FACT SHEET: Norman Thomas High School (02M620) December 2010

Fact Sheet: Proposed Phase-out and Replacement Scenario for Norman Thomas High School
Overview  Based on an extensive review of data and community feedback, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has    
determined that Norman Thomas High School (Norman Thomas) is unable to turnaround and cannot provide a high-quality education to its students. The DOE is proposing that Norman Thomas be phased out. Proposing to phase out a school is the most difficult decision we make. We are proposing this action because we think it’s the right thing for current and future students in this community. The phase-out process would be gradual and happen over the next several years. The school would complete phasing out in June 2014. The DOE is considering the right replacement options for Norman Thomas. The replacement process would be gradual. A high school would be proposed to open in the building where Norman Thomas is located. The school would gradually grow as Norman Thomas’ enrollment decreases. We hope you share our view that we can—and must—do better for students. The DOE will continue to work closely with Norman Thomas staff and families to ensure that all students receive the support they need to succeed in school.

Summary  In the past decade, Norman Thomas’ four-year graduation rates have been 50% or lower. Last year, the four-year     

graduation rate (including August graduates) at Norman Thomas was 50%, well below the citywide average of 63%. 1 Last year, Norman Thomas earned an overall F grade on its Progress Report, with F grades in the Student Performance, Student Progress, and School Environment sub-sections. The Progress Report results for Norman Thomas put the school in the bottom 2% of all high schools that received a 2009-2010 Progress Report. The New York State Education Department (SED) named Norman Thomas as one of the “Persistently Lowest Achieving” (PLA) schools in the entire state in 2008-2009. Last winter, the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted to phase out Norman Thomas based on evidence that the school was unable to improve student performance significantly. A lawsuit prevented the DOE from following through with those plans. Norman Thomas staff and families have worked hard to improve the school. The DOE also offered considerable support to Norman Thomas, including extensive training for school leadership and teachers, helping Norman Thomas build strong partnerships with community groups, and working with the school’s administration to use grant funds most effectively. Unfortunately, these efforts have not turned the school around. During conversations with the Norman Thomas community, parents had some positive feedback about staff members and the school’s extensive involvement with outside programs and organizations. However, many questioned why the school had been failing for so long and were interested in finding out what other options were available for their children.

What would the proposal mean for current students?
If this proposal is approved, Norman Thomas would be phased out gradually over the next several years. Below are enrollment plans for current Norman Thomas students, if the school is phased out.


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Current first-time ninth grade students would have the option of completing high school at Norman Thomas or may participate in the high school admissions process and apply to attend a different school as a 10 th grader in September 2011.

The 2009-2010 graduation rate cited here represents the City’s calculation of the four-year graduation rate on the school’s 2009-2010 Progress Reports. It is similar to the State method, and typically there is only modest deviation between our calculation and the State rate. Citywide fouryear graduation rates for the Class of 2010 are still being audited by the New York State Education Department and will likely not be available until Spring 2011. The most recent available four-year graduation rate (including August graduates) for New York City was 63% for the Class of 2009 and the citywide Regents graduation rate for the same year was 46%. The trend in graduation rate over the past decade is based on the City’s traditional calculation of the graduation rate, which uses a methodology slightly different from both the Progress Report and the State method, and is the only consistent measure of graduation rates available for all those years.

NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION • 52 CHAMBERS STREET • NEW YORK, NY 10007 • WWW.NYC.GOV/SCHOOLS

NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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Current repeat ninth grade students would complete high school at Norman Thomas if they earn credits on schedule. As the school becomes smaller, students would receive more individualized attention through graduation to ensure they are receiving the support they need to succeed. Students would also be encouraged to meet with their guidance counselor to review progress toward graduation and consider applying to a transfer school. Current 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students who are on track to graduate would complete high school at Norman Thomas if they continue to earn credits on schedule. As the school becomes smaller, students would receive more individualized attention through graduation to ensure they are receiving the support they need to succeed. Students would also be encouraged to meet with their guidance counselor to discuss all of their options. Current 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students who are not on track to graduate should meet with their guidance counselor to discuss options. Students could complete high school at Norman Thomas or consider applying to a transfer high school.

If Norman Thomas is phased out, the school would no longer admit new ninth grade students after the end of this school year. Norman Thomas would continue to serve students currently enrolled in the school until the school completes phasing out in June 2014.

