Education / Government

Programs unveiled for struggling schools

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Banana Kelly High School is among four area schools the DOE has placed in its Renewal Program.

Four area schools make the mayor’s list

Four local schools have been targeted as part of the mayor’s new Renewal School Program, which will mean longer school days, more training for teachers and principals, more social workers, and possibly summer school for students. And one additional school has also been named a Community School, part of a citywide program to bring extra non-academic services into the schools.

In School Districts 8 and 12, the schools chosen for the renewal program are Banana Kelly High School, the Hunts Point School M.S. 424, Holcombe L. Rucker School and Entrada Academy; the Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists is now a Community School. The schools have three years to meet the plan’s goals or face staff changes or closure. Department of Education officials will pay frequent visits to the schools to make sure that these changes are in place.

The schools were chosen because they have demonstrated poor performance from students, or have been rated low on other measures of school success. According to Department of Education statistics, Entrada Academy, a middle school on Fox Street, has not met its target for “student progress” or for “closing its achievement gap.” M.S. 424 was named a “priority school” by the State Department of Education in 2012, defined by the state as “persistently low achieving.”  Holcombe L. Rucker School, a high school on Longwood Avenue, has not met its goal for “college and career readiness.” Banana Kelly High School, which shares a building with Holcombe L. Rucker, is also a priority school, and has failed to maintain targets for the overall  “school environment.” At all of the schools, at least 76 percent of students are eligible for free lunch.

Citywide, most principals have seemed hopeful about the plan. “Anything that helps Entrada, and that will get us the resources we need, will be a plus,” said Jazmin Rivera Polanco, Entrada Academy’s principal.

The city will spend a total of $150 million on 94 schools citywide as part of the renewal plan — $39 million this school year and $111 million in the next. The 43 Community Schools will benefit from an additional $52 million in funds. “Entrada was probably picked because the students weren’t performing well in their classes,” said Polanco. “Plus, Entrada has persistently been labeled as dangerous.” Polanco attributed this to a new policy that requires every incident of misconduct be reported to the Department of Education.

The thrust of both programs is to focus on the lives of students outside of the classroom with support from social workers and health care services, as well as provide the opportunity for more parent and teacher interaction.  For example, at the Bronx Studio School, a 6-12 school on Simpson Street, the city’s proposed program includes “advisory programming, peer mentoring, restorative justice programing, strengthening family engagement practices, a ‘100% Respect Campaign’ launch, staff coaching and professional development,” according to the Department of Education website.

The first goal that the schools are required to meet is an increase in attendance. Last year, among the four local schools, attendance rates were as low as 73 percent. The following year, schools will be expected to show improved academic performance.

“We’ll give them the tools, the leadership, and the support they need to succeed,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a press release. “And we’ll hold them accountable for delivering higher achievement.”

The Department of Education promised that all 94 schools will have the plans in place by the spring.

The plan couldn’t come soon enough, said Polanco.  “We need a lot more man power here.”

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  1. Pingback: Renewal to Help Bronx Schools Turn Around

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