Born as a Tribute but Faltering, a Bronx School Nears Its End

A high school named after Jonathan M. Levin, a dedicated teacher killed by a former student, has had changes in its student body, and it is expected to be closed.

Comments: 120

  1. The real failure is that of the Bloomberg administration, at this school in particular but more in its lack of accountability for undermining schools, demonizing teachers and creating upheaval without solutions or results. He might have been a success in creating bike lanes and limiting soda intake- what a legacy- but as the education mayor his grade is F.

  2. This is not only a failure of the Bloomberg administration. The same thing is happening in cities all across the country under the guise of education reform. In Chicago, our mayor is determined to close over 100 schools this year even though parents and communities members are viscerally and vocally responding they do not support his plan. Much of the emphasis on closing schools based on standardized test scores has been driven by large philanthropic organizations that have not been elected to public office and are accountable to no one. These organizations are establishing public education policy and influencing legislation and the allocation of public dollars nationwide. It is becoming apparent that the current breed of education reform policies are not improving outcomes in our schools. What remains to be seen is how much damage will be wrought before we change course and move on to the next best thing.

  3. What Bloomberg knows about running the public school system would fit in a thimble with plenty of room left over. He has too much ego to ever say "I don't know" - even when it's clear that (as with the public schools) he patently doesn't have a clue (viz.: Cathy Black).

    The losers here are the students of NYC (who deserve better), their families, and ultimately everyone in NYC - because children are the future.

  4. Here I agree, and I will never forget the Cathi Black incident. I remember Bloomberg haughtily saying that those who don't support Black "don't get it" when in fact he didn't get it.

    Education is the realm of educators, not businesspeople. The illusion that business people can run "everything" is ludicrous. Business people are glorified bean counters who have no training in philosophy, psychology, sociology, ethics, or any of the humanities that are as much related to "reality" as profit/loss.

  5. Lori and yes just look at what the " professional educators " have brought us.

  6. Changing the name of the school does nothing. It does not address the influx of immigrants who come to this school with limited English language competency. Michael Bloomberg, dictator, should be ashamed!

  7. I think changing the name from "Jonathan Levin High School" to "09X350" does a lot--it clearly tells the community that the higher-ups don't care one jot about the school's continuity or history, and that their kids are basically statistics in a drive to make education "productive"--at least for those who can make a profit off it.

  8. They can talk about higher graduation rates all they want (not that they mean anything if you ask those who are teaching in CUNY these graduates), the fact is on the secondary level these new small schools have been an utter disaster both for students and teachers.

    The advantage of the large high schools for years was the variety of courses and activities that could be offered. Of course a secondary school is very dependent on the level of education brought into the school by its incoming students. And in that for decades, the Board of Education and the Department of Education manuvered so that certain schools always seemed to receive the better students while schools they deremed unsalvagable received the students who were ill prepared for high school.

    The result is the current system where students take buses and subways for hours on end ot get to schools they deem better. And as far as the teachers, they have been deprived in their training for the most important thing a secondary school teacher needs, subject area supervision by trained experienced supervisors in their own subject area. A social students supervisor, as good as he or she might be, can not properly supervise a math teacher. The pedagogicasl techniques might be completely different (although the DOE thinks it can mandate pedagogical techniques). Nor can that supervisor be sure the subject matter being taught is correct, by far the most important responsibility of a secondary school teacher.

  9. Friends who are retired HS teachers tell me many teachers are not qualified in their subject to teach at the HS level, that they have "education" degrees, for instance, and teaching Math or Social Studies. My friends tell me some of these teachers shouldn't be teaching. I wonder if this is true, and to what extent?

  10. While the free enterprise approach to educating our youth seems to be a fair way of responding to individual initiative and parent desire, in the end it neglects the collective and public imperatives of schooling and so leads to the kind of tragedy now playing out at Levin HS.

    Jon was struck down early on in the midst of his commitment to students in the community. Coming from privilege he instead dedicated his life to helping those who did not share his advantages. He struggled valiantly to make a difference in the lived lives of his students without being seduced by the so-called "innovations" of reform or education as a business. The school named in his honor could have ended differently if those administering the system had remained committed to public education.

  11. Sad, just sad.

  12. Finally, when the Jonathan Levin High School is slated for closure, the New York Times decides to give some serious press to the many critics of school closings! I particularly like what the protesters in your photo wrote in Spanish on a placard: "It is not only a school; it's a community! S.O.S. Save our schools!"

  13. "The policy [of closing a school as a solution] has been repeatedly criticized by teachers’ unions..."

    The core problem is so endemic it can even been seen in the language. THe Times and all media say "the unions" when in fact what they mean are "teachers." This is so that the reader can view this as a 'union' issue - with all the negativity it has come to imply - when it is really a leadership issue.The policy is a mark of gross political incompetence masked as action. It's on the level of the Red Queen in Alice: "Off with her head!" That's their idea of leadership.

    This is not a 'union' issue. It is a reality issue.Students are simply not best served by underfunding a school, managing it poorly & ludicrously, funneling massive monies to private corporations who 'consult', test, & provide 'technology,' by closing an entire school, then bringing in new ones with equally ludicrous & ineffective top down policies.

    If crime in a neighborhood is too high, do we fire all the cops and as a solution, simply hire different cops--but keep the chief? If a whole battalion is repeatedly losing battles, do we fire all its soldiers-but keep the top leadership who decided on the battle strategies, and who, by the way, never had to go over and fight the battles?

    The media needs to do due diligence. Right now the gross incompetence is allowed to stand because the media lets the leadership write this as a 'union' issue or a 'teacher' issue..

