The dust still hasn’t settled from the ill-fated school closing meeting at Brooklyn Tech and the Department is once again totally and completely tone deaf to parents, the public and the legislature. Thousands of parents, kids, community folk and teachers, over three hundred speakers, from 6 PM until after 3 AM, harangued the nameless and faceless mayoral appointees on the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) who dutifully voted to close the designated nineteen schools without any comment.
The NAACP, the UFT, State and City legislators sued the Department averring that the amended Governance Law required parental consultation, and, the Department failed to comply with the law.
Clearly the Department was shocked that the NAACP was part of the suit, and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott jabbed at the premier civil rights organization. Rather than back off Hazel Dukes, the President of the NYC Chapter and Benjamin Jelous, the National Director defended their action and slammed the Department,
The Education Department disrespects the students and their parents with poorly planned and executed school closures. The department didn’t even announce where the students would end up. Instead, they kept parents in the dark, worsening a situation in which trust was already a scarce commodity. If the students were from affluent communities, it’s doubtful the administration would run roughshod over that democratic process – and doubtful the schools would even be closed.
The publisher of the Amsterdam News continued the assault in an open letter to the Deputy Mayor,
“But what do the parents have to say about the way their children are educated? Do they have a right to be involved, or do you think it should just be the DOE that makes all the decisions from on high and then the little people carry out your demands?”
The Department continues to act in the shroud of secrecy, without any public announcement the Department has been planning to move Manhatten East School for the Arts and Academies, a long established school, with a three years of an “A” Progress Report, and use the space for another Eva Moscowitz charter school. The cruel beam of sunlight may have derailed the Department plans.
The closing schools lawsuit, even if successful, will only delay the school closings. The federal government has basically usurped the rule-making process and beginning in 2003 with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and, accelerating under Obama/Duncan, is requiring states to intervene in order to be eligible for stimulus funding, funding that has prevented the layoff of thousands of teachers (constitutionality to be discussed in the next post),
To be eligible for State Fiscal Stabilization (ARRA, Phase II) and federal School Improvement Grant funding, states are required to identify the five percent of Title I schools in Improvement, Corrective Action or Restructuring status that have the lowest combined performance on State English and mathematics tests and that have failed to demonstrate progress on these assessments. States must also identify a comparable number of middle and high schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds. States are also required to identify those schools that have had graduation rates below 60% for several years. The State Education Department will provide approximately $500,000 in federal funds to districts for each school that implements an intervention.
The feds have also limited states to discrete models,
Redesign or replace the school (Turnaround Model),
Convert the school to a charter school (Restart Model),
Transform the school as described below (Transformation Model), or
Close the school and transfer students to higher performing schools in the district.
The City has been clumsy, a noblesse oblige attitude, the Mayor as benevolent despot, totally ignoring parents whose children will be impacted by these decisions; however, not intervening is not an option, intervention models are mandated by the feds.
The feds offer one model, the transformation model, that allows schools to avoid dissolution. The State Education Department has joined a consortium of states that are using a national organization, “Mass Insight” as the turnaround/transformation model. The list of New York State schools is long, and includes schools on all levels.
The model is embedded in the Race to the Top (RttT) application, with specific requirements,
a) Turnaround model. (1) A turnaround model is one in which an LEA must–
(i) Replace the principal and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendars/time, and budgeting) to implement fully a comprehensive approach in order to substantially improve student achievement outcomes and increase high school graduation rates;
(ii) Use locally adopted competencies to measure the effectiveness of staff who can work within the turnaround environment to meet the needs of students,
(A) Screen all existing staff and rehire no more than 50 percent; and
(B) Select new staff;
(iii) Implement such strategies as financial incentives, increased opportunities for promotion and career growth, and more flexible work conditions that are designed to recruit, place, and retain staff with the skills necessary to meet the needs of the students in the turnaround school;
The selected “turnaround” organization, Mass Insight, does have a track record in five other states, see State press release here and a the Mass Insight press release here.
Within a few weeks decisions will have to be made,
* Which of the newly identified schools will close and which will fall within the transformation model? How will the decisions be made? Will there be a public rubric to assess schools?
* Will parents and communities be part of the process? Will the State abide by the Governance Law? Are these decisions State or local?
* Will the turnaround model comply with collective bargaining agreements? What will become of the excess teachers? Will the new school closings/excessing swell the ATR pool, and be used as a chip in the current contract negotiations?
And, perhaps the most intriguing question,
Will the State create a new “transformation school” Local Education Agency (LEA) and remove the transformation schools from the authority of the Department of Education?
We await Regent Tisch and Commissioner Steiner responses …