Here is how some see the school:
Aniah McAllister was a lost girl of New York, one of tens of thousands of children edging toward an adulthood drained of hope.
At 18, she possessed just 17 high school credits; she knew the streets and little more. She wandered, almost on a whim, into Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn, a last-chance school for last-chance kids.
Two years later?
“I’m 20 years old, I have 46 credits, and I want to go to college.”
Ms. McAllister shakes her head, as if amazed to have just claimed that desire as her own. “This school made realize,” she says, “that I am much better than I thought I was.”
That’s a pretty fair bottom line for any school, although in the up-is-down world of public education in New York, it might just be an epitaph for this small marvel of a high school. Known as a transfer high school, Bushwick Community admits only those teenagers who have failed elsewhere. Most students enter at age 17 or 18, and most have fewer than 10 credits.
You can muck around quite a bit trying to find someone who has walked the school’s corridors, talked to its students and faculty, and come away unmoved. Most sound like Kathleen M. Cashin, a member of the State Board of Regents and a former superintendent. “They care for the neediest with love and rigor,” she said. “They are a tribute to public education.”
Here is how Bloomberg and the Tweedies see the school:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose insistence that he has presided over an educational miracle recognizes few bounds of contrary fact, has proposed laying off the principal and half the teachers before it can reopen for the next school year. City officials complain that a majority of students fail to graduate in six years.
But the school is not getting students until they're already 17 or 18 years old, many lacking most of their credits, so of course they're not going to graduate in six years.
The question ought to be, what does the school do with these students once they get them? How do they help them academically? How do they help them emotionally?
According to the Times article, Bushwick Community High School does amazing work:
The Education Department’s report card compares this school with other transfer schools, and gives it a 95 percent grade in improving student attendance, 90 percent for passing the English Regents exam and 100 percent for the math Regents.
All of which is fine, though not nearly as moving as listening to these teenagers talk of lives adrift until they washed ashore here.
Justin Soto, short and muscular with a goatee, raises his hand. “I had not passed a class since junior high school,” he says, as tears roll down his cheeks and a girl rubs his neck. “I’m 21, but I’m not a man yet. This school has given me a life.”
Ms. McAllister raises her hand. A year ago, she asked her teacher if she was smart enough to graduate. He spent an hour talking to her. Next year, she will attend Medgar Evers College. She, too, is crying.
“Failure was all I knew,” she says.
What, I ask, would you like to be?
“A teacher, oddly,” she says. “I mean, it’s inspiring when you know what you were and see what you are now.”
But because Bloomberg and his Gates Foundation functionaries at the NYCDOE only trust data, they have decided this school needs to be closed and the principal and 50% of the teachers need to be fired.
Michael Powell is the writer of this Times piece and he indicts the current reliance on metrics and numbers as the only thing that matters in education:
Public education across the nation has sunk deep into a bog of metrics. We presume to measure teaching and achievement as a chemist does a proper mixture of chemicals. To this conceit, you can add the draconian demands of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which offers millions of dollars in help for poor urban schools only if city officials adhere to the same unyielding metrics.
This is a particular problem for a transfer high school, whose faculty takes children bruised by years of neglect. Bushwick Community is run, in part, by its faculty members, who offer the usual collection of the smart, the eccentric and the deeply committed found in most schools that work.
To sit with a dozen of the students at a community center not far from the high school was to watch as one girl nursed a baby and another spoke of living with her child in a shelter. Two had been tossed out of their family homes. Another lived with her grandmother on Coney Island — she commutes one and a half hours each way to this high school in Bushwick.
These are nonlinear kids with nonlinear lives.
And yet, the school is going to be closed and 50% of the staff and the principal are going to be fired - all based on a unyielding set of metrics that doesn't really measure what the data people say it measures.
With the advent of a new teacher evaluation system based upon student test scores, with value-added measurements to be used on all teachers starting next year, with the addition of nine new state ELA and math tests, four new city math and ELA tests, and four tests each in social studies, science, foreign language and physical education in order to pull off these "metric-based teacher evaluations," you can be sure that there are going to be plenty more stories like this where teachers are going to be fired based upon "unyielding data."
What's worse, since the New York State legislature and the governor refuse to shield the new teacher evaluation system from FOILing, teachers will not only be fired for the unyielding, inflexible, error-riddled data, they're going to be publicly humiliated in the media as well, with names, photos and evaluation rankings published yearly.
Who do the politicians think is going to work at a school like Bushwick Community High School and try and help kids who need a "last chance" when the consequence will likely be public humiliation in the Post and News as they publish the names and photos of the CITY'S WORST TEACHERS and then firing courtesy of Cuomo, King, and Tisch?
Any teacher who stay in a system where only metrics and test scores matter is going to have to value only metrics and test scores.
As Arthur Goldstein pointed out in this New York Times piece yesterday, that means teachers will be less likely to help students who need help because every student will be seen as nothing more than another point in a data set.
Is this what the pols want?
Is this what parents want?
Is this what students want?
Aniah McAllister says at the end of the Powell piece from the Times that she wants to be teacher now that she has seen the power that teachers have in transforming lives.
But in the Brave New System developed by Obama, Duncan, Bloomberg, Klein, Cuomo, Tisch, King, Gates, et al., teachers will not have that power anymore.
They will simply have to yield to the intractable data or be crushed.