New York City DOE to Close or Merge 14 Renewal Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) announced yesterday that it would close or merge fourteen underperforming schools in its Renewal Program for low performing schools..  Some are saying that this is an indication that the DOE is ending its Renewal Program.  As reported in the New York Times:

“… New York City’s Education Department on Monday gave its first indication that it is planning to wind down its Renewal Program for low-performing schools, an expensive initiative that has struggled to show results.

The department said it intends to close or merge 14 schools in the program, while moving 21 other schools, which have shown progress, out of the program. Coming after smaller rounds of closings and mergers, the changes will leave 46 schools in the program, less than half the number at its inception three years ago.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the program in November 2014, pledging to flood the city’s lowest-performing schools with support, to lift the performance of struggling schools where the previous administration preferred to shut them down and replace them. Renewal is budgeted to have cost a total of $582 million  by the end of this academic year, and there is scant evidence that the schools have made significant improvement.

At a news conference at the Education Department’s headquarters in the Tweed Courthouse on Monday, the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said that the 46 schools would receive support and oversight for the rest of this school year and that she expected that most of them would improve sufficiently to graduate from the program in that time.

Notably, the department did not add any schools to the program. Asked why, Ms. Fariña said it was unnecessary to add schools because many schools that might be eligible were already being helped by other initiatives, including an increase in literacy coaches and 3-K, the city’s new prekindergarten program for 3-year-olds.

Ms. Fariña denied that the city was ending the Renewal program or had concluded that it was not cost-effective.

“This is a constant review process,” she said, adding, “We’re not giving up on it at all.”

In any case, parents appear to be avoiding schools in the program. Enrollment at 52 Renewal schools fell by at least 10 percent from the 2014-15 school year to the 2016-17 school year. Only six schools saw their enrollment increase by at least 10 percent during that time.

Many of the schools the city plans to close have seen their enrollment fall, even precipitously. The Coalition School for Social Change, for example, had 311 students in the 2013-14 school year and 161 students during the last school year. Such a small population can make it difficult for principals to create a workable budget, because schools are funded in part by how many students they have.

In total, the department is planning to close nine Renewal schools, while another five will be combined with other schools. When he announced the program, Mr. de Blasio said that schools would have to make progress within three years, and that if they did not, they could be shuttered.

The department said on Monday that it also planned to close five schools that are not in the Renewal program, a decision Ms. Fariña suggested was largely based on enrollment.’

It appears that Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña are making administrative and structural adjustments to the Renewal Program rather than ending it altogether.


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