Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Harlem Village Academies

This Daily News article on the Harlem Village Academies, ostensibly examining Cathie Black's alleged connections to the school, is a devastating look at the school itself:

Whatever Black's role there, Harlem Village has little in common with the average public school.

Kenny, who oversees 450 students, is paid $442,000, including a $140,000 "bonus" and $27,780 in "other" expenses.

The schools chancellor gets $250,000 to oversee 1.1 million students.

Many charter schools have a parent representative on their board. Harlem Village does not.

Bloomberg has called the school a national "poster child" for school reform. Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch gave $5 million toward construction of the new high school.

The school has been lauded nationally for its high test scores, including for pushing 100% of its eighth-graders to pass state math tests.

A look at the overall scores tells a different tale. In the last round of tests, like schools across New York, numbers dropped precipitously after the state made the tests tougher.

Schoolwide English test scores fell from 81% passing to 41%, while math dropped from 91% to 71%. And by eighth grade, the number of students taking the tests is a small fraction of the earlier grades.

The eighth grade with the 100% passing rate in math had 19 students.

'Why do they keep kids back?'

An unusually high number of younger students either drop out or are held back. In school year 2003-04, the year the school opened, only 48 of 73 fifth-graders made it to sixth grade. In school year 2006-07, 46 of 68 moved on; in 2007-08, just 40 of 76 fifth-graders made it to sixth grade.

Several parents praised the school for improving test scores and enforcing discipline but questioned why so many students were held back repeatedly.

"The school is good in some ways, but I don't like how they keep making so many kids stay back," one parent said. "There's a lot of pressure. If the school is as good as they say, then why do they keep the kids back?"

Higher grades fared better, although only 31 of 43 of the seventh-graders in 2006-07 made it to eighth grade and only 24 of that class went on to ninth, records show.

Harlem Village officials called the drop in overall test scores "irrelevant" because the school takes in low-performing students whose scores rise the longer they're at the school.

They also said the academy's high school students outperformed their public school peers, with 97% passing all Regents exams compared with 66% in public schools. They did not mention that the high school serves 163 students in ninth and tenth-grades only.

The middle school teacher turnover rate at Harlem Village Academies is also high: more than 50% of the teachers left or were fired in both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. In 2008-09, the turnover was 25%; in 2009-10, the rate was up to 39%.

School officials said the reasons teachers leave are "wide-ranging," including teachers who "move out of state or become full-time mothers."

The school also punishes students at an exceptionally high rate. Harlem Village suspended half its students in school year 2005-06, 44% in 2006-07 and 62% in 2007-08.

By comparison, nearby Public School/Intermediate School 210 reported suspension rates of less than 5% in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

School officials said 95% of the suspensions were for "nonviolent behavior," including "teasing, cheating or disrespect."

High rates of students left back or dropping out of the school, exceptionally high rates of suspension, high teacher turnover rate and low test scores.

Gee, it sounds like a fabulous school and one we should certainly use as a model for education reform.

And of course so many of the "celebrities" in the education reform world have stated it is just that - from Bill Cosby to John Legend to Bob Herbert to Tiki Barber to unfortunately the most powerful ed deform celebrity of all - Barack Obama.

But the reality that underlies the hype is that Harlem Village Academies is no miracle shop and the people running it are no miracle workers.

Rather, it is an education sweatshop that runs through its workforce quicker than you can say "exploitation" and treats its students to an education that is designed to create even more feudal serfs for the future ready, willing and able to do whatever their corporate masters want them to do for whatever their corporate masters want to pay them and then go away quietly and compliantly when their corporate masters no longer want them.

And of course the people running the school pay themselves handsomely to do all this.

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