BROOKLYN - Department of Education (DOE) officials were in the hot seat Friday at a City Council hearing about the effectiveness of a small schools initiative in Brooklyn and across the city.While the DOE says smaller schools are helping children learn in a more personalized environment, council members expressed concern. The council's Education Committee believes overcrowding at the individual schools creates a major problem. The panel also feels cramming many small schools under one roof is problematic. Council members say graduation rates need to improve and also feel the smaller schools discriminate against special needs students by denying them admission.

The DOE disputes the discrimination claim. However, it acknowledges there is room for improvement in the initiative. The council plans to continue to work with education officials on the issues raised at the hearing.