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Better Schools – or Better Students?
October 16th, 2007

The debate over the effectiveness of new small high schools continues, prompted this time by a television advertisement. Sponsored by the Fund for New York City Public Schools, it trumpets the improvements at what once was Evander Childs High School in the Bronx. Childs, a notoriously troubled school, was broken into six small schools, which by almost any measure are faring better than the large school they replaced. Or, as the advertisement puts its, “The building may be the same, but the school is very different.”

An analysis by Eduwonkette, though, argues that what’s really different are the students. Looking at material on incoming students compiled by the Department of Education, the blog compared the incoming Evander Childs ninth graders in 2004-05 with the ninth graders at the new small schools in the building. “On every dimension, the Evander incoming 9th graders are lagging behind academically — they are more likely to be in special education or to be classified as English language learners, they are much more likely to be overage for their grade (i.e. they had been retained before), their attendance rates in junior high school were much lower, and they were much less likely to be proficient in reading and math,” Eduwonkette writes.

A similar analysis, comparing large schools and small ones that replaced them, was conducted last spring by Edwize, the teachers union blog. “In every specific comparison between a new small school and a large comprehensive school, the small school took in higher percentages of students meeting standards and ready to do high school work, and lower percentages of students at risk for dropping out,” it writes.

Edwize notes also that the smaller schools accepted fewer special ed students and English language learners.

Reviewing the situation, NYC Public School Parents writes, “If you take higher achieving students, and give them smaller classes, it should be no surprise to anyone that they will do far better and graduate in larger numbers than the lower-achieving students left behind in classes of 30 or more, attending overcrowded schools on double and triple shifts.”

The real issue, as Public School Parents notes, is what to do with the type of student who attended the old Evander Childs. Where are those students going and what, if anything, is the New York City Department of Education doing to meet their needs?

By on October 16, 2007, 2:28 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 5 Comments »

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5 Responses to “Better Schools – or Better Students?”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    October 16th, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    There will be no fair measure of what is going on at the high school level until after the cohort of children that was victimized in lower grades in the 1990s passes through.

    At this point, it may be reasonable to assess how elementary schools are doing; middle schools in a few of years.

    Nothing that is done now can change the past. Those kids are screwed, and no one admits this and no one is held personally accountable.

  2. J.M. Says:
    October 16th, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Evander Childs High School might offer an opportunity for students who are ready for advancement. We are losing some of our stronger students to educational environments that don’t support learning due to factors such as behavioral problems. So, while I would like to see all children educated, I would also like to see higher standards maintained by focused students. My concern is the balance of the student body. Evander Childs High School’s students should reflect the diversity of New York City, as a whole.

  3. Joe Bellacero Says:
    October 16th, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    I taught English at the old Evander (those who know, never call it Childs; it’s always Evander) from 1985 until 2005. Over those twenty years I was privileged to watch the destruction of a school. I watched our wonderfully successful Nursing program taken away; I watched the phenomenal Virtual Enterprise program dismantled; I saw the Creative Writing Program that brought in some wonderful students, abruptly abandoned, leaving those students regretting their choice of schools; I watched a succession of four principals in three years.

    Evander was uncapped which meant that anyone who applied had to be taken, no matter how crowded the school became, until a building that can comfortably contain 2500 students held 3800, 1600 of whom were freshmen. Since students who were not accepted at other schools were sent to Evander, a sense that “This must be a pretty awful place if it will accept me,” grew in the student body.

    Finally, in my seventeenth year in the school there came a day when I was actually afraid– Evander Childs had become Abandoned Childs.

    Basically, once you do that to a school there is nowhere to go but up. And then Monica Ortiz-Urena was made principal, a strong security presence was introduced, a staff-directed, New York City Writing Project supported Professional Development program began, and the school actually did start to climb–but, of course, Evander’s late success was inconvenient for the new smaller schools movement and so it went unheralded.

    Many of the teachers from ECHS are now in the smaller schools and often form a strong basis for their success, in fact three of the new school principals were teachers and/or A.P’s in Evander. Oddly enough none of the teachers in the commercial ever taught at Evander Childs High School. Most of them are from one school (The High School of Writing and Communication Arts) and, having run workshops for them, I can say they are smart, hard-working and caring, but they know little of what Evander was and what it could have remained if any genuine effort had been made by the administration that turned its back on it.

  4. Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Choking the Big Schools Says:
    January 16th, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    […] Remember the glossy paid newspaper supplements urging kids to select one of the small schools? The ad campaign touting — somewhat disingenuously — the achievements of the small schools. The larger […]

  5. John Steven Alcantana Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Ironically enough, less than three years after Joe Bellacero’s comments above, Evander finds itself in the same chaotic state as it did under the weaker administration before Ms. Urena. Watch the Youtube video below:

    which features a News 12 The Bronx story about a riot in Evander’s lunchroom that left several school security agents injured, a number hospitalized and students terrified at what they’d witnessed.

    What’s even odder about this story is how it was not publicized in the Post, Daily news or Times. How’s that for a media blackout when it is convenient?

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