  14. I don't understand why an administrator has the power to arbitrarily try out something as radical as keeping students stuck in the same room all day long without a movement break. Where is the evidence that such a policy works? Anyone who has been around kids or teens would use common sense and say "That's a problem."
    Principals should slow down, observe, and run their ideas past teachers and students before deciding to make major changes that could make it more difficult for students to learn and focus, no?

  15. "keeping students stuck in the same room all day long without a movement break. Where is the evidence that such a policy works? Anyone who has been around kids or teens would use common sense and say "That's a problem."


    I went to school where that arrangement was standard and the only one. We not only did fine, but developed a strong camaraderie and friendship between the 30 of us.

  16. Very sad. No one is a winner here. And the Levins don't deserve more pain.

  17. When Rudy Crew was chancellor of the NYC schools, he created the chancellor’s district in which poor performing schools were placed under his control. Schools were given resources so that student achievement would improve. But, when Mayor Bloomberg came into office and appointed Joel Klein to be in charge of the school system, the chancellor’s district was dismantled. What exists now is a recycling of schools in which one school closes down, another one opens up, and eventually the new one will cease to exist in time. Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy with regards to NYC school system is of deception, and at the least, failure.

  18. What resources were provided to schools in the chancellor's district under Rudy Crew?

  19. What a slap in the face to the memory of Jonathan Levin! The juggernaut of school privatization and the attacks against teachers and their students goes on unabated! As someone who still teaches, and takes great pride in doing that work, I find the closing of the Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications sickening! The craze of high-stakes testing must end! Public schools are not the equivalent of Wall Street (public schools have slightly fewer assets than Wall Street) and should not be run on a Wall Street model!

  20. What model do you propose? Show us the paying public, a model that works consistently and you will get support. For me, the model is not the problem it is parents not demanding excellence from their kids, preferring to be liked and not respected.

  21. I'm curious as to what kind of ESL department this school has - the need for dynamic, differentiated ESL instruction as well as social workers to address the transitional needs of the students seems very clear. Without that support, how could the school hope to succeed?

  22. The question is how many kids do these service providers see and what resources or programs are given by the administration. There were over 200 ESL students in this small school. How many service providers are there and how much time do they actually have with their students?

    Are there web based programs like a "LEXIA" that can service 25 students at once in the computer lab? Were the laptops being under utilized in this regard? Teachers are not properly trained or kept in the loop about emerging technologies that can service the needs of many students at once.

    One problem is that many teachers today even younger ones, (I am 30), are not prepared in the "teacher education" system which I call a worthless racket. They are not up to date on the latest educational technology nor are they fully prepared for the realities of the classroom. I hold a masters in education from a well regarded school and feel it had 0 impact on my ability to teach.

    If people want better teachers we need to investigate how teachers are taught and make it less about theory and more about classroom best practices.

  23. This is a shell game. Move resources from one district, from one zone, to another, shut down schools and replace them with similar schools serving identical students, fire principals and replace them with different principals. Whatever sociological changes have taken place over the past six or seven decades, educational problems remain intractable and are getting worse for economic reasons: people are poorer, with fewer services at their disposal, educational resources are not evenly and equitably dispersed throughout the school system, New York City does not get back from the city and state what it pays in.

    Meanwhile, Bloomberg's "free market approach" treats schools as products to be peddled to consumers, "Let the people decide." Wrong. The city has a responsibility to identify and correct problems with existing schools. We are not "consumers" of government services -- we are citizens -- and schools are not products. And even if either of these things were the case, handing parents a thick book filled with a list of schools, each providing incomplete statistics and jargon-ridden mission statements, hardly presents them with the opportunity to make an informed choice.

  24. Thank you for a cogent and thoughtful analysis of what is actually happening to the city's educational system. I hope those in power will read your post.

  25. Excellent statement. It is the responsibility of government to provide high quality schools for all.

  26. It is very sad that America continues to dumb down society.

  27. "In 2011, Mr. Hoxha said, 250 students, more than half the student body, left in the middle of the year." Sorry but this is an insurmountable hurdle--for students, teachers, & the school. Yes, all the political & funding issues play a part, but, speaking as a teacher, this fact-on-the ground makes actual learning, student advancement, and school community building impossible.

  28. AP, thank you for pointing out this important fact.

  29. Well said. If the students and most importantly, their parents, don't care about their education, then there is precious little the government can do to change that. Public schools that succeed do so because the kids and the parents are invested; if they are not, forget it.

  30. Who are the parents who are allowing this to happen? These kids aren't buying the tickets and finding a place to live on their own. Their parents are aiding and abetting this behavior, and should be fined if they take their kids out of school excessively. You can argue that this is a form of child abuse.

  31. When government policy is to spend $40,000 a year housing a convict in private for-profit prisons, and $8,000 a year educating a child, money has eclipsed sanity.
    Here's a clue: the GOP actually supports one union-- the prison guards' union.

  32. When are people going to wake up and realize that the corporatization of public education is not good for students, families, or democracy. This school isn't failing; America is failing in its responsibility to schools.

  33. Parents are failing their kids. The best schools have parents who are actively involved in their kids' education, and that means helping with homework every single day and meeting with teachers.

  34. Well said! America needs to incentivize its best and brightest to become educators and then give them good reason to remain on that path. This is where our tax dollars need to be directed -- not towards bailing out irresponsible businesses and individiuals.

  35. Jon used to work for our company before he decided to became a teacher. He was a very kind, thoughtful person who was always more concerned for the welfare of others, especially those less fortunate. While closing of this school may end one tribute, the memory of Jon as an exceptional and giving person will live on in the minds of all who were fortunate enough to be touched by him.

