Schools improve off ‘struggling schools’ list, and into uncertainty
ALBANY — New accountability statuses released by the state last week left 70 schools in an odd position.
On one hand, their improvements from the 2014-15 school year have taken them off the “struggling schools” list, escaping the threat of being taken over by a state-approved independent receiver. On the other hand, they still will face a review by the state education department at the end of the school year to inform district and school improvement plans, according to the state education department.
Some schools will still keep the two years of funding they received from the state for their turnaround efforts.
The state in July, under legislation passed by the Legislature last session, identified 144 schools (now 145 after one school split) as "struggling" or "persistently struggling" — 124 as struggling, which have two years to turnaround, and 21 persistently struggling schools that have one year to improve or face being taken over by a receiver.
The department used accountability statuses it must report to the federal education department to make the designations. They take into account progress in English language arts and math combined, or graduation rates for one or more group, such as low-income students, English language learners or students with disabilities.
But the 2014-2015 data was not yet available when the Gov. Andrew Cuomo-backed receivership legislation was enacted, according to the state education department.
In the interim, those struggling and persistently struggling schools began their turnaround plans. To help increase the effectiveness of the programs as quickly as possible, the law gave special powers to the receiver, in most cases the superintendent, including the ability to supersede the school board and lengthen the school day or year.
Under federal law, the state had to re-classify the districts and schools using the latest data, and found 70 schools — 60 struggling and 10 persistently struggling — had already shown improvement during the 2014-15 (three of those schools will be closing next school year, one of which is merging with another school). They will be removed from the list in June and their superintendents will no longer have receivership powers, but the schools still will be eligible to receive funding through the $75 million grant to support their turnaround efforts, according to the department.
The funding was awarded only to the persistently struggling schools for a two-year period, and no additional funding was made available for the struggling schools, though Cuomo is proposing additional funding in his 2016 executive budget.
Of the 21 persistently struggling schools, nine showed improvement: one in Syracuse, three in New York City, three in Buffalo, one in Albany and one in Yonkers, according to data given to POLITICO New York.
Out of the 124 struggling schools on the list, 58 showed improvement. The lion’s share of them, 28, are in New York City; eight are in Syracuse, four in Rochester and seven in Buffalo.
The list of 145 will be even shorter for the 2016-17 school year after 10 schools, nine in New York City and one in Buffalo, close, according to the state data.
View the list of struggling and persistently struggling schools and their updated status here: http://politi.co/1TPX05w.