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For Immediate Release January 21, 2010

For More Information Contact:
Tom Dunn, Jonathan Burman or Jane Briggs at (518) 474-1201

Education Commissioner Announces 57 Schools Identified as "Persistently Lowest Achieving" and Eligible for New Funding for Turnaround; Schools to be Focus of Race to the Top and School Improvement Efforts

State Education Commissioner David Steiner today announced that 57 schools have been identified as "persistently lowest achieving" and therefore eligible for new funding and major intervention to turn them around, as part of New York’s school reform agenda.   To receive funding, districts with identified schools agree to do one of the following:

  • 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.

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. 

Identification of persistently lowest achieving schools is also a focus of states’ Race to the Top applications. Each of the seven districts in which these schools are located (Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Roosevelt, Syracuse and Yonkers) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Education Department committing to take the actions required to turn the schools around.  If New York is awarded a Race to the Top grant, additional funding will be available to the districts to support these strategies.

"We are entering a new era of reform in which we will build upon New York’s current initiatives to intervene in low performing schools and improve student outcomes as a result.   New federal funding opportunities will allow us to work with districts to go beyond incremental improvements to create truly excellent models of education for our students, particularly in those high schools with the lowest graduation rates whose students need our help the most," said Merryl H. Tisch, Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents.

"Districts are being given an opportunity to use federal funding to provide focused, concentrated resources to help schools improve English language arts and mathematics performance and increase graduation rates.  I expect districts to develop aggressive, innovative plans that they will implement in ways that will make a profound difference in the outcomes for their students," said Education Commissioner David Steiner.

According to federal criteria,  New York -- as a state with 433 Title I schools in Improvement, Corrective Action and Restructuring status and fewer than 100 comparably low-achieving Title I eligible middle and high schools -- is required to identify 22 Title I schools and 5 Title I eligible secondary schools as persistently lowest achieving. An additional 30 Title I and Title I eligible high schools have been identified for having graduation rates below 60% based on the performance of their students who first entered grade nine in 2002, 2003, and 2004.  The federal requirements are included as Attachment B.

Thirty-four of the identified schools are in New York City, nine in Rochester, seven in Buffalo, three in Syracuse, two in Yonkers, and one each in Albany and Roosevelt.  Forty-four of the identified schools are high schools, seven are junior-senior high schools, five are elementary schools, and one is a middle school.

Districts with persistently lowest achieving schools will be required to submit plans to the Commissioner for approval to implement one of the following four federally mandated turnaround strategies.  Districts will be encouraged to enter into agreements with external partners to support the schools in implementing their new programs.

Intervention Models

Summary of the Required Components

Turnaround Model
In New York, there are two versions of the turnaround model: in one version, a school is phased out and replaced by a new school over time. In the second version, the existing school remains open, but the school is completely redesigned.  (The provisions of existing collective bargaining agreements remain in effect.)

Replace the principal and replace at least 50% of the staff; 
Implement incentives (financial, career) to promote recruitment and retention of high quality staff and provide high quality professional development to staff;
Adopt a new school governance structure;
Use student performance data to inform and differentiate instruction;
Increase learning time;
Provide appropriate social-emotional supports and community-oriented services to students.

Restart Model
A restart model may include either conversion of a school to a charter school or the replacement of a public school by a new charter school that will serve the students who would have attended the public school. Under certain circumstances districts may also enter into contracts with the State University of New York, or in New York City, the City University of New York, for them to manage public schools.

Convert or close the school and re-open under a charter school operator, charter management organization (CMO), or education management organization (EMO) (EMOs must first be approved by the Legislature).

Enroll in the restart school, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend the school.

Transformation Model
A school that opts for a transformation model does not close but rather remains identified as persistently lowest achieving until it demonstrates improved academic results.  (An LEA with more than 9 persistently lowest achieving schools [New York City] may not use this model for more than 50% of identified schools.  See Page 45 of USDOE RTTT Application.)

Similar to the Turnaround Model
Uses a rigorous and equitable evaluation system for teachers and principals and rewards school leaders, teachers, and other staff who, in implementing this model, have increased student achievement and high school graduation rates, and identifies/removes those who, after ample professional development, have not increased student achievement.

 School Closure

Close the school and enroll the students who attended the school in higher achieving schools in the LEA.

Some of the schools identified today may be eligible for removal from persistently lowest achieving status following review of 2009-10 school year results. Hughes Elementary School in Syracuse, for example, made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in English language arts and mathematics in 2008-09. If the school is able to make AYP again in 2009-10, the school will be able to be designated as in Good Standing.

Next month, the Commissioner will identify schools to be added and removed from registration review (Schools Under Registration Review or "SURR"). The methodologies for identification of schools for registration review and as persistently lowest achieving (following federal requirements) are similar but not identical. To begin the process of aligning these two programs, any new schools identified for registration review this year will be a subset of those schools identified as persistently lowest achieving. Later this year, the Board of Regents will be asked to adopt amendments that ensure full alignment between the SURR and persistently lowest achieving designations.

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New York State Board of Regents
The State Education Department / The University of the State of New York / Albany, NY 12234
Office of Communications / (518) 474-1201

Last Updated: January 21, 2010