Turnaround

New York

Merryl Tisch: Turnaround plan "has nothing to do with the kids"

Tisch spoke on a GothamSchools panel in 2011. Breaking her silence on the city's plan to overhaul 33 struggling schools, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said late Wednesday that she believes "turnaround" is a political strategy, not an educational one. "There's a fight going on here that has nothing to do with what's going on at the school," she said. "It's a labor dispute between labor and management and has nothing to do with the kids." Tisch was referring to the stalemate between the Bloomberg administration and the teachers union that gave rise to the city's turnaround plans. Bloomberg announced the plans in January as a way to get federal funds for the schools even though the city and union had not been able to agree on new teacher evaluations, a requirement of less aggressive strategies already in place. The turnaround strategy, which require the schools to be closed and reopened after changing their names and half of their teachers, has only deepened enmity between the city and UFT. On Wednesday, Tisch visited one of the schools, William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School, and said she was impressed by the changes underway, which she attributed to its principal, Geraldine Maione. The school received millions of federal dollars in the last two years while undergoing "transformation," which funded extra tutoring, additional programs, and new technology. "This is a school that is moving in a really fine direction," Tisch said of Grady, which received a B on its most recent city progress report. "This is the wrong message to this school at this time. Don't be so dismissive of the efforts going on in that building." It was Tisch's second visit to the school. Last week, she brought fellow Regent Kathleen Cashin for a visit that was scheduled after she met Maione in February at a principals union event featuring Diane Ravitch. On Wednesday, Maione said, Tisch and Cashin brought State Education Commissioner John King along with them.
New York

City officials are short on answers at Brooklyn turnaround forum

Wearing red shirts that read "We Believe in John Dewey," a row of teachers from the South Brooklyn high school give a student's testimony a standing ovation. Teachers and students from Brooklyn schools proposed for turnaround brought protest signs and pointed questions to a Monday night meeting with city officials — and left with few concrete answers. As representatives of most Brooklyn schools proposed for turnaround pled their cases in front of city officials tasked with closing an extra 33 schools this year, members of the overflow audience interrupted with shout-outs, standing ovations, and, at one point, sustained chanting of "Free the 33!" School communities have argued against the turnaround plans in tandem before, at an event in Queens and a meeting of the citywide high schools parent group. But this is the first time schools have been invited to testify in front of city officials masterminding the changes. Officials also heard for the first time from schools that have been almost completely silent about the reform plans. Elaine Gorman, the Department of Education official overseeing turnaround, opened the meeting, organized by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, with an overview of the proposals, which would call for each school to replace at least half its staff and to be closed and re-opened with a new name. Then representatives from the 11 Brooklyn turnaround schools were invited to give testimonies about their schools. John Dewey High School teachers, parents, and students reprised their frequent protests by turning out in full-force; at least 100 of them sat in the audience sporting their cheerleading outfits or T-shirts in the school's signature red, and lept into standing ovations each time a Dewey student or teacher spoke. And a half-dozen William Maxwell High School teachers, unhappy that their A grade on the city's annual progress report would not be enough to protect their school from closure, waved poster-sized versions of the report card and the letter A when it was their turn to speak. They were joined by a slightly more subdued group of parents and teachers from Sheepshead Bay High School, the Cobble Hill School for American Studies, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, and a lone middle school student from the School for Global Studies, who spoke about the school's co-location with a charter school.
New York

