open to being wrong, but I also have a background as a teacher, and I firmly believe that there are no bad students, there are only methods we have not tried yet.


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