The story of how Long Island City HS turned around bodes well for the Bronx Collaborative Schools Plan, a new program to support schools facing the greatest challenges.
Long Island City HS is typical of schools that have opted into the Bronx Plan, which was launched as part of the latest Department of Education-UFT contract. The student body is mostly Hispanic and African-American, with a substantial number of English language learners and students with disabilities. About 78 percent of the Queens school’s students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
At the heart of Long Island City HS’s transformation was an atmosphere of respect for teachers and collaboration between administrators and classroom educators. It is change driven by the school community — not by outside school officials or a powerful principal.
As one Long Island HS teacher put it, “It allowed us to rise up.”
Teachers meet weekly to talk to each other about their students. That kind of teamwork makes a world of difference in creating a learning environment where standards are raised and students are supported in meaningful ways. As a community school, Long Island City HS also has built stronger relations with parents and the surrounding community.
The Bronx Plan requires that schools seeking to join the program have a collaborative environment, with a principal willing to work with staff and parent leaders to instigate change.
The Bronx Plan targets schools with high staff turnover, but here Long Island City HS has an advantage. Many of its teachers are rooted in the community and graduated from the school. The Bronx Plan recognizes how critical staff stability is to school success. Participating schools may offer a salary differential of up to $8,000 to attract and retain educators in hard-to-staff subjects.
The Long Island City HS turnaround should give hope to any school that has been considered down for the count. There is a path forward, as long as classroom educators are partners in the transformation process.