  36. This is a very sad story - but it is further evidence that educational 'magical thinking' is no substitute for hard decisions concerning failing schools.
    How can anyone that takes the time to look at the data for this school arrive at any other conclusion than it has woefully failed its mandate - it is not even close.
    This is not a matter of blame the teachers, the union, the principal - it is simple common sense.
    If other school with significant ESL kids can succeed, there is not excise to keep pouring money down this rat hole.
    “We have a mayor who treats the act of closing a school as the accomplishment,” said Bill de Blasio - NO Mr. de Blasio - I am sure the mayor doesn't enjoy this - but it is these types of tough decisions that need to be made daily - maybe you are not ready for them - or maybe you just prefer your consequence-free city-advocate's 'magical thinking" cap.

  37. Looks like the ESL kids are a drain on the system. And what about his nonsense of leaving school mid-year to go back to the Dominican Republic? Shows me their parents have zero interest in their kids education.

  38. So sad. With different decision-makers at the helm, this sounds like it could have become a model for how a school can survive and thrive while embracing a large immigrant population. If the new school is to work together with the Claremont International High School in the same building, why couldn't the Levin school do that? I agree with ellen's comment above about the need for a strong ESL department (and I add, one that is integrated into classroom instruction via team-teaching) and onsite social workers. How about also adding evening adult education classes and making it a true community resource?

  39. Mr DeBlasio comment should be repeated over and over. The Bloomberg administration takes pride in closing schools. Many schools closed during the past 11 plus years could of and should have been supported not closed. The departments own criteria for closing schools has been the subject of many inquiries and complaints. Yet, the department has sped up their agenda and I suspect this last year of the Bloomberg third term will produce even more unnecessary closings. Kudos to the candidates who will end this destruction of public schools.

  40. Seems as if the school was founded in a moment of grief and hope, and that neglect and ennui led to its decline. The Mets funded a ball field and it seems they did nothing as it fell into disrepair. Did they feel no responsibility - we built it; now we are outa here! Was it too distant for their groundkeepers to visit? Could the Public Relations Dept not remember to send ballplayers to visit the school and so encourage students? Did the donors of scholarships assume there would be no future student in need? Or did the Dept of Education subsume the funds? Did the Mayor have inadequate monies to continue their funding.

    It is all a sorrowful example of neglect bordering on disrespect.

    And just the other day the NYT noted the closing of the Irish Pub just below Mr Levin's apartment . How fitting.

  41. Probably the deal was the Mets build it but then the city has the responsibility to maintain it. Legal issues I'm sure.

  42. Hate to say it, but why is a 72 year old still teaching!!!!

  43. Because they love kids and teaching and are good at it!

  44. Your comment is shortsighted and naive. There are many older people who possess the enthusiasm and experience to teach our kids.

  45. Experience and skill?

  46. Bloomberg's management style strikes out again. What can you expect from a man who has notoriously stated that the NYC Fire Dept. is not productive enough because they don't spend enough time fighting fires. Someone with such tunnel-vision has no business making or implementing policy about schools. Shutting schools when a certain mark is reached on paper rather than working with them involves less work, fewer decisions and is utterly devoid of creativity.

  47. Another Board of Ed travesty. This school should never have been started to begin with.

  48. I'm in a small town with just one high school and one elementary school so circumstances are different than in NYC. But, there is a problem that schools have all over the country. Kids go door to door or they set up tables in parking lots where they sell NFL mugs, or candy bars, or fuzzy school blankets to raise money for their schools. They have bake sales so their schools can function. It's a poor town so there are only so many NFL insulated travel mugs you can sell. Maybe the kids are learning something by going door to door to sell trinkets for school.
    I don't remember who said it but there is a quote (I paraphrase): "It will be a great day when schools have the money they need and the Air Force has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber."

  49. "It will be a great day when schools have the money they need and the Air Force has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber."

    That actually sounds more terrifying than great.

  50. I believe that was JFK.

  51. If kids from another country, speaking a language that isn't English, are the only students at this school, it will of course fail. English-immersion should be the first class they take. Failing to teach them to speak English puts them in a virtual ghetto.

    That said, what a great idea to build a student body around media education. That is the future. That is where jobs will be in the future. Jon Levin knew that. What a shame to close the school before it is able to fulfill its mission, before it is able to grow its student body.

  52. "We cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect getting a different result, creating another brand new small school which is just like the other brand new small schools." Exactly. The mayor might want to read the article on Positive Deviance in yesterday's NYTimes. Why not look at what some small schools are doing *right* and then ask the teachers, students and parents how they might apply some of those ideas to their own situation?

  53. Mr. Hoxha said the school was an early success. For five straight years, he said, attendance was around 90 percent. Elite colleges accepted some of his graduates, and six graduates enrolled in Syracuse University in a single year.

    What happened to this success, other than blaming failure on the arrival of immigrants who spoke no English? The article doesn't address causation.

  54. Good point. Articles in this paper often to do not go into enough details.
    It's frustrating.

  55. I think this closing says more about the students than anything else.

  56. I don't understand how anyone expected non-english speaking students to succeed if classes are taught in english. That said, I'm admittedly not that familiar with ESL strategies for secondary school students.

    Also the article doesn't describe the background for students who joined the school in 11th grade. Was the placement strategy "age based" or were students tested to ensure they had the requisite knowledge to handle 11th grade material.

  57. So many observations here.

    1. The photos in the article are all too common these days. People defiant, picketing, so eager to fight and declare "victory." Why is being on the same side so impossible? If you have to lose, lose gracefully, and don't act like your loss is the end of the world.

    2. The aim seems to have been to honor this teacher, killed tragically, and with the impetus of his wealthy parents. Closing this school is not disrespectful to his memory. Sustaining a vanity project is disrespectful to the children who need a stable environment in which to learn.

    3. Why is every public school in NYC "dedicated" to some discipline? This one's focus is media, as if we'll ever run out of that. Why are teachers so obsessed with molding "future leaders" as quoted in the story? What does that mean? Teach them how to avoid being followers, and they'll lead their own lives just fine.

