Boys and Girls High fights for survival

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 12/6/2012, 11:59 a.m.

"The goal of these discussions is to gain a better understanding of what's happening at these schools and give them the opportunity to talk about the challenges they face; the strategies and interventions already under way; and what strategies or interventions will be most meaningful to the school as they move forward. We'll take the feedback that we receive from the school and community into consideration as we explore options to improve performance and support student success, and we will continue to work with all of our schools to ensure that students have access to high quality options."

The DOE statement added that each of the two dozen schools "has been looked at closely for their past performance and demand trends, any plans they already have under way to reform the school, leadership performance and district and community needs. This is in addition to looking at past progress reports, quality reviews, placement on the state's priority/focus list and Joint Intervention Team reviews."

The statement continued, "Over the past several years, despite the best efforts of the community and the DOE to support Boys and Girls High School, the school has struggled to demonstrate the capacity to meet basic requirements for student success and to support the student achievement your school community deserves. Unfortunately, our best efforts have not turned around the school."

According to the DOE, summary graduation rates have remained between 39 percent and 46 percent for the last five years. Boys and Girls earned an F grade on its 2011-2012 annual progress report, including F grades for student progress, student performance, and college and career readiness, and a D grade for school environment. Boys and Girls has a history of low performance, including an overall C grade on the 2009-2010 progress report and an overall F grade on the 2010-2011 progress report.

Supporters reject the yardstick used to gather these stats without consideration of extreme extenuating circumstances, like the addition of 1,800 students who were rejected from every other school and without additional resources.

Young told the AmNews, "You can't use the same yardstick to evaluate Boys and Girls as other schools without looking at all the issues involved. Principal Gassaway will take anybody, but if he is taking all the other students that the other schools won't take to protect their numbers, then he is actually involved in and committed to educating the least [served] in our community ... the DOE has to come up with a different yardstick of evaluating schools like this.

"Otherwise, educators like him will always be on the defense. So long as you use the same yardstick for schools that aren't at risk for schools where students come from two-parent families, higher social-economic status--how can you use the same yardstick?"

The DOE added that all schools identified by the DOE as "struggling" will receive an action plan.

Gassaway declared that not only do they have an action plan (published in the AmNews on Nov. 29), but "Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed off on it and agreed to give us the time to put everything in place, and now they are saying something different."