sed seal                                                                                                 

 

THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

TO:

EMSC Committee

FROM:

John B. King, Jr.

SUBJECT:

Update on School Turnaround/Restart/Closure/Transformation Strategies

DATE:

December 8, 2009

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issue for Discussion

What actions can the Board of Regents and the Department take to support local educational agencies (LEAs) in turnaround, restart, school closure or transformation activities with persistently low-achieving schools?

Procedural History

At the Regents meetings in June, July, September and November 2009, Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and Regent Lester W. Young provided updates on activities related to New York State’s Race to the Top (RTTT) application planning and strategy.  One key area of Race to the Top involves how states will support local educational agencies (LEAs) in turning around schools that are persistently lowest-achieving.  In December, Department staff will review with the Regents the proposed methodology for identifying these schools.  This companion item provides recommendations on policy decisions, changes to Commissioner’s regulations, and items for inclusion in the Regents legislative priorities that will build a robust infrastructure to support the efforts of LEAs to intervene successfully in persistently lowest-achieving schools.

Background Information

New York’s vision for educational excellence is focused on the centrality of the teaching and learning experience in the classroom supported by the synergistic efforts of state, regional, district, and school-based infrastructures.  The vision is depicted in Figure 1.

 


 

 

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Figure 1

 

Among the areas encompassed by this vision are:

Local Accountability for Student Success:

 

 

 

State Level Leadership for Change:

 

 

 

 

For more than twenty years, the Board of Regents have had in place a process by which the Commissioner annually identifies those schools that are farthest from State standards and most in need of improvement. These schools are placed under registration review. LEAs with identified schools are required to develop plans for turning these schools around and are provided support by the State Education Department to implement these plans.  If improvement in student achievement does not occur, LEAs must phase-out and close these schools or the Commissioner will recommend to the Board of Regents that the school’s registration be revoked.  This process has helped to improve academic performance in more than 200 schools.  At the same time, the process has also resulted in the closure of more than 60 schools that failed to achieve performance targets established by the Commissioner.

With the United States Department of Education announcement of the Race to the Top (RTTT) fund application, the Board of Regents and the State Education Department have an unprecedented opportunity to build upon these successes.  One of the four key selection criteria in the application is the State’s plan for turning around its persistently lowest-achieving schools. Persistently lowest-achieving schools are schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that are among the lowest-achieving in the State in terms of student proficiency in ELA or mathematics or have graduation rates below 60% for a number of years. 

RTTT guidelines highlight four effective models for dramatic school intervention in persistently lowest-achieving schools: the turnaround model; the restart model; school closure; and the transformation model.  LEAs that have schools that have been identified as persistently lowest-achieving will be required to select one of the four models and submit an intervention plan to the Commissioner for approval.  These models all include elements of intervention strategies that have already been implemented in New York State.

Recommendations:

In order to raise student achievement and close achievement gaps by turning around the State’s persistently lowest achieving schools, Department staff recommend that the Regents:

 

 

 

With the concurrence of the Regents, Department staff will incorporate these concepts in New York’s Race to the Top application and develop amendments to Commissioner’s regulations for consideration by the Regents later this school year.


Proposed Plan for Turning Around Persistently Low-Achieving Schools

 

RTTT guidelines highlight four models for dramatic school intervention in persistently lowest-achieving schools: the turnaround model; the restart model; school closure; and the transformation model.  LEAs that have schools that have been identified as persistently lowest-achieving will be required to select one of the four models and submit an intervention plan to the Commissioner for approval.  These same models must also be used by LEAs that receive Title I School Improvement Grants. These models all include elements of intervention strategies that have already been implemented in New York State.

Intervention Models and Requirements as Defined by Race to the Top

In the turnaround model, the principal is replaced along with fifty percent of the current staff.  In addition, the LEA must: 

 

In the restart model, the LEA converts a school or closes and reopens a school under the management of an external lead partner (i.e., charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization).  The new or converted school must allow students from the former school to attend.  The external lead partner contracts directly with the LEA, and is directly responsible for the operation of the school and accountable for dramatic increases in student achievement.