    4. And finally, if immigrant students, especially those with little command of English, can return to their home countries for months at a time, and the system can do nothing to stop it, then maybe the public schools are not the mechanisms through which to address their needs. We can only have a profitable effect on people who show up. They must be either committed or compelled. There is no in-between. And it's disrespectful to waste everyone else's time and effort.

  58. DZ, it's obvious you were not a resident of the city when the horrific murder of Jonathan Levin occurred; if you had been, you would never have referred to his family's support of the school as a "vanity project." Your attitude speaks far louder than your knowledge or sense.

  59. There was a time when the NYC school system was the standard for U.S. education, and I am a product of that system as a Bronx child of the sixties. I lived across the street from Taft High School and it was a beautiful, majectic building as were most NYC high schools, whose architecture venerated education . The neighborhood was then, too, decidedly lower middle class but none of us living in those dark, cramped Bronx apartments felt impoverished or infected with drugs or gangs. We were the product of hard-working parents, many of them immigrants, who imbued in us a love of learning and respect for teachers. No one apologized for making us speak English and we were not ashamed to excel and make our parents proud. We had no excuses for poor performance other than our own attitudes. Is it so hard to see what has changed?

  60. Many of these parents are also hardworking. So hardworking, that is, that they work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. Often there is still not enough
    money, and the parent is at work when the kids are home.

  61. The bottom line is there is no support for the teachers and individuals who wish to help populations at the bottom. They are still left to fend for themselevs underfunded, like lone warriers who become targets of the very people they wish to help. This didn't just happen to this one teacher. It happens to all who try to bring light into these areas. They are risking their lives mainly because they are alone in their struggle. I don't care about "unions." As someone said, this isn't about unions. This is about financial support for teachers and their students to change a very sad, dangerous social climate.

  62. There is so much left unsaid in this article which would serve to explain why applications went down and graduation rates suffered. For instance, why has the ball field fallen into disrepair? It probably wasn't funded -- the money was there to create it but no money for upkeep. And why were the computers unused? Were they broken? Was there a full-time tech on staff for repairs? Betcha not. This same sham of school closings because of poor performance is going on in my Campus now. The Law & Government school is closing but why has it deteriorated from a once promising magnet high school? No funding for mock trials, moot court, forensics lab, trips to government agencies. These are the kinds of courses and activities that make a Law magnet high school appealing, but who would go there when the courses are no longer offered? While the students are certainly challenging and difficult to teach, when they're engaged in something that interests them, they're teachable. But the Law school was stripped of what made it exciting and now it's just readin', writin' and 'rithmetic. Bah!

  63. Why was it striped?

  64. Don't blame the students,for not being able to or wanting to learn.Blame the school.Blame it on teachers not being paid enough. Nonesense.

  65. It's often not the school's fault. Kids come in who should be in Special Needs
    class, but are not. Others need glasses, or have other issues. With over
    30 kids per class, many teachers do their best.

  66. And don't blame the parents.

  67. Blame it on the parents for not caring about their children's learning.

  68. The big cities have a tremendous problem with school success, but smaller cities have the same issue. We invest between $18k-$22k / year in each student. Every program and planning device has been deployed to try to improve graduation rates. There is a constant search on for the magical school superintendent that can turn things around. We have had a couple of top rated superintendents that punched their tickets here and then moved on to bigger towns like Chicago. I think the professional class who run the system have thrown up their hands and are just bidding time and collecting their pay and benefits. The graduation rate is below 50 percent in my city, but the New York State Regents has determined that actually only 5-10 percent of the students going through the system are college or work ready. Please tell me how you fix failure of that magnitude?

  69. it's too bad graduation rates are the yardstick we use. Not everyone can graduate with a college (test) prep degree.
    we have eliminated creative and vocational programs and the support services that kept non-college bound kids invested so they, too could graduate with confidence and purpose.

  70. I am a retired NYC principal who visits between 15-20 schools a month as a consultant.
    When the mayor took control of the system in 2002, he and his staff were absolutely clueless as to how to run an educational system. They had to hire a private public relations firm for Joel Klein because he keep putting his foot in his mouth every time he spoke publicly. The "creation" of small schools was done after they destroyed the Alternative school district, which had been the incubator of more than 80 successful small schools. They read the studies that showed small schools had a better success rate than the large comprehensive schools, so they decided to make small schools out of the large ones. These schools, like Levin, never really stand a chance. They take a large comprehensive high school of say 2000 students and literally divide it by floors( and sometimes 2 to a floor) to create 4 new schools of 500 students each. One school may end up with the lab rooms, while another gets the computer rooms. Supportive service are supposed to be shared, but in reality are not. You can tell you're in another school because the color of the doors change. They then created the Leadership Academy to create principals for these schools. I am waiting for the Times to do a expose on this boondoggle. It was privately funded until 2 years ago by the mayor ("anonymous donor"), but now is siphoning millions to produce principals who may have no prior educational experience whatsoever.

  71. the mayor has not learned from mistakes
    and students pay the price

  72. Not sure if what you say is true, but I hope the Times does follow up on your allegations.

  73. Everything is good in the US if it makes money for someone in the private sector.

    Why do families? immigrate merely for half year? (What's going on here with immigration laws and strategies?)

    The person who commented on age having nothing to do with any kind of academic preparedness hit the nail on the head. The kids are probably not high school level -- identical in fact to many of their native born American counterparts , who may well be in college or community college (think remedial learning of all sorts of subjects in the best cases and simply ignoring the problem and giving degrees based on things like art courses in other cases. Yes, i have examples of all of this happening.

