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Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced recently his intention to open 50 new middle schools while phasing out failing institutions.

“If a school is failing its students, we will take action and phase it out,” the Chancellor said at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development on Tuesday, September 20. “We cannot afford to continue letting schools fail when we know we can do better for our students.”

Walcott, who replaced Cathie Black as Chancellor in April, said he would hold middle schools to the same tough standards as high schools. He cited the success the city has had in opening smaller, higher-performing high schools in place of failing ones.

There was no indication given as to which schools may face the ax, though Walcott said they will serve areas where there is a demand for better middle schools.

According to school progress reports from the 2009-10 school year, three Queens middle schools received D’s; none received an F.

Walcott called middle schools a tough sell to some of teachers and principals. There are between 40 and 50 middle school vacancies per year, he said.

To help funnel more teachers into understaffed middle schools, a new class will be created in the New York Teaching Fellows Program that is dedicated to training teachers to work in junior high schools in poor areas, Walcott said.

Another way Walcott spoke of transforming failing schools is through Turnaround.

This process keeps the students in place but replaces ineffective staff with teacher teams trained in a leadership development program.

The plan is to implement Turnaround with $30 million in federal money he applied for in five middle schools in 2012 and five more the following year.

Middle Schools will also see a renewed emphasis on literacy. Seventh and eighth grade students were the only ones in New York City to regress in performance on state English tests. Fifteen million dollars of the State textbook budget will go towards purchasing non-fiction books to help bring scores up and better prepare students for high school.

“We will not have met our responsibilities as educators, as parents and for me now as a grandparent, if we do not succeed in our mission to give every child a high-quality education,” Walcott said.


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