School closure occurs when a LEA closes a school and enrolls the students who attended that school in other schools within the LEA that are higher achieving.

Under the transformation model, the LEA is required to implement all of the following strategies:

 

Race to the Top Proposed Plan for Struggling Schools

In Race to the Top, the state is required to provide a high-quality and ambitious plan to support LEAs in turning around persistently lowest-achieving schools.  Department staff recommend that New York’s plan include the following steps:

 

Two concepts are central to New York State’s successful implementation of the proposed RTTT plan. 

First, LEAs must provide identified schools with the operational flexibility (staffing, time, and budgeting) to implement a comprehensive plan for dramatic intervention.  This can be accomplished by the LEA adoption of a governance structure where schools are given operational autonomy with increased accountability.

Secondly, partners must be used to facilitate dramatic school change. Ideally, a lead partner will be identified who will sign a 3-5 year performance contract for student achievement with the LEA and collaborate with the LEA to define both the operational autonomies needed to implement the selected model, and the accountability outcomes that signal success.  The partner will have a consistent and intense on-site relationship with each school, for five days a week over the two to three year turnaround period.  A partner involved in the creation of a new school, under the restart model, can also work with the LEA to request operational waivers regarding staffing, time, and budgeting.

Through a rigorous process focused on proven success in raising the achievement of high needs students and demonstration of capacity, the State will pursue educational management organizations (EMOs), charter management organizations (CMOs), institutions of higher education (including SUNY and CUNY), and internal LEA offices as possible lead partners.  The Regents will also pursue legislative changes that allow the delegation of school management to educational management organizations.

These concepts are outlined in Mass Insight’s 2007 Report, The Turnaround Challenge.  This report, which U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently called “the bible of school turnaround,” provides an ambitious framework for approaching intervention in persistently lowest-achieving schools.

State Level Leadership for Change

The primary support mechanisms for implementation of this plan are the Technical Assistance Center for Innovation and Turnaround (TACIT) and the New York State Education Department Office for Innovative School Models (OISM).

The Technical Assistance Center for Innovation and Turnaround (TACIT) will serve LEAs with persistently lowest-achieving schools by:

 

In addition, the New York State Education Department (SED) Office for Innovative School Models (OISM) will support the activities of TACIT.  The main work of the OISM will be to establish the policy and operating conditions in LEAs that enable school change.  OISM will report directly to the Commissioner regarding the activities of the TACIT, and the progress of LEAs intervening in the persistently lowest-achieving schools.  This office will have expertise and/or have access to experts in grants management/compliance; procurement; contract management; human capital management; and state policy.  The OISM will ensure that the LEAs use competitive grant opportunities such as the Secondary School Innovation Fund and Virtual High School to support their efforts. 

Finally, OISM will collaborate with the Office of Higher Education to ensure support for new leadership through the SED regional network of Leadership Academies.

OISM, in conjunction with the TACIT, will assist the LEA in designing new policies and structures including staffing, faculty incentives and rewards, governance, student enrollment practices and instructional programs.  The OISM will work with the LEA to identify waivers for which the LEA may wish to apply when registering new schools as a result of the implementation of a restart or turnaround model.

 

Recommendations

In order to support the Regents agenda for turning around persistently lowest-achieving schools, and for each of the RTTT intervention model requirements to be met, staff recommends that the Regents adopt the following policy, regulatory and legislative agenda:

Create the Statewide Infrastructure to Support LEAs in Turning Around Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools

We recommend the Regents endorse the following strategies:

 

 

Create the Conditions to Allow LEAs to Leverage External Resources

We recommend that the Regents include in their legislative agenda changes to statute to:

 

 

Create the Conditions to Support Innovative Models of Schooling

We recommend that the Regents amend Commissioner’s Regulations to:

 

We recommend the Regents adopt the following policies:

 

 

For an example of how this framework might work, see Mass Insight report, The Turnaround Challenge   (2007).

  For an example of how this framework might work, see Mass Insight report, The Turnaround Challenge (2007).