  74. There are no easy answers in dealing with our children's education and these types of situations. Unfortunately doing nothing is not the answer. We must continue to challenge the schools to better serve their students. Unfortunately in many cases in addition to teaching, teachers and schools are also having to serve as a social support network.

    The K-12 education system across the country needs to be improved and held accountable if we are going to fix it.

    It is also very disconcerting how some parents think he school should we raising their children and take no responsibility for raising their children themselves.

  75. My brother attended this high school in the 1950's when it was called William Howard Taft H. S. At the time, he took Spanish, French, Italian, Latin and Greek -- all were offered.

    The change in the name of the school makes no difference. And, the teachers today are probably superior to the ones my brother had. Teachers now have totally worthless graduate degrees -- stop this waste of resources!

    All the PCers want to avoid the true roots of the problem: the change in the demographics and culyural values embued in the students... From mainly white and well-prepared kids from intact families to minorities from dysfunctional female-dominated families in dysfunctional communities -- with a dearth of positive male role models.

    What to do? Bring in a bunch of supplemental social worker types to complement the teachers and take an interest in the students of which most of whom lack in their homes and communities. Add: plenty of males who have positive values; this would counteract the hyper-violence and hyper-sexuality which no presently employed teacher can conduct a class with this ambiane permeating the class rooms.

    And, end the practice of dissing and beating up motivated students with the pejorative "whitey" when the day ends.

    And, stop blaming the teachers!

  76. Implement policies to discourage baby mamas and baby daddies. The root cause of the problem needs to be tackled head on and it will take at least a generation to turn things around in the ghettos.

  77. If only there was money for this.

  78. Your second paragraph makes no sense! Otherwise, spot on!
    Additionally, the OMG replies to the comment about the seventy -two year old teacher, misses two things.Wouldn't doubt that the tragedy to her son, despite her probable competence, has helped keep her on the payroll, as many of the offspring and relatives of people murdered in the 9/11 blasphemy, have been hired by their deceased relatives , former employers, regardless of their qualifications. Flip side, is that actuaries are suspect of working folk over sixty, and employers are made to pay higher insurance rates, to keep much older emplyees on the payroll!

  79. Educational policy analysts like me look for the magic bullet. We can do very little about the family circumstances of the students served by the public school system. While many of the comments take Bloomberg to task, it is clear that by most measures the school was failing.

    Almost every organizational scheme that has been tried fails, especially when brought to scale. More money doesn't seem to have much impact; taking money away produces equally disappointing outcomes; voucher programs are only successful for the entrepreneurs who drive Mercedes paid for with voucher money and deliver an inferior product; charter schools aren't any better; performance-based funding for successful schools and teachers doesn't seem to move the needle for schools that are not already successful; neither is the status quo.

    There are success stories -- Union City, NJ, for example. But these seem to be exceptions whose success is based on the sheer dedication of the staff rather than some policy fad.

    Policymakers recognize that they are unlikely to ameliorate the challenges students face outside of school. We thrash around hoping to discover a broad strategy that does not depend on selfless saints and will be successful with students who face extreme poverty; come home to substance abusing, functionally illiterate and often absent parents (more often, parent); have limited English speaking skills; are hungry; and seldom remain in the same school for a full year. Where is the miracle cure?

  80. Taught for over 33 years in public schools, mostly in community where parents were supportive and eager for teachers to educate their children. What a difference from my first experience teaching in a very poor, ghetto school, where families were struggling just to survive. Class size in that poor school: 36 kids/class in the seventies.

    What could help? I think we should take children OUT OF dysfunctional homes and send them to boarding schools with loving staff, at least from Monday to Friday (see SEED program in DC). Spend the money now, rather than later (on prisons).

    Personally, I grew up in a dysfunctional, violent, poor family - and very thankful for free medical care at large city hospital in NYC and, later, a free (great) education at CCNY, then sometimes called "the Harvard of the poor"....saved my life... also moved out at an early age (17) and in those days of low rents, I could afford to do so, work and go to school, etc.

  81. The meaning of Jonathan Levin's passion and commitment that inspired so many is more than his name on a school. Mr. Cerrone similarly treats each student as their own universe and finds the way to reach and succeed in a way that is very hard, but not impossible, to measure. There are failed schools, just like there are failed scientific experiments. But many things are learned in both, through the effort and struggle to try out an idea. There is even a Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine ( I guess we need a journal of negative results in education to not forget what didn't work but to also celebrate the unexpected or indirect results that come about in confronting institutional and systemic obstacles.

  82. As a teacher in a low income school (elementary) in the Bronx with a large immigrant population I would argue that school closings have little impact. I am currently in a school building that was closed and made into two smaller schools. Prior I worked at a K-8 building with over 1000 students also in a largely Dominican neighborhood.

    The unwritten story behind all of this is what role families or lack thereof are having on these students. At the mostly Dominican school there was very little community amongst students and parents. Most older siblings even in 6th or 5th grade acted like parents to their younger children. When asked what they did at home, or if someone read to them at night, the answer was almost uniformly "No" or my parents don't speak English so they cannot read to me or help me with my homework.

    Now in a different community with a different dynamic there is more progress. The ethnicity of my students has changed but they are still minorities, but there is a major difference in community and somewhat in parental involvement. The results are a little better, but still there is a lack of support out of the school building that impedes progress of students. That no one talks about in these articles or in the comments.

    I have students who come from the DR in second grade who cannot read or write their name in English or Spanish! Now they come to American are thrown in a grade based on AGE and NOT ABILITY and teachers are expected to work miracles.

  83. The sad fact is that some kids are simply not college material and, even sadder, some kids simply cannot be saved.

    This must be accepted so that the children who are not college material are not thrown in with the children who are, which has led to decades of classes being dumbed down. We cannot have schools teach to the lowest common denominator, unless we want all children to be dragged down by the least motivated or least intelligent students.

