2011-02-18 / Top Stories

FRHS Closing Despite Meeting Expectations

By Howard Schwach

Far Rockaway High School will end its storied 120-year run this June even though it exceeded its expected graduation levels and test results, according to published reports, based on internal Department of Education documents.

In those documents, revealed in the New York

Post last week, the Department of Education makes predictions for each school based on a number of factors, particularly the performance of ninth-graders on reading and math scores.

Based in those predictions, DOE officials predict how many of the school’s students will graduate on time. Officials say that schools in troubled areas and with many educationally-challenged students are expected to graduate fewer students than schools in more affluent areas.

A number of the large, comprehensive high schools that have been closed in recent years, including Far Rockaway High School, which began the phase-out process three years ago and will close forever in June, had predicted graduation rates below 45 percent – far below the citywide graduation rate of 60 percent.

Yet, the published reports say, records show that Far Rockaway High School beat its predicted graduation rate by 0.6 percentage points just before the DOE voted to close it down.

Beach Channel High School, which will begin the phase-out process in September and will be closed in 2014, showed similar growth in graduation rate, according to school officials.

“The data shows that the administration’s stated rationale for school closings, that students and teachers were underperforming, is false,” said Patrick Sullivan the Manhattan representative to the Panel for Educational Policy. “They must stop closing schools until a new policy, based on transparency and community engagement can be put in place.”

DOE officials, however, said that the graduation predictions were not factored into the decisions to close the schools because, “the numbers were not precise enough at the individual school level.”

Last week, the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted to close Jamaica High school as well as Beach Channel High School.

The Queens representative to the PEP (eight members are chosen by the mayor and one each by the five borough presidents) questioned why Jamaica High School had so few resources in relation to the new, smaller schools in the building, a question that was raised over and over again in relation to Beach Channel High School as well.

The president of the PEP, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said that it was because the high school had many more experienced and expensive teachers, and could not afford all the bells and whistles provided to the smaller schools, which have a much younger and less expensive staff.

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