Brooklyn School’s Supporters Say the City Bet Against Its Progress

Source: Kate Taylor, New York Times, June 30, 2016

When the New York City Education Department put a new Success Academy charter school in a building housing a troubled Brooklyn middle school in 2012, many believed the middle school was on its way to closing. The school, Junior High School 50, known as John D. Wells, had struggled for years. In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, included it on a list of 94 chronically low-performing schools that the city was infusing with money and social services. Only 49 students were admitted last year. But instead of dying, J.H.S. 50, in the Williamsburg neighborhood, is showing signs of revival. … Now, in a twist, even as it grows, J.H.S. 50 will have to give up five classrooms next year, because the Success Academy school is expanding to fifth grade. Supporters of J.H.S. 50 are accusing the Education Department of betting against a turnaround. Last year, when it approved Success’ expansion, the department drew up a plan assuming that J.H.S. 50’s enrollment would continue to decline, to as few as 165 students next year. The department is now projecting that the school will have around 230 students. … Mr. Honoroff is worried about losing dedicated space for some of those activities as the school struggles to fit into a smaller footprint next year. J.H.S. 50 will probably have to turn its dance studio into a regular classroom. It is likely to lose a new computer lab Mr. Reynoso financed. And several rooms will need to do double duty, as both a classroom and a music room, for instance. To be sure, many schools in the city, both public and charter, struggle with space constraints. And the elementary school to which J.H.S. 50 is losing space, Success Academy Williamsburg, performs much better on state tests. Last year, 80 percent of its third graders — then its top grade — passed the reading tests and 99 percent passed the math tests. (The charter school has more white students and middle-class students, and fewer disabled students and students not proficient in English, than J.H.S. 50.) …