    This is what has happened. The least intelligent students should be in trade schools, segregated from the smarter students, who are not being given a chance to grow and shine in the name of political correctness.

    While we should all be seen as equal in the eyes of the law, we are all not equal in any other way and pretending this is not so hurts everyone.

  84. I agree with the Board of Ed to close down schools that do not perform. The article uses the typical misleading language aimed making us think that a School is a charitable organization! If people realized that they get at least $10000 per student per year and very cushy salaries to do a poor job of educating these children, they might start thinking that indeed, these are not charitable helping poor helpless children, but abusing the system by failing to provide what is promised. It is time to start ousting the poor managers in the schools. We owe to the children to make these tough decisions. We cannot afford to have our youth lag behind other countries in education any more. Good, close them down, start fresh with great educators and great managers.

  85. No one ever speaks about the families as part of the problem.Transient children are an inceasing issue that the schools alone cannot fix. It is time to recognize that it is for the families (and their values) to move toward the schools' needs rather than maintaining a pretense that a dysfunctional communite's way of life can be ignored.

  86. “Transient children are an increasing issue that the schools alone cannot fix.”

    And think of the negative impact that this situation has upon a teachers’ ability to teach, and upon (whatever the percentage) kids that are actually in school because they want an education.

  87. This is insane. In the bad old days when schools worked, kids who "left" were kicked out. There was something called the remedial classes or reform school - whatever it was, we need it. Kids who show up willing to learn should be prioritized, period. This is sickening.

  88. This is infuriating. A fine example of why our current education policies are complete failures. There HAS to be a better way to improve schools than just giving up, shutting them down, and rebuilding from scratch (with resources that could have been used for improvements to begin with??), with the hopes that it will be different the next time. How does simply closing a school for bad performance solve anything? You can't just erase the problems, you need to look at the root causes, dig deep, and find REAL solutions. The kids in this city deserve so much better. When they see that the adults in their lives have given up on them, it's no surprise that they tend to give up on themselves also.

  89. I have just heard the story of Mr. Levin for the first time. I will not comment on the school itself but would like to say how deeply I am moved by that young man's desire to have been a teacher instead of one of the many far easier choices he could have made in life. And in the Bronx no less.

    If America is great . . . or was great . . . or may become great, that is the type of person that makes it so. Not someone with a briefcase rushing to play the market Monday through Friday and then sending themselves into a seizure over a decision on whether it's going to be a California or a French or a Chilean wine with Saturday nights expensive dinner.

    Here's to you Jonathan Levin, you are my newest hero!!! May I never forget you or your efforts.

  90. " Civil-rights groups...with the...fed. Ed. Dept. asserting...the policy has a disproportionate effect on black and Hispanic students.

    First, there is no such thing as blacks AND Hispanics because word Hispanic has nothing to do with race, and accordingly, there are Hispanic-blacks. So why journalist summarize by inferring that the label Hispanic has anything to do with race continues to be perplexing indeed.

    Second, "strict scrutiny"-- the most stringent standard of judicial review used by United States courts to test the VALIDITY of government's interest-- is only applied to minorities, and interestingly, not to females. Moreover, there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to INVALIDATE the governments interest every time there happens to be a minority involved in anything. This case is a perfect example: Years and years of decline in the school is ignored. No upkeep in the building and no quality in the education, and civil rights non profit organizations NEVER sue to improve and elevate the school.

    However, no sooner does a "Republican" (and I'm not a Republican) shut down the school than, suddenly, civil rights groups and the Fed. Ed. Dept. take notice and sue to invalidate the condemnation of the school, so that minorities continue to have a LOW quality school.

    So, if minorities are to be protected, why do minority kids deserve a school that is of such a LOW quality? What's wrong with this picture and what's wrong with this suit?

    Go figure!

  91. Ultimately teaching is a job in which the teachers can utilize their education if they are certified and teaching in the subject area of their major in college. Often many in education are not directly utilizing their educational specialty and are being paid more outside of the classroom. Now a lot has to do with hiring and retention of those inside the classroom discharging the core mission of education. They are paid less than the bureaucrats outside who increasingly have never taught. Moreover they often have no experience inside of the classroom teaching but able to bully, negatively evaluate and railroad otherwise qualified teachers who want to discharge their duties. Discrimination in hiring teachers by having extremely complicated hiring applications or procedures further compound public education. These procedures in hiring are essentially designed to end up locking in local discrimination in the hiring of qualified teachers.

    Centralized hiring would mitigate a lot of the local nepotism, cronyisms and issues involved in hiring, retaining and keeping qualified teachers. Localisms are destroying America as we bulkanize into atomized fiefdoms based on demographics and of the who you know instead of your qualifications for the teaching job. It is the root cause tugging at bringing us together, having a uniform standard throughout states or nationally and stopping the abuse of teachers and discrimination in the the teaching workplace.

  92. bloomberg always said the legacy of his administration would be the quality of the public school system. Bloomberg, you get a big, stinking F!

  93. "Mr. Hoxha said the school was an early success. For five straight years, he said, attendance was around 90 percent." That sounds terrible! Does that mean that on any given day, approximately 10% of the students did not even bother showing up for school? Or does "attendance" have some other meaning?

  94. Huh? When I was a student, having an 88% attendance rate at my high school was exemplary, 90% even more so.

  95. It is a hard and uphill challenge to teach struggling kids who have to grapple with language, who come from broken homes, who come to the school with emotional baggage, who come to the school with learning disabilities and with absolutely no motivation what so ever to succeed. In addition to this, there are other societal blocks like poverty, ignorance, no push for them to learn English in their community or at home. Very often, I feel that the parents need to be enrolled in school and understand the importance of education, before we can tackle with the youngsters.
    The second problem is that immigrants from DR and other latino countries imigrate with the expectation of surviving here without English, a culture that is so unique. Immigrants from the rest of the world seem to understand that their survival and success depends on English abilities.
    It is very sad indeed.

