The State Education Department this month identified 144 struggling and persistently struggling schools statewide — 62 of them in New York City — that could be turned over to an outside administrator or “receiver” if they do not meet performance targets.
Schools the state deems “struggling” have been among the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide since 2012. These schools will have two years to show demonstrable growth. “Persistently struggling” schools have been labeled underperforming by the state since 2006 and get one year to fend off receivership .
UFT President Michael Mulgrew pointed to New York City’s Renewal Schools program, which has already launched ambitious turnaround efforts in many of the identified city schools, as a more promising approach. He warned that receivership has not worked well in districts where it has been imposed such as Philadelphia, Indianapolis and the Roosevelt school district on Long Island.
“Receivers have no magic wand,” Mulgrew said. “We have seen that over and over again, in New York State and across the country. What these schools need are resources, and that is what New York City schools are getting in Mayor de Blasio’s Renewal program.”
The receivership measure was part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget bill in January. It was passed with significant changes by the state Legislature in April after the UFT and other advocates pressed for more local control of the process. Under the new law, the schools chancellor in New York City — or, in other districts, the superintendent — has initial responsibility for improving struggling schools. If the schools do not show improvement within the allotted time frame, a receiver such as a nonprofit organization, an individual or a charter management organization can be brought in to run the school. Receivers are under the control of the state, not the chancellor or superintendent.
All but 12 of the 62 New York City schools are already part of the city Department of Education’s Renewal Schools program. The city has pledged more than $500 million in aid to the program over three years to pay for extra academic supports, professional development and wraparound community services. The majority of the Renewal schools have also been paired with nonprofits and agencies that will deliver health services, counseling and other services to students and families.
The UFT is working to support the Renewal program, including by building teacher leadership in the schools and ensuring that all hiring is conducted by joint city-union committees.
“Investing in schools is what makes them better and what works for students, not receivers,” said Mulgrew.
New York City has seven “persistently struggling” schools, five in the Bronx, one of which is already closing, and one in Brooklyn — Automotive HS, which was designated by the state last year as an “out-of-time” school. The city’s 55 “struggling” schools are in all boroughs except Staten Island. They include Boys and Girls HS, which was also designated as “out of time” by the state last year.