2nd N.Y.C. High School Is Targeted for Splintering

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The New York City schools chief has targeted a second school as part of the district's drive to break down large, comprehensive high schools into smaller, more personalized learning environments.

Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines last week recommended to the board of education that James Monroe High School in the South Bronx be restructured into a campus of six small, independent schools over the next four years.

The current structure of Monroe High, which serves about 2,600 students, will be phased out under a process similar to that being employed at Julia Richman High School in Manhattan. (See Education Week, June 23, 1993.) Both projects are supported by $3 million in private funding.

Last fall, six small schools opened to serve the students who would have been freshmen at Julia Richman. Eventually, as more freshman classes enter the small schools, the large high school will be closed.

The new schools are now housed in temporary locations. Some are expected to move back into the Julia Richman building after it closes, creating a "campus'' of independent schools.

Role of Coalition

The six existing schools were created by the Center for Collaborative Education, the New York City affiliate of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a national reform network based at Brown University. The center's Coalition Campus Schools Project is also slated to design four of the new schools being proposed for the South Bronx, which would open next fall.

Half of the Monroe High School population would attend the coalition-sponsored schools, while the other half would attend two schools that are to be organized by the Bronx superintendent's office. The schools would serve between 350 and 600 students each.

The goal of the smaller schools is to create more hospitable settings in which students learn to use their minds well, through such such features as longer classes with interdisciplinary studies. To graduate, students have to show their mastery of subjects through performance assessments.

Monroe High, a 70-year-old, comprehensive neighborhood school in Community School District 12, is plagued by declining test scores and poor attendance. In recent years, fewer than 15 percent of its entering freshmen have graduated.

'More Choices'

Joseph DeJesus, the Bronx high school superintendent, said in a statement that educators hope to create more choices for students.

"Many of the students living near Monroe have had to leave their neighborhood to find schools which truly meet their needs and interests,'' he said. "We intend to provide those options right in their own neighborhood.''

Deborah Meier, the co-director of the Coalition Campus Schools Project, said the six Manhattan schools that opened last fall have "extraordinarily high'' attendance and "fairly good'' teacher morale, despite the difficulty of launching a new kind of school.

"It's hard for parents and students to do something very different if there isn't a faculty with great confidence,'' Ms. Meier said, "and it's hard for teachers to have great confidence if they haven't done it before.''

Under Mr. Cortines's proposal, the Monroe High building would be renovated and repaired to allow the small schools to move back in within three years.

Vol. 13, Issue 16

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