Friday, December 13, 2013
The school I was in this week was one of the 32 schools that Mayor Bloomberg wanted closed through the "turnaround model" back in 2011. While the Mayor's transparent attempt to remove senior teachers eventually failed, the damage was done for this school in particular.
The school now has a majority Hispanic population with an increasing Middle Eastern component, especially Egyptians and Yemenites. This is quite a change from the Eastern European population the large comprehensive school had only a few years back. The Eastern European student population is barely in double figures and decreasing yearly. More importantly, is the rapid increase in "English Language Learners" and the dumping of large numbers of "over the counter" students to further destabilize the school. Many male students walk the hallways in groups of four or more during class and even as school suspensions are rising, the students don't seem to care. Teacher disrespect among the middle eastern boys, in particular, is a common occurrence and they tend to disrupt classes with little fear of consequences.
The school staff is highly experienced and while staff morale is low, the teachers have been able to keep the school from falling into the abyss that Tweed wanted to see happen. They are friendly, caring, and try to engage the students as much as possible. The teaching staff treated me well and the Chapter Leader gave me a place to keep my belongings in and I received a key to the bathroom. The Administration keeps a "hands off policy" and allows their teachers to teach, within limits.
A big negative is that the school is out of the way from mass transit and its difficult to find parking, This will get worse next year as a 1,000 student elementary/middle school will open across the street and with no parking area. This will mean that nearly 100 school staffers will be bringing cars to the area and drastically increase the already terrible parking problem. Moreover, the school suffers from non-working radiators and the smell of urine in some stairwells is overwelming. There is no teacher cafeteria for teachers to go to eat their lunch.
While I liked the school's teaching staff, the low academic levels of the student body, the travel and parking problems getting to the school, and the general student disrespect by the males in particular for their teachers makes this school one to avoid.
Friday, December 6, 2013
I must have been in the worst small school in Queens this week. It's in the top three of Chaz's "do not apply" list and I can see why.This school is one of four schools that were carved out of a failing large school in Southeast Queens and the students of the school are the type of people I wouldn't want to encounter at night. The students dress and act "thuggish", even the girls! This despite the fact that there is supposed to be a uniform dress code at the school. The student disrespect of the school's staff and each other is very evident and if you're replacing a teacher the students are "out of control". Curses and threats are heard everywhere in the school and the students have little fear of discipline when caught raiding the teacher's cafeteria to get chips and soda. I never, saw anything like this anywhere else in Queens.
The school is supposed to have uniforms but few students bother to dress appropriately and there is no consequences for not having the school uniform. Furthermore, the physical education classes do not enforce the rule for students to change into their gym clothes and 50% of the students don't even bother to participate in class, instead they sit on the bleachers and gossip until the period is over.
The student body consists of 75% Black and 25% Hispanic and many of the students come from the many low income projects in the area. Most of the student body are either "level one" or "level two" students with either attendance or disciplinary issues and most of the students admit that this was the only school that accepted them. There are no advanced placement classes at the school and the highest science taken is Earth Science which has a Regents passing rate of below 20%. By the way, there is no certified Earth Science teacher at this school, like many other schools I have been to.
The teachers approach their day as if they are planning a battle in a war and in a school of twenty teachers, most days see an average of two teachers absent due to the high stress in dealing with this challenging student body. It's little wonder that there is a very high teacher turnover in the school. I pity the teaching staff when many of them are rated "ineffective" due to the poor test scores with this deep poverty and "high needs" student body.
The only good thing I can say about this school is that I escaped unscathed and I won't be back this school year.