There are so many improvement designations for New York State schools that even I get confused when discussing the differences and ramifications of each.  And since my primary job is to know the difference and suggest policy for each of them, it is a lot to track. Below if you will, are some of my cliff notes for the different designations and what they mean for school and district communities.

First for simple definitions:

  • NYSED Priority Schools: When the Priority School list was created, schools were among the lowest performing 5% in English language arts and mathematics combined and were not showing improvement or had graduation rates for high schools below 60 percent for three consecutive years and have not subsequently met the criteria for removal.
  • NYSED Focus Schools: Those schools in Focus Districts that have either the largest percentage or largest number of students who are not proficient for the  sub-groups of students (mainly English language learners, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, etc) for which the district was identified as Focus.  Initially 10% of the schools in the state were identified as Focus. 
  • NYSED Persistently Struggling Schools:  Schools that have been identified as Priority Schools for the last 3 years and prior to that were identified as restructuring schools or equivalent designation since the 2006-07 school year.
  • NYSED Struggling Schools:  Schools that are identified as Priority as of 2012-2013.
  •  NYCDOE Renewal Schools:  New York City Department of Education schools that were identified by the Chancellor Farina as the lowest performing schools.  These schools are almost all NYSED Priority and Focus identified schools, demonstrated low academic achievement for each of the three prior years (2012-2014), and scored “Proficient” or below on their most recent quality review.

What does it mean?

New York State Receivership:

Simply put, since Governor Cuomo is not the official head of education in New York State, he decided to insert his influence into the matter, by attaching an Education Bill to the New York State budget.                                                                                                                    

The attachment offered $75,000,000 for schools and districts with Persistently Failing (now Struggling) School status as of the 2006-2007 school year.  The Bill was passed with the budget and it is now Education Law 211-f.  The law requires changes to the ways in which Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) is calculated and changes to the governance of schools performing at the lowest 5% of the NYS rankings (via Receivership).

What Now?

The New York State Education Department Board of Regents voted to move forward with emergency action to allow for School Receivership to occur beginning July 1, 2015.  When the new regulations are released in a couple of weeks, they will provide current superintendents of Priority Schools the authority of becoming the Receiver of those schools.  The funds allotted by Governor Cuomo and the state legislature are specifically designated for schools identified as Persistently Struggling Schools.  District superintendents have one year to show demonstrable improvement with their Persistently Struggling Schools (Identified consistently since 2006-2007) and two years to show demonstrable improvement in Struggling Schools (Priority since 2012-2013).  You can read the NYSED P-12 memorandum focused on the proposed regulation by clicking this link:

New York City Renewal Schools:

Upon appointment to New York City Department of Education, Chancellor Carmen Farina identified schools that required additional, more intense support, due to their students’ struggling achievement.  A list of over 90 schools was released and the schools were directed to create a plan to address their status and were given two years to show improvement.

What Now?

The Renewal Schools must increase student achievement by addressing culture and climate.  Community and High School Superintendents were given a support person to specifically assist with this work. These schools have also been promised additional funding to address their plan.

New York State Priority and Focus Schools:

These schools are required to participate in annual school reviews, either conducted by the New York State Integrated Intervention Team, a district team, or school review with district oversight.  These schools are expected to make improvement and meet the adequate yearly progress targets for all areas identified for two consecutive years before they are removed from the improvement list.

What Now?

Most of these identified schools receive funding to exercise practices and strategies that will address the school’s issues.  District and school leaders are expected to review their school reports and plan improvement strategies for Tenets with ratings of Developing and Ineffective and implement strategies to sustain practices that received a rating of Highly Effective and Effective.   

So, there you have it!  These identifications are the very reason REACH©, LLC was created.  We want to assist schools and districts to be successful and ensure that students’ needs are met.  As successful school turnaround administrators, we are ready, willing, and able to step-up and work side-by-side with districts to help school leaders meet the goals needed for educational excellence.  Contact us to discuss how we can be of assistance to you.