Background
Norman Thomas Has Struggled for Years

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Last year, Norman Thomas’ four-year graduation rate (including August graduates) was 50%, well below the citywide average of 63%. Norman Thomas’ graduation rate ranks in the bottom 9% of high schools citywide and in the bottom 7% of high schools in Manhattan. In 2008-2009, the four-year graduation rate at Norman Thomas was 43%, placing the school in the bottom 3% of high schools citywide and in the bottom 2% of high schools in Manhattan. If Regents diplomas alone counted toward graduation—as will be the case next year—the 2009-2010 four-year graduation rate at Norman Thomas would drop to 29%, well below the citywide average of 46%. Norman Thomas earned an overall F grade on its Progress Report last year, with F grades in the Student Performance, Student Progress, and School Environment sub-sections. Norman Thomas’s score on the Progress Report ranks in the bottom 2% of high schools citywide receiving a 2009-2010 Progress Report. Norman Thomas earned an overall D grade on its 20082009 Progress Report, with an F grade on Student Performance, a D grade on Student Progress, and an F grade on School Environment. Last year, only 62% of first-year students at Norman Thomas earned at least 10 credits. Norman Thomas ranks in the bottom 9% of high schools citywide and in the bottom 5% of high schools in Manhattan in credit accumulation. That same year, an even smaller percentage of students in their second and third years accumulated at least 10 credits. Earning at least 10 credits is a key predictor of future student success because students who fall behind often have trouble getting back on track to graduate. The school’s attendance rate continues to be extremely low. Last year, the attendance rate was 72%, 14 percentage points below the citywide average of 86% for high schools. In fact, this attendance rate is the lowest for any high school in New York City. In 2008-2009, the attendance rate was 75%, placing the school in the bottom 3% citywide. Norman Thomas was rated “Proficient” on its most recent Quality Review in 2008-2009. During Quality Reviews, experienced educators spend several days visiting a school, observing classrooms, and talking to staff, students, and parents. Schools are rated on a four-point scale, with “Well Developed” as the highest rating. “Proficient” is equivalent to a score of three out of four.

Demand for the School is Low and Declining, Suggesting that Families Are Seeking Better Options2

Demand for Norman Thomas has fallen over recent years. Norman Thomas has four educational option programs to which students may apply through the high school admissions process. Norman Thomas received 6.3 applications per seat for September 2008. This number dropped to 5.0 applications per seat for September 2009. For this past September, the number fell again, with Norman Thomas receiving only 3.1 applications per seat.

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Audited enrollment data are not yet available for the current school year. Enrollment data are from the 2009-2010 school year, audited as of October 31, 2009. Demand data reflect high school admissions applications submitted in early December 2009 for students beginning high school in September 2010. This data captures the demand for Norman Thomas prior to the DOE’s proposed phase-out of Norman Thomas. As a result, these enrollment and demand figures do not reflect the impact of that proposed phase-out announcement.

NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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Despite Our Best Efforts, Performance at Norman Thomas Remains Low
We recognize that Norman Thomas staff members have worked hard to improve the school, but the school has not turned around. Over the previous years, the DOE has offered numerous supports to Norman Thomas including: Leadership Support:  Offering extensive leadership support for the principal, including monthly coaching and frequent school visits.  Helping the principal develop the school’s Comprehensive Education Plan and set school goals.  Connecting administrators with other schools to learn effective practices that could be replicated at Norman Thomas. Instructional Support:  Establishing Small Learning Communities and Career and Technical Education programs to increase personalization and to meet the needs and interests of all students.  Helping the school implement the Framework for Learning observation process to identify and build on successful teaching practices.  Training the principal, assistant principal, and teachers on Collaborative Team Teaching, accommodating different learning styles, individualizing instruction, instructional leadership, using ARIS and other data analysis tools, sharing best practice, analyzing data to inform instruction, how to evaluate student work, creating rubrics to guide student learning, and curriculum planning.  Working with teacher teams to review student data and improve instruction for English language learners, special education students, and students performing below grade level, and to explore teaching practices such as Learning Rounds. Operational Support:  Working with the school to implement more than $834,000 in grant funding, which was to support summer Regents preparation programs, TeenBiz (an online tool that integrates technology into the classroom), strategies to improve school safety and student attendance, after-school and summer programs, teacher training, Career and Technical Education programs, and the purchase of SMART Boards.  Guiding the school in working with other schools on campus to ensure efficient and coordinated use of facilities and shared spaces.  Coaching staff on budgeting, human resources, recruiting and retaining talented teachers, and compliance issues. Student Support:  Providing training to guidance counselors on how to use scholarship reports and graduation tracking systems.  Helping the school establish partnerships with Harlem Center, Grand Street Settlement, Sports and Arts Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.  Identifying strategies to reduce suspensions and violent incidences at the school and to improve student attendance through data analysis and parent outreach.

