The city is looking to consolidate two more sets of schools, in its latest effort to spur change in buildings with low-performing schools without resorting to disruptive closures.
The first merger would have Peace and Diversity Academy, a tiny, struggling school in the Bronx, be absorbed into Metropolitan High School, with which it already shares a building. The second would combine two elementary schools that share a building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, merging Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration into Brighter Choice Community School.
The mergers are a departure from the policies of the previous administration, which broke up many large neighborhood schools into smaller ones that often shared buildings. But some of those small schools, including Peace and Diversity and Young Scholars Academy, struggled to attract students.
Chancellor Carmen Fariña has said that mergers are a practical solution to that problem and the budget challenges that come with it, since schools with few students are often unable to offer extracurricular programs or advanced classes. City officials have also pitched school mergers as a school-improvement strategy, if a higher-performing school absorbs a lower-performing one.
Both could apply to Peace and Diversity, which opened in 2004 with a high-profile partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, promising to offer anti-bias training and college-prep classes. It bounced between locations for years, and struggled to enroll students and get them to graduation.
2016-17 merger plans (so far)
- Crown Heights: M.S. 354 with M.S. 334 (Proposal)
- East Harlem: The Global Neighborhood Secondary School with P.S. 96 (Proposal)
- Chinatown: P.S. 137 with P.S. 134 Henrietta Szold (Proposal)
- Bedford-Stuyvesant: J.H.S. 057 with M.S. 385 (Proposal)
- Throggs Neck (Bronx): Urban Assembly Academy of Civic Engagement with Mott Hall Community School (Proposal)
- Bedford-Stuyvesant: Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration with Brighter Choice Community School (Proposal)
- South Bronx (Bronx): Peace and Diversity Academy with Metropolitan High School (Proposal)
It appeared poised to improve in early 2015, when a new principal took over and resources began arriving through the Renewal program. City officials offered praise in a March press release, noting the school’s efforts at parent outreach. But that principal, John Starkey, left in the fall to lead a school in Buffalo. City materials say officials began holding meetings about the merger plan in November.
Peace and Diversity is among the smallest high schools in the city, with only 170 students last year. It also received students who were especially far behind academically. Education department data show it was one of only a few schools (excluding those designed for new immigrants or students who have been repeatedly held back) where almost every student fell into the lowest score bracket on their eighth-grade state tests.
Last year, Peace and Diversity’s graduation rate was 29 percent, and just 3 percent of students graduated “college-ready.” Metropolitan High School’s graduation rate is 65 percent, just below the city average.
The two elementary schools in Bedford-Stuyvesant also have differing academic results. While nearly 32 percent of students in grades 3-5 at Brighter Choice passed the state English exam last year, just over 18 percent of students did at Young Scholars’ Academy.
Both schools have fewer than 200 students, and neither is part of the city’s “Renewal” program.
The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the proposals on Feb. 24. The panel has already approved five mergers this school year.