  96. There is a big problem at many schools, and in our culture... And that is the expectation that young people can be cajoled into applying themselves, and at the same time, for consideration of the kids, to have an open door policy to enrollment.

    First, when a school is in trouble, it makes sense to not re-admit kids that have dropped out a few months back. This is though love, but otherwise, what this results is in creating a revolving door. Immigrant families need to know that when a school opens its doors for their kids, the expectation is that they value the privilege and apply themselves to completing the school year.

    Secondly, when students do not feel safe in the school, again though love. Very strong discipline needs to be applied. Kids leaving school or disrespecting their teachers need to be expelled. Certainly, in an ideal world each misbehaving kids should have many chances to turn his or her school life around, but when the quality of the education of many other kids is on the line, there is precious little space for accommodation and leniency.

    Yet the biggest failure is in general that our culture expects schools to do most of the educating, and fails to impose the huge responsibility of creating a culture of respect and discipline. Only when parents express to their kids that education is a privilege, that they must apply themselves, and that teachers are to be respected, we can ultimately resolve the problem of failing schools.

  97. You haven't read the new Mayoral directive about school discipline which now says that cursing out a teacher in the classroom is not an offense that warrants a suspension.

    You try to instill discipline in a kid who can curse you out with impunity!

  98. The point wasn't the actual graduation rate. The point was that after all the money and effort only 5-10 percent are functional. The piece of paper that says you graduated has little value anyway, and the employers and colleges know it.

  99. " Mr. Hoxha would never stand for teachers’ altering grades to make the school look good" This comment sums up the logic, or some would say lack of logic in the DOE.

    School report cards by which we live and die are based on credit accumulation and regents passing rates. Principals have been able to game the system by pressuring teachers to pass 80% of their students or suffer the consequences.

    Until this past January, teachers graded their own students regents exams, so they could potentially be friendlier in grading their own students tests. As of January, Regents exams were centrally graded in NYC.

    Teacher's influence on their students' grades was reduced. In my school, we saw a drastic drop in Regents grades. Suddenly, the successful small schools, which have succeeded by smoke and mirrors in many ways are now seeing that their students are not passing regents at 60-70% passing rates but at much lower rates.

    When the smoke clears, it may be time to revisit why we educate students. Is it for a good progress report so that Bloomberg won't shut the school down? Is there a way to really create literate students when they enter school at such low literacy levels? I hope we can change the false motivation to open and close schools in the city and start making legitimate progress with these kids.

  100. Yep, 80 percent or they come after you. Much worse at the new small schools in my experience.

  101. I understand that closing schools, and replacing them with new ones, has become the hallmark of education reform when schools fail to deliver and that their buildings could be better used to experiment with new ideas and a mayor who treats a struggling schools closing as accomplishment. However, Our District 30 publics in Astoria, Queens are now facing the same consequences as Department of Education (DOE) is now focusing on New York's brightest minds. The DOE, proposing to restructure P.S.122 by adding a zoned middle school program and make drastic cuts to P.S.122’s program.

    This proposal would cause a surge in enrollment and overcrowding resulting in a loss of enriching resources for ALL P.S.122 students including the science lab, library and art room. by removing the 30 year old time and tested only gifted and talented middle school in the area. This would put the 100% capacity school at 129% capacity. Due to the building population increase the kids at PS 122 will have to start eating lunch at around 9:30 A.M.

    Since the kids of PS 122 feed into nearby intermediate School 141’s building. This will no longer be needed, freeing up enough space to turn PS 141 into a charter school.

    Over 90% of PS 122Mamie Fay in Astoria, Queens attend schools such as Stuyvesant H.S., Bronx Science, Hunter College etc.. vast majority are low income.

    Why would the DOE destroy a district and the number #2 school in NYS; in order to put in a charter school in the same district?

  102. This is such a depressing report in all its aspects. The teachers and administrators are doing their best, but the community the school serves has changed, the population is shifting--even over the course of a few months--the city's education department is so fixated on numbers that it can't see the big picture that there are social forces at play that make the job of maintaining or improving standards many times more difficult. Maybe there needs to be consideration of "student turnover" when delivering grades to schools. If you're not beginning and ending the year with the same students, if the roster varies by a certain % from one year to the next, then the numbers you're trying to base your evaluations on are meaningless. It's like setting up an experiment with rats, but changing the rats every Monday morning. You may be running a great experiment but your results are meaningless.

  103. I graduated from William Howard Taft High School in 1961. It was a wonderful learning environment. We were encouraged to grow, and it was safe. There was no need for anyone to teach to the test. Did I mention that it was wonderful?
    Perhaps it might be instructive to carefully compare what is being done today with the way it was done then. The people today are probably at least as dedicated, and based on all the experience we've had since then, teaching methods actually should be better now - but no.
    The system my teachers followed may have needed improvement here and there, but today's system seems to running on its own, without any clearly defined objectives anymore - rather than a system designed to meet peoples' needs, we have another example of people being forced to meet the needs of the system.
    And the people who suffer the greatest loss are the children.
    It's time to stop and finally learn from our mistakes and to refocus on the proper goals.

  104. Will there ever come a day when he stop blaming the schools and the teachers and start blaming the PARENTS for failing to be teamplayers in their childrens' education?

  105. I don't understand. If " Claremont International High School ... is already occupying part of the building and is designed to serve recent immigrants," why were all those non-English speaking students from the Dominican Republic enrolled in Levin rather than Claremont?

  106. Those ELL students may not have applied to Claremont, they may have been in the country too long to be eligible to enroll, or there might not be enough seats at Claremont for all the students eligible to enroll.

