The DOE Shuffle: Dance of Dysfunction

Oct 14, 2020 by

The Department of Education, that behemoth of dysfunction, tends to flaunt what it should hide and keep secret what it should praise.  The Alternate Learning Centers, currently in suspended animation due to Covid and a sharp turn in the DOE’s philosophical orientation, fall into the latter category.

There are around 30 ALCs citywide, to which students who have been suspended by superintendents for serious or repeated disciplinary offenses, are temporarily assigned for varying periods of time, depending on the nature of their violation.

It is not a punitive  or non-productive environment. They are not borderline viable but actually flourish.  The students are not warehoused there.  They are not written off as losers. They are not serving sentences.

Instead, they are receiving full instructional services complemented by intense personalized attention to their social and emotional needs.  When it is time for them to return to their home schools, many of these kids plead to remain in the ALC and their parents would move heaven and earth to keep them there.

The ALC were established over a dozen years ago as a result of a lawsuit that ruled that students who get into trouble at school do not forfeit their right to an unbroken education.  The former practice of throwing them out and telling them to stay home was unconscionable and illegal. Although they started as a forced experiment, they have paid off in terms of improved motivation, maturity and academic progress.

These sites are small and quite intimate. Because only the tiniest fraction of public school students are sent there, it might be assumed that they are the most hardcore and incorrigible disrupters.  That assumption couldn’t be more off the mark.

In fact, the students no less compliant and even-tempered than any other kids. Residents of communities in which the ALCs see them as good citizens and there have been no complaints.The specialized skills of the ALC staff was a perfect fit for the demands of these kids. 

Then came Covid.

Actually, Covid is to blame

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