2012-01-06 / Top Stories

Hearing On PS 215 Closing Set For January 20

By Miriam Rosenberg

After three years of earning failing grades on its yearly progress reports, the Department of Education has proposed that Lucrettia Mott Elementary School, PS 215 at Briar Place in Wavecrest, should be phased out and replaced with a new school.

In advance of the Department of Education February vote on whether or not to phase out PS 215, a public hearing on the proposal will be held at the school on January 20.

In an effort to gain support for retaining the school, even before the hearing, staff members have circulated an email that blames the Department of Education for deserting the school and asks for the public’s help keeping it open.

“They [the DOE] cut off our afterschool programs, took away academic interventions services, we have no reading or writing program to improve test scores, our math program is outdated, the student library is not available for student use, and there are not enough supplies to assist in academic learning,” wrote staff representatives who asked not to be identified because they fear retribution. “We desire the opportunity that other schools have been given in similar situations, to be given the chance to change with proper funding and support and also with a realistic timeline in place. We want the DOE to make the necessary changes desperately needed to offer our students the chance to improve and to help move the teachers past the barriers and challenges they face.”

Another staff member, who also asked not to be identified because she fears for her job, said, “I want to clarify the point that we have not received failing grades for three years. We were a C, D the past two years, and got an F last year. However, we have never received an “underdeveloped” review, we have always been developed on our report card. The DOE has asked us to implement several things and we have complied. Back in about April of last year the DOE came into our school to help us with curriculum mapping. We have been implementing that ever since.

We have been asked to create a progress report, grading policy, teacher teams and curriculum mapping which we have been doing. The DOE cancelled our December 7 quality review without reason. They did not even come to see what progress we have made. They said we needed a behavior intervention action plan which we have implemented. We accept out of zoned students with no questions asked. We have not had any funding for after school programs for at least four years to offer extra help to our struggling students. In addition, all of our reading teachers that usually work in small groups with struggling students have been placed into classrooms due to budget cuts. (AIS services) and funding for our Math AIS (extra support) services were cut.”

Last month, the DOE made the announcement proposing to phase out the school beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. At the same time a new school, 27Q362, would open in the building. The new school, as with PS 215, would serve students in kindergarten through fifth grade. According to the DOE, 27Q362 will also have a prekindergarten program but only if the necessary funds are available.

Over the last three academic years PS 215 has consistently received low grades in its annual Progress Report – with grades getting lower each year. In 2008-2009 the school received a C grade,in2009-2010itreceivedaDand in 2010-2011 it received an F. According to DOE guidelines, schools that get D’s and F’s or three C’s in a row, may face consequences including a change in school leadership or – the most severe – school closure.

PS 215 ranks in the lowest 3 percentile of elementary schools in the city. The overall F grade for the 2010-2011 academic year can be broken down into several categories. Student progress, an F, is based on the change in student scores on state tests in English Language Arts and Math, compared to other students in the city who started at the same level. Student performance, a D, is the grade based on the results in the school in 2011 on state tests in English Language Arts and Math. School environment, also a D, is based upon student attendance and the NYC School survey on which parents, teachers and students rate academic expectations, safety and respect, communications and engagement. Schools also receive credit for exceptional gains by students with disabilities, English Language learners and students starting with the lowest proficiency citywide.

Interested parties who want to comment on the proposed phase-out of the school can do so several ways – by attending the hearing to testify in person, by phone (212-374-7621), or by email (D27Proposals@ schools.nyc.gov).

The January 20 hearing will begin at 6 p.m. Those who attend the hearing and want to speak should arrive early. Speaker sign-up begins 30 minutes before the hearing and closes 15 minutes after it starts. The Panel for Educational Policy is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its February 9 meeting, which will take place at Brooklyn Technical High School and begin at 6 p.m.

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