November 21, 2011
Less than six years old, Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School is the small-schools dinosaur on its campus — and it could be on the verge of extinction.
After just barely escaping an F on its latest report card, the DOE placed Cypress Hills Collegiate on a shortlist of schools that could be shuttered due to poor performance. The school had gotten an F on its first progress report grade in 2010.
Today, students rallied in front of the Franklin K. Lane building, where Cypress Hills Collegiate shares space with three other schools, to defend their school. The protest was the latest in a series of events supported by the Coalition for Educational Justice, which has helped community members at a number of schools at risk of being closed push back against the DOE’s characterization that the schools are low-performing. On Tuesday, parents and elected officials representing 15 of the 47 schools will bring that message to the DOE’s Manhattan headquarters.
Before the rally, student organizers told me that Cypress Hills Collegiate would be more successful if there were more computers and elective courses and if students could use the building’s library.
“It’s not being used at all,” said sophomore Odalis Rojas about the library. Rojas belongs to the Future of Tomorrow youth organization run by the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, which founded Cypress Hills Collegiate. “It is there for no reason.”
Gabriel Cano, a senior on Cypress Hills Collegiate’s student government, said instruction had grown more challenging during his time at the school. But it had also become less interesting, he said, with budget cuts causing the school to cancel cooking and sign language classes and reduce extracurricular activities.
“Now that those entertaining classes are gone student attendance has dropped,” Cano said. “When you take away those kinds of things it narrows our view.”
Asked why the city is be considering Cypress Hills Collegiate for closure but not other schools in the building, Rojas said, “That’s the same question that we’re trying to ask ourselves.”
Cano offered a theory. He said that while Multicultural High School attracts new immigrants and the Academy of Innovative Technology draws tech-minded students, Cypress Hills Collegiate students are a diverse group.
“Cypress takes in kids that come not prepared, not knowing what they’re going to do,” Cano said. “It’s just a different batch of students that come to Cypress.”
Last year, the city’s Independent Budget Office concluded that schools the city was then trying to close enrolled higher proportions of high-needs students.
In fact, Cypress Hills Collegiate’s performance data aren’t much different from that of some of the other schools on the Franklin K. Lane campus, but the schools did not fall under the closure guidelines for other reasons. Two of the schools, Innovative Technology and Brooklyn Lab, are too new to have received progress reports. The only other school on the campus old enough to receive a grade was Multicultural, whose low C came mostly because of extra credit earned for immigrant students’ performance. Just 2 percent of the school’s first class were considered “college-ready” according to the city’s metrics. Its founding principal, Altagracia Liciaga, was removed in September after requiring students to ride in the back of a moving truck.