Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new, New York Education Reform Commission is on record favoring the creation of regional high schools, and presumably so is the Governor.
Long Island’s first science “regional high school” will open in September. This is supposed to be a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) school. STEM schools are all the rage around the country now. Science, technology, engineering and math are the very academic pursuits purportedly so vital to America keeping and developing new jobs in the highly competitive global economy. So, creating a “regional STEM high school” sounds like a great idea here on Long Island.
We did not need this governor or his commission to think up the idea. An early version was proposed by thn Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994 to be started in Hauppauge, “… but local school officials squelched that idea.”
A second more recent proposal was made "to open a full-day STEM charter school on the campus of SUNY College at Old Westbury, starting with 125 ninth-graders in the fall and growing to 450 high schoolers by its fifth year”. But that drew the ire of the educational establishment under the guise that charter schools draw funding away from public school districts and thus pose a threat to those lucrative administrative and union teaching jobs in the pubic schools.
The real problem the public schools have with a charter school is that the option to attend such a school would rest exclusively with the prospective students and their parents and not with their school district.
Contemplating starting a STEM school should have generated an immediate best practices review of existing magnet high schools. This would certainly have taken planners to the best of the best, New York City’s nine specialized (magnet) high schools who have, over the decades, produced Nobel laureates, and other noted scientists, as well as statesmen, journalists and authors.
The New York City magnet schools have a selective admission policy, by test score ranking for admission, by school. They are full-day schools with a complete curriculum but with emphasis in the area of each school’s specialization. You may have heard of these schools:
- Stuyvesant High School
- Bronx High School of Science
- Brooklyn Technical High School
- Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
- High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College
- Staten Island Technical School
- The Brooklyn Latin School
- High School of American Studies at Lehman College
- Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts
In addition there are a number of other public schools in New York City with similar but slightly different formats:
- Hunter College High School
- Pace University High School
- Harry S. Truman Bronx Health Sciences High School
New York City is well versed in this concept of specialized, magnet schools, and has been for decades.
Right now there is another new entrant into the growing cadre of STEM schools in America: the Fairchild Wheeler Regional High School in Trumbull, Conn., which will open this August. Connecticut’s Governor apparently loves education more than Andrew Cuomo does, because his state is fully funding this school, which will also be full-time with a complete curriculum. However, it will consist of three highly specialized wings each specializing in specific disciplines, but all connected on the same campus:
- Information Technology & Software Engineering
- Zoological Science, Research & Biotechnology,
- Physical Sciences, Engineering & Aerospace/Hydrospace Sciences
This will be a truly regional school, serving seven specific localities, each having its own allocation of reserved seats based on their local student populations. Admission will be open and decisions made using a lottery where specific disciplines or district allocations are over-subscribed. Fairchild Wheeler will eventually serve 1,500 Connecticut students.
The salient features of all 13 specialized regional schools I listed are these:
Full day, full curriculum, no “tuition” cost to the sending district, and (subject in some cases to test scores) opportunity and election is up to the students and their parents, and not subject to the board of education picking and choosing, or outright denying these opportunities. In other words, they are truly student-centric.
So what gives with this phony-baloney Nassau BOCES “regional (STEM) high school”? Half-day programming requiring two long bus rides to/from the home district schools? …a heavy tuition burden on the home districts’ budgets? … with school boards controlling participation, or non-participation? …and 54 local school districts vying for 50 seats each year in one program? …located in the wealthiest quadrant of the county?
These nagging questions point to the bigger and emergent problem. With the educational establishment, including the unions and heavily vested administrators as well as the politicians controlled by the unions in charge of making these decisions, I don’t think Long Island students will get a fair shake at any of the benefits of specialized regional high schools, you know, like the students in New York City have had for a long time now, and as the students is the region of Trumbull, Conn. will be enjoying starting this August……thus making public schools in Nassau County less and less relevant as time progresses.
Less relevant, and yet more and more expensive to operate. Educational dinosaurs.