Grady H.S. News

City botches fed school funds

By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter

April 2011 (Issue 6)

This time, it’s the educrats who were marked tardy. A $20 million intervention program meant to launch last September at 11 struggling city high schools failed to get off the ground until last month — producing shortages in staffing, resources and support for a full five months, blistering state Education Department reports show.

The problems included delays in the city’s applying and gaining approval for the required federal funding — which left oversight positions unfilled and prevented principals from training staff, and purchasing essential hardware and external support programs.

One school, Bread & Roses Integrated Arts HS in Manhattan, didn’t even have a permanent principal assigned until the middle of the school year — a delay that state officials said had “stymied” the school’s $850,000 first-year improvement plan. “The school appeared to lack a clear, concise and rigorous strategy for rapid improvement of student achievement,” state reviewers wrote in early January. “The library room was being used for storage and overflow seating during the lunch period. Students and staff do not have adequate access to technology.”

The 11 schools were eligible for up to $2 million a year for three consecutive years to implement a turnaround strategy known as “transformation” — one of four models prescribed by the US Department of Education for persistently low-achieving schools in each state.

As part of that model, the schools — which the city identified in June — had agreed to pilot the state’s new teacher evaluation program a year before any schools in the rest of the state. That part of the program has also been delayed because the district and teachers’ union have yet to sign an agreement.

Despite the logistical hurdles, however, state reviewers said a number of schools were showing signs of improvement — including Queens Vocational and Technical HS and Unity Center for Urban Technology HS in Manhattan.

Department of Education officials said they expected the other schools would soon follow suit.

“The State reviews took place before schools received funds for transformation, but we’re confident that future reviews will show real progress in turning around these struggling schools,” said a DOE spokesman. But students at the Brooklyn School for Global Studies told reviewers the implementation delays has already caused them to lose teachers and valued programs — including music, art and cheerleading. They also fretted about an increase in class sizes.

“The DOE has a responsibility to support and help implement plans to help schools move forward, yet it’s clear in the ‘transformation’ schools this is something they have not been doing,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

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