In the News: New York City Confirms Plans to Close or Merge Nine Renewal Schools Next Year

In New York City, education officials announced that they will be closing 6 schools and merging three others after the schools, which were part of the Renewal program, failed to improve, Chalkbeat New York reports.

One of the schools faced a threat of a state takeover at the end of this school year.

When he ran for mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio promised big changes for the city’s schools. He spoke of turnarounds for failing schools rather than closures. However, as Stephen Eide notes in an article in the Winter 2017 issue of Education Next.

De Blasio and his schools chancellor Carmen Farina (right) have weakened accountability frameworks as part of a plan to “lower the stakes on testing.”De Blasio’s first three years in office attest to the significant constraints progressives across the country will face in trying to roll back education reform, even when faced with no significant political opposition at the local level. These constraints stem from state government’s role in education policymaking, limits on available resources, and tensions within progressivism itself. All of them will likely continue to frustrate de Blasio and other progressive mayors in their attempts to develop an alternative to the education-reform agenda.

Eide also notes that de Blasio rejected the idea of giving schools letter grades as a way to motivate improvement.

Fariña and de Blasio’s collegial approach to managing the DOE, and their lack of interest in data-oriented policymaking, have caused them to weaken accountability frameworks that Bloomberg put in place. In 2007, the Bloomberg administration rolled out a system of “School Progress Reports”—report cards for schools that assigned A–F letter grades. But as part of the mayor’s plan to “lower the stakes on testing,” the de Blasio administration replaced the report cards with a “School Quality Report” system, which is based on similar metrics but does not give schools a letter grade. In a recent analysis, my colleague Marcus Winters compared the final batch of School Progress Reports with the 2014 de Blasio School Quality Reports to see if F-quality schools notched as much progress without the letter grades as with them. He found that “improvement dissipated immediately after summary letter grades were dropped.” This conclusion comports with research about the motivating effects of school report cards that Winters and others had published long before de Blasio and Fariña made their decision to eliminate the Progress Reports. 

 — Education Next

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