Education Week - January 22, 2014 - (Page 24)

COMMENTARY New York's tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation Is Small Beautiful? By Bruce Fuller S oft-spoken Claudia Huerta loudly trumpets her small high school in New York City. She loves "its intensive focus on history" and says she is "leaning much more toward liberal arts colleges" after graduating next spring. Covetous parents already eye Claudia's precious seat at the High School of American Studies, housed at Lehman College in the Bronx. There are 73,000 8th graders in New York City, and many flocked to open houses and school fairs this fall, scurrying about the city's education marketplace like desperate miners panning for gold. These students can apply for admission at up to 12 public high schools. Small high schools enjoy surging demand, rising from the remnants of once huge and often dreary campuses. Almost half of New York City's 8th graders will enter one of 378 human-scale schools (some with total enrollments of only 120 to 200 students), a centerpiece of outgoing mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's reforms. These warm and personalized places have spurred modest gains in graduation rates and rekindled faith in public education. Yet halting the spread of scaled-down high schools is one signal of new Mayor Bill de Blasio's sharp reversal of his predecessor's agenda. In presenting his new schools chief in late December-veteran educator Carmen Fariña-Mr. de Blasio said he would stop breaking up huge high schools and recasting them as small academies. In fact, a spate of recent findings reveals a dark side to Mr. Bloomberg's faith in pint-size schools: Many serve to calcify the segregation of students along lines of race and class. It's a painful dilemma, an allegory of cosmopolitan parenting- the earnest push to maximize my child's growth at times erodes the common good. Still, small can be beautiful. New York's Morris High School graduated less than 1 in 3 entering students a decade ago. "You'd walk through those classrooms, [and see] students sitting there, but not really there," Shael Polakow-Suransky told me. Polakow-Suransky, who serves as New York's chief academic officer and was appointed by Mr. Bloomberg, was previously an inventive principal who helped to demolish Morris, erected in 1897, and to replace it with four small offspring, which now graduate more than two of every three students, most from immigrant families. "Getting to know kids really well" is key, said Mr. PolakowSuransky, who watches over small schools and the city's 130 charter schools. Teachers report keen interest in getting to know and challenging students, according to an August 2013 survey by the nonprofit research organization MDRC. For Claudia Huerta, the finding is obvious: "I've had teachers who have never taught me call me by my name in the hallway" at the High School of American Studies, she said. Citywide, students who attend small high schools are 9 percent more likely to graduate within four years, relative to matched peers who enter a conventional campus. The tiny schools also place competitive pressure on their large counterparts, which in turn up their game. The city's graduation rate has climbed from 51 percent in 2000 to 71 percent in 2012, according to New York University researcher James J. Kemple and his Research Alliance for New York City Schools. But the dramatic shift to small schools and Mr. Bloomberg's wider efforts did little to narrow achievement gaps. Disparities have failed to budge for 8th graders citywide over the past 12 years, whether defined by pupils' race or class, according to federal data released last month. Small schools also exacerbate segregation. Three-fifths of all black and Latino teens in New York City now enter small campuses, many situated in depressed neighborhoods, where these tiny units arose from the ashes of dysfunctional high schools like Morris. In contrast, less than one-fourth of all white and Asian-American 9th graders enter a small school. Their families press for and win seats in competitive public M A Common Cause for the Common Core " By Rufina Hernández ore than five and a half million of the 30 million young adults in the United States between the ages of 18 and 24 don't have a high school diploma, accord- ing to the 2012 U.S. Census. Unfortunately, for many the personal consequences will be negative and long lasting: few good job opportunities and low pay in the short term, and, over the long haul, a rocky path to career success and financial security. But we all pay the price for sending millions of young adults into the world without even the minimum preparation a high school diploma represents, whether that toll is measured in a lower national economic output, a public support system needed to keep families from further slipping into poverty, or another generation born on society's lowest and These standards are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that all students are prepared for college and career." least-secure rung. And the difficult truth is that when talent and potential are wasted on this scale, we all bear some responsibility. That's why the Campaign for High School Equity (of which I am the executive director) and so many other fierce believers in the American dream support the national move toward the Common Core State Standards. Built on the premise of uniformly high expectations and accountability, and now being implemented in nearly all of the states and the District of Columbia, these standards are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that all students are prepared for college and career, regardless of ZIP code, income, race, or ethnicity. Today's education system is fragmented and inefficient. An 8th grader whose family moves from one state to another in search of better job opportunities may find different academic expectations for 8th graders in her new school. And too many kids learn from experience to equate "education" with rote learning that appears to have little relevance 24 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | to their lives and dreams. This is especially true for kids from low-income communities and communities of color. We are approaching the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended the shameful "separate but equal" doctrine by declaring unequivocally that the opportunity of an education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." We must continue the fight toward educational equality. And we can, by embracing the rigorous, grade-appropriate central concepts at the heart of the common-core standards. These concepts will further challenge educators to tailor their teaching to the individual students in their classes and communities, creating a better, more engaging learning environment. Although the nation's high school graduation rate was at a 20-year high during the 2009-10 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the midwi/iStockphoto

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 22, 2014

Education Week - January 22, 2014
50 Years Later, Verdicts Are Mixed On the Nation’s War on Poverty
A K-12 Titan in Congress to Move On
Fla. Pushes Longer Day With More Reading In Struggling Schools
Personal Danger of Data Breaches Prompts Action
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Funds to End For Little Rock Desegregation
Union, District Clash in Pittsburgh Over Teacher Evaluation
Revised GED Ushers in New Era With More Testing Competition
In Five States, Districts Bail Out on Race to the Top Grants
K-12 Publishing, Ed-Tech Markets Experiencing Rising Revenues
Blogs of the Week
Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit To Cincinnati’s West End
Among States, Spending Gaps Have Widened
Spending Plan Aims to Relieve Some K-12 ‘Sequester’ Pain
Calif. Transgender Law Takes Effect In Schools, Amid Efforts to Repeal It
State of the States
Wash. Governor Pledges School Aid Boost
BRUCE FULLER: Is Small Beautiful? New York’s tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation
RUFINA HERNÁNDEZ: A Common Cause for the Common Core
JEFFREY D. WILHELM & MICHAEL W. SMITH: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pleasure Reading
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
XU ZHAO, HELEN HASTE, & ROBERT L. SELMAN: Questionable Lessons From China’s Recent History of Education Reform

Education Week - January 22, 2014