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Bill de Blasio Goes Full Bloomberg

Back in 2014, newly-elected New York Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his “School Renewal” program to improve 94 of the city’s perennially failing schools. Under the plan, these so-called Renewal Schools would receive a massive increase in funding and additional resources to allow them to become “community schools,” a model that the teachers unions have been heavily promoting in recent years.

The Mayor’s plan represented a decisive shift away from the policies of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who closed dozens of persistently failing schools across the city during his 12 years in office. De Blasio was a vocal critic of the closures, claiming that the Bloomberg Administration “abruptly shut down” struggling schools “with too much reliance on test scores in making the decision and not enough effort to save them.”

Parents and community members protest the closure of C.S. 300 in the Bronx.

But three years and $582 million dollars later, Bill de Blasio is tacitly acknowledging that the Renewal Schools program hasn’t worked and is falling back on Bloomberg’s tough-love approach to dealing with the lowest performers.

On Monday, the Mayor announced that the NYC Department of Education would shutter or merge 14 Renewal Schools at the end of the academic year. As Politico pointed out, this means that de Blasio will have closed more than “a third of the original 94 schools in the program.” An additional 21 Renewal Schools that have met at least two-thirds of their performance goals will transition out of the program in the spring, while continuing to receive additional resources and support.

Although New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña denies it, many observers see the closures as an indication that the district is phasing out the Renewal Schools experiment (an interpretation bolstered by the fact that officials haven’t added any new schools to the program, either).

The Renewal Schools program is the first thing De Blasio has killed since that poor groundhog in 2014.

You can read more about Mayor de Blasio’s school closure announcement and what it means for his Renewal Schools program at:

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Districts

All the Excuses A Quarter Million Dollars Can Buy

Do you know how far a quarter-million dollars goes in Albuquerque? Me neither, but I know someone who does: Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) superintendent, Raquel Reedy. Coming in at a mere 550% of our state’s median household income, Reedy is set to rake in more than Mayor Keller and Governor Martinez, combined. For a district constantly calling for more cash and mired in mediocrity, I find this a bit perplexing. At nearly 85,000 students, APS is one of the largest districts in the U.S. and surely a tough job, but I can’t help but think of last year when tough times called for … cutting middle school sports.

Superintendent Raquel Reedy

All this comes on the heels of the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) announcing this week that three APS elementary schools (Hawthorne, Los Padillas, and Whittier) have been identified for “more rigorous interventions”, which is a nice way of saying, “They’ve failed the students and adults in those buildings for longer than should be legal and it must stop.” As shown below, Whittier has only eleven students out of 347 who are on level for math. Imagine if one of these was your neighborhood zoned school and you had to send your child everyday hoping that they might be among the three percent of kids learning as they’re supposed to. Horrifying.

APS Elementaries for Intervention

As reported by the Albuquerque Journal, APS now has four options for each school:

  1. Close the school and enroll students in other area schools that are higher performing;
  2. Relaunch the school under a charter school operator that has been selected through a rigorous state or local review process;
  3. “Champion” parents’ option to move their children into higher-performing charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling. This may also include the creation and expansion of state or local school voucher programs; or
  4. Significantly restructure and redesign the school through steps like extending instructional time, changing the staff to include only top-rated educators or adopting state-selected curriculum approaches.

Given the opportunity to overhaul these schools APS and Superintendent Reedy rolled up their sleeves and jumped at the opportunity, right? Hardly. In a statement to APS staffers this morning, Reedy writes:

It breaks my heart when a school is identified as failing. It’s no different than calling a child a failure, something a good educator would never do. Poor grades, even on a consistent basis, don’t define a student, nor do they define a school. Instead, they are indicators of problems that need to be identified and addressed.

Wow, let’s get this straight. Calling a school out as not serving students is the same as telling a student they’ve failed? Now that’s some backwards logic. If only three percent of students can do math, then yes that school is failing. And consistent poor grades should be worrisome, for schools and students alike. Schools don’t get As for effort, especially when these three schools have received Fs for the last six years. The “indicators of problems” have been there for more than half a decade, and for more than 1100 students a year with scant change to be seen.

I say Superintendent Reedy and all 33+ APS executives making more than $100k/year forego their salaries until every school rated D or F has a community-centered academic intervention plan in place with transparent accountability measures to track progress along the way.