M.S. 325 says a lack of ESL teachers sealed its fate

M.S. 325 says a lack of ESL teachers sealed its fate
Photo by Nancy Rodriguez-Delgado

The Urban Science Academy M.S. 325 is home to many immigrant students from poor or working class families.

On February 28, the DOE Panel for Education Policy voted to close the middle school due to failure to meet test scores and grade levels.

The school, which sits in Concourse Village within Community School District 9, shares a space with another middle school and charter school.

M.S. 325 is a Renewal School, which is a program certain schools are placed into if they demonstrated low academic achievement between 2011 and 2014.

One of the school’s highest needs is catering to their Newcomer English Language Learning students, a population very prevalent within the middle school.

So prevalent, in fact, 103 students or about one third of the school’s enrollment are ELL’s, but the school only receives funding for two English as a Second Language teachers, according to Nancy Rodriguez-Delgado, president of the Parent Association at M.S. 325.

“Their decision was so unfair, they always talk about numbers and how M.S. 325 doesn’t meet grade level requirements,” said Rodriguez-Delgado. “But they don’t see the numbers we’re seeing and it doesn’t make sense.”

“We are trying so hard to learn, we love our teachers and this school is our home,” said Gabriell Cabrera, one of the ELL students at M.S. 325. “I was upset when we were told the school would close.”

Most schools get funding through Fair Student Funding, which basically gives schools with students who have disabilities or are ELLs more funding based on the need, according to the DOE spokesperson.

Another DOE spokesperson confirmed M.S. 325 received all of their funding in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.

The school has had low scoring on Math and ELA state exams because many of the kids being tested can not read or write in English proficiently or at all.

Students, parents and teachers alike have been upset over the decision to close the school.

Many accused the DOE of continuously sending large populations of ELL and special needs students without sending the necessary funding or resources to help the students succeed.

For the 2017-2018 school year, M.S. 325’s incoming population of sixth graders was about 75 percent classified as being non-proficient or approaching proficiency in Math and ELA because they were ELLs or had special needs, according to a source from the school.

“The question is, where are all of the proficient and over proficiency students,” said the source.

“The DOE told us the principal could recruit kids to apply to the school, but it’s hard to do that when more charter schools open and have larger marketing campaigns to attract kids and parents,” the source continued.

“The decision to close a school is never easy, but is always made with the best interests of students in mind,” said a DOE statement, “Over the past three years, ELA and math proficiency have remained far below district and citywide averages and enrollment has significantly declined. We are currently working with every student to ensure they have a seat at a higher-performing school next year.”

As of now the decision to close the school stands, but parents and teachers have vowed not to accept the city’s verdict.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuel[email protected]local.com.