We Know That We Can Do Better
Like most New York City public schools, Norman Thomas serves a high-need population: 16% of students require special education services and 18% are English language learners. But other schools serving similar students have achieved far better results.

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At the High School for International Business and Finance, a Manhattan school, 14% of students require special education services and 36% of students are English language learners. That school achieved a 76% four-year graduation rate in 20092010, with 56% of students earning Regents diplomas. At Validus Preparatory Academy, a Bronx school, 13% of students require special education services and 11% of students are English language learners. That school achieved an 81% four-year graduation rate in 2009-2010, with 55% of students earning Regents diplomas. While all students are still not where we’d like them to be, these schools are getting far better results while serving a similar mix of students to Norman Thomas.

NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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Community Feedback
On November 8, 2010, Manhattan High School Superintendent Elaine Gorman held meetings with the School Leadership Team and parents at the school to discuss what is working at Norman Thomas, what isn’t working, and how we can work together to serve students better. Approximately 30 parents attended. While they had some positive comments about staff members and the school’s extensive involvement with outside programs and organizations, many questioned why the school had been failing for so long and were interested in finding out what other options were available for their children. Parents also expressed concerns about a number of other issues. They said:  The school suffers from a lack of parent involvement.  The school is not doing enough to improve student attendance.  Communication between the school and families is weak, especially regarding individual student progress. The School Leadership Team expressed similar concerns and discussed the difficulties in turning around a school that has underperformed for so long.

Supporting Current and Future Students
We Remain Focused on Helping Norman Thomas Students Succeed
During the proposed phase-out, the DOE will build on our past efforts to help the school by:  Providing teacher training around issues including curriculum planning, improving teaching practices, and tailoring instruction to individual student needs.  Fostering opportunities for teachers and administrators to connect with colleagues in other more successful schools, allowing them to learn from one another, improve teaching, and better support students.

Plans for new schools for the Norman Thomas Community
As we work together to create better options for the Norman Thomas community, we will keep in mind what had worked at Norman Thomas and do our best to incorporate those positive elements into replacement plans. For example:  We will work with the community to retain partnerships with community-based organizations that are offering valuable services to the school community.  Murray Hill Academy opened in the Norman Thomas building this past September, and currently serves ninth-grade students. It is designed to meet the needs of the community.

What You Can Expect
Within the next two weeks, you will receive a letter notifying you that the formal proposal to phase out Norman Thomas has been published and that a joint public hearing to be held at the school has been scheduled. Replacement plans will be published in a separate proposal. The joint public hearing will be held in January 2011 by the DOE, District 2 Community Education Council and Norman Thomas’ School Leadership Team, among others. The Citywide Council for High Schools will be invited to participate in the joint public hearing. During this hearing, community members, including parents and students, will be able to share their thoughts on the phase-out proposal. The proposal to phase out Norman Thomas will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), which is composed of members appointed by Mayor Bloomberg and the five Borough Presidents, during a public meeting scheduled for the first week of February 2011. During this meeting, the public will have another opportunity to comment on the proposal. If the PEP approves the proposal, Norman Thomas will not accept new ninth grade students next school year.

Sharing Your Concerns and Questions
The DOE is seeking your feedback on the proposal. We will record your comments and include them in our analysis of public feedback, which is presented to the PEP prior to their vote on the proposal. Please submit any comments you have at: Phone: 212-374-3466 E-mail: HS.Proposals@schools.nyc.gov We also encourage you to visit the Website created to serve Norman Thomas at http://schools.nyc.gov/community/planning/changes/manhattan/normanthomas. We will update that Website regularly with important dates, answers to frequently asked questions, and new information as it becomes available.

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