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Reports from Policy Analysts

Renewal Schools and the Community Schools Model

Submitted On: Monday, March 6, 2017

Analyst: Kulnis, Derek

Date: March 3, 2017

Analyst: Derek Kulnis

Margaret Kolodner describes the current state of New York City’s Renewal School program, which is intended to turn-around failing high schools throughout the city. 

Kolodner explains that schools were chosen for the Renewal program because they were in the bottom 5 percent of lowest performing schools in the state and she notes that the program eschews the popular educational reform troika of “charter schools, enforcement of strict discipline and high-stakes testing” in favor of bolstering community schools in the city. 

The community schools model relies on integrating of academic, social, and health services for students, as well as on partnerships between schools and other local organizations.   According to Kolodner, “Renewal schools got extra funding — about $547 million over three years for 94 schools — to provide more services, such as an extra hour of instruction for all students and additional mental health services. And each school has been paired with a community group “partner” to help serve various needs.” 

Kolodner notes that “out of the original 94 Renewal schools named in 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has already closed three and merged five others into non-Renewal schools, arguing that families have “better options” in those communities.”

Difficulties with the Renewal program have included a lack of bureaucratic coordination, the inability to place model teachers in classrooms, and the replacement of nearly half of the original principals of the Renewal schools.

Kolodner also cites questions about the expectations the city has for the Renewal Schools, and considers the idea that some advocates of the community schools model are concerned that the city is not allowing for enough time to adequately assess the potential impact of the turnaround.

Kate Taylor echoes these concerns about the speed of implementation in an article in The New York Times. She explains that the short timetable the De Blasio administration gave for school improvement is incredibly problematic when trying to assess the viability of the Renewal Schools program. 

Taylor states that “facing pressure from the state, he [De Blasio] declared that schools needed to show progress within three years.”  She quotes Megan Hester, a principal associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, who contends that “there’s no school improvement initiative in the country that shows long-term success that showed improvement within two or three years.”

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