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Children First Network grows; most schools stick with same SSO

Given the choice to switch to a new support organization, most schools are deciding to stay put, Department of Education data that I obtained today show. Eric Nadelstern, the city’s chief schools officer, confirmed the data in a short telephone interview.

Nadelstern said the information is “gratifying” because it indicates schools are happy with the level of service they are receiving. But he said that he hopes that in the future schools will make their decisions based not just on their own experiences, but also on data showing how well students inside each support organization’s umbrella are performing academically. (Data were released for the first time earlier this year.)

A large group schools next year will also join a trial organizational model known as the Children First Network, which tries to personalize the way schools receive non-academic, logistical supports. Twenty networks of schools will join the Children First Network next year, Nadelstern told me. Each network includes about 20 schools, suggesting that the total number of schools moving into the Children First Network is increasing to about 490, roughly a third of all city schools.

The school system switched to the SSO model two years ago, in a reorganization that allowed schools essentially to choose their own bureaucracies. The support organizations help with professional development, budgeting, and curriculum management, tasks which school districts and superintendents used to provide.

The menu of possible bureaucracies, known as school support organizations, or SSO’s, includes some private providers and some that operate inside the public system. While only 6% of principals decided to change which SSO they work with, there was some movement, and Nadelstern said that private providers saw the most increase in interest. Five schools will now work with the City University of New York, and 6 will work with Fordham University.

SSO’s inside the public system, such as the Empowerment network that Nadelstern founded as well as SSO’s run by former regional superintendents, remain the most popular. While CUNY will work with 18 schools in the fall, the ICI network, run by Judith Chin, a longtime school administrator, will have 353 schools under her umbrella.