  107. Deep in this article we read that schools with comparable challenges in the city are getting incomparably better results, including two in the same complex. Given how demonstrably harder it is to get dramatically better results through turnaround methods than by establishing the right kind of school culture in a new school organization, such closures make sense. Painful? yes, and acutely so. But let's remember how much pain accrues in the lifetimes of people who failed to get a good enough education. Lastly, as a taxpayer I don't want to keep paying for what doesn't work. Find what works and replicate it with promising leaders at the helm.

  108. New York City schools are deeply corrupt. At the schools where I have worked, faking data is part of the process of avoiding being being targeted for closure. Be very careful in judging schools according to the data provided in this article, especially the vague claims of success at comparable schools.

  109. Of course, the teachers union is opposed to closing failing schools. Aren't they opposed to nearly all forms of accountability?

  110. Did you read the article, P. White? Why did the school "fail"? Who says so? What is "failing"? Accountability to whom? How have Michael Bloomberg and his chancellors been held accountable for the failed record of "reform" in the past 10+ years? Not one bit.

  111. Inner city schools with transient, non-English speaking student populations pose a massive challenge to educators. It is not the "failure" of our government, but rather our society which values superficiality and short-term reward more than long-term success. A growing percentage of our population is more concerned with kardashians, real housewives and storage wars than educated, responsible citizenship.....all of whom vote Democrat. I don't know the answer, but keeping schools with dreadful performance open certainly isn't it.

  112. In 1966, I graduated from William Howard Taft Hight School with an excellent education, but the school was already struggling in its attempt to absorb wave after wave of immigrants, starting with the Cubans who fled Castro. Language was a big issue then as well.
    Simultaneously the established community was fleeing the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway and Robert Moses' Master Plan that ruined my neighborhood.
    When a demographic changes without considering new services for families with new needs, there is always chaos. Unfortunately, these parents needed education as much as their children.
    Things do not happen in a vacuum and Taft was road kill as the Bronx was left to decay.
    Very sad to read this article and remember the senseless killing of Jonathan Levin.

  113. This is typical King Michael policy. Don't help the school. Watch it fail. Blame the teachers and then close the school.Be careful who you vote for next for mayor, as ONE of the Democratic candidates, who is King Michael's best friend, will just continue these policies. We need a change. We need a mayor who will recognize that MOST schools do not have enough books. We need a mayor who will recognize that MOST teachers are sitting at desks that their teachers used. We need a mayor who will have his education cabinet filled with people who have spent time in the classrooms of NYC. We need a mayor who will not penalize schools for having students with large numbers of English Language Learners, and then penalizing the school when the graduation rate drops. Just be careful who you vote for next.

  114. Let's not leave out how this person worked to put Bloomberg in for an illegal third term and four more miserable years of destroying the school system. We would have long been rid of him if not for her.

  115. well i'm not sure about this particular school... but the school it replaced (Taft) was an absolutely terrible - violence plagued school in the 80's and 90's. I know past students that absolutely hated it and were glad it closed. "King Michael" wasn't even mayor then.

  116. say what you want - but a lot of the problems begin at home.

    i also remember the death of mr. levin... those were dark days

  117. As a teacher who left a closing school to go to a "new" school, all I can say is "same as it ever was." My old school started to go into failure mode when we were given over 1/3 of our borough's special education population. Why? Because as Bloomberg was closing the big schools, many of the small schools didn't have any programs for these students. We also had a large population of ELL's. Now in my "new" school which is a small school, I see the same thing happening. More ELL's, more special education students who entering the 9th grade with second grade reading levels and they have to pass the Regents exams and I give my school 5 more years before we get slated to close.

    Something has to change. I wish we had zoned schools again. I wish my special ed students could have the RCT's again. I wish we had more vocational programs.

  118. Regardless of the fate of the school, Jon will never be forgotten by those who knew and loved him. He made a difference in so many lives by supporting and believing in his students. He was an incredible person!

  119. I suppose that printing the comment from the assistant principal describing Hoxha, the principal, as being "by the book" is the closest the Times will ever get to covering the systematic grade inflation that has taken root in New York City high schools over the last decade. The problem is, this quote suggests that the problem originates with teachers. In fact, it is the principals that pressure teachers to pass high percentages of students. Teachers hate doing this and have nothing to gain other than avoiding retaliation.

    It's a strange time to be a teacher. There's so much reporting on education, but it never seems to reflect on our experiences. For example, has the Times published even a single word on the "differentiation" mania of the last 5 years?

  120. Full disclosure: I am a personal friend of Carol N. Levin and taught with her for a year on the Taft campus. What Mr. Baker's article did not make clear is that Ms. Levin launched her teaching career in her late 50s in an inspiring but also heartbreaking effort to carry on her son's commitment to inner city schools. Shuttering a school and disrupting the education of an already marginalized population because the school is failing to be an academic "profit center" perhaps constitutes reform in the free market economy where Mr. Bloomberg made his billions. In the South Bronx it only exacerbates the ever widening achievement gap between the haves and the have nots. The administration's core values and priorities can be inferred from the anecdote about the personal phone call the chancellor reportedly made to Gerald Levin, who retired from Time Warner more than a decade ago. Why did the chancellor not also call Ms. Levin, who actually taught in the same building for six years until 2010? As the Times reported several weeks ago, Mr. Bloomberg somehow got accepted to Johns Hopkins in spite of a mediocre academic average. Mr. Bloomberg evidently had someone behind him who was willing to invest in his academic future even if he did not immediately show a "profit." The Jonathan Levin High School represents one too-small effort to give disadvantaged students a leg up that Mr. Bloomberg and others, when similar largesse is handed to them, take for granted as a birthright.