Prep for turnaround process brings principals weekly to Tweed

New York

With turnaround plans detailed, city turns attention to hearings

The city filled out its slate of "turnaround" proposals just minutes before the legal deadline to propose school closures for next year. After posting documents detailing 15 of the rapid overhaul plans last week, the city published the remaining 18 at about 11:20 p.m. Monday night. Monday was the six-month mark before the likely start of the 2012-2013 school year, so it was the legal deadline for the city to release "Education Impact Statements" for any schools it wants to close. Under turnaround, the city will close and immediately reopen the schools after replacing half of their teachers and, in many cases, their principals. The city devised the plan in January to allow federal funds for struggling schools to continue flowing even without a city-union agreement on new teacher evaluations. The statements detail exactly what the city is planning to do with the curriculum, career programs, and extracurricular options — sort of. In many cases, the city says only that it "may" close a program or introduce another one. For example, the impact statement for W. H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School says the city "is considering" cutting the apparel design and communication media programs. The new school, the statement says, "will explore" adding a sports medicine program. (The statement also strains to identify shortcomings with Maxwell, which received an A on its most recent city progress report.) The statements are just the first step in a series of legal procedures that lay the groundwork for closure — and they don't count for anything with the state, which must approve the plans if they are to receive federal funding. The city still has not submitted formal turnaround applications for State Education Commissioner John King to consider.
New York

At HS fair, turnaround schools struggle to define themselves

Paul Heymont, a social studies teacher at Automotive High School, shows off the list of sports and clubs on offer at the Brooklyn school. It's hard to get students interested in your school when, according to the  city's "turnaround" plan, it might not exist in the fall. That's what Deborah Elsenhout, a guidance counselor at Banana Kelly High School, reasoned when droves of families walked right past her booth at last weekend's Round 2 High School Fair, toward the hallway reserved for new schools opening in the fall. As one of 33 schools proposed for the "turnaround" school reform model, Banana Kelly is waiting to learn whether it will shut down this June, to reopen in the fall with the same students but a new name and a staffing overhaul. Students who apply to the 25 high schools on the turnaround list would automatically be transfered to the new schools that would replace them. Elsenhout said she either glossed over the turnaround situation to families who did stop, or didn't mention it at all. But it's hard, she noted, to advertise a school without a name. "We do have a rigorous academic curriculum and a strong connection with the community," she said. "But there's a sadness, knowing people will be losing their jobs." Teachers at many of the turnaround schools have expressed persistent confusion about the plan and its implication for their students. They also found it posed a dilemma at the fair, where 270 schools were given a weekend to pitch their programs, new and old, to hundreds of eighth-graders who were not accepted at their top-choice high schools during the city's main admissions process. Some teachers reassured families their schools weren't going anywhere, but others said the schools were already gone.
New York

Days from state deadline, city begins detailing turnaround plans

Confusion about whether the city's turnaround proposals would amount to school closures can be put to rest. Eight of the schools the Department of Education has said it would "turn around" are on the Panel for Educational Policy's April agenda — as closure proposals. The schools are among 33 the city has said it would overhaul in order to qualify for federal funding earmarked for overhauling low-performing schools. The eight schools do not represent all of the closure proposals the city will ultimately make. Other schools that are not yet on the agenda, including Brooklyn's School for Global Studies, were told on Monday that the city had scheduled public hearings about their closure proposals for late March and early April. (The panel approved 18 non-turnaround closures earlier this month.) City officials have said that they would move forward with turnaround at all 33 schools, even after the city and union settled a key issue that had derailed previous overhaul processes at many of the schools and after it became clear that the schools' performance varies widely. Turnaround would require the schools to close and reopen after getting new names and replacing half of their teachers. Thirty-page "Educational Impact Statements" for each of the closure proposals offer clues about what the replacement schools would look like. The statements indicate that the city would maintain the schools' partnerships, extracurricular programs, and many curriculum offerings. The school that replaces Automotive High School, for example, would still offer vocational certification in car repair. Several of the schools would be broken into "small learning communities" that include ninth-grade academies, according to the city's plans. In the statements, the department also explains the switch to a more aggressive overhaul strategy from the models that most of the schools had been undergoing until the end of last year, when their funding was frozen because the city and teachers union failed to agree on new teacher evaluations.
New York

From Queens, strategies to halt redoubled "turnaround" plans

New York

Grover Cleveland students join fray protesting turnaround plans