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Details on city's plans to improve failing schools delayed a week

More than thirty schools waiting to hear how they’ll have to change under a federal program targeting low-performing schools will have to wait longer.

The federal government is giving New York State $308 million to help fix its lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, 34 of which are in New York City. To receive the funds, school districts must explain to the state which of four pre-approved models of school improvement they plan to use. The city’s plans were originally due today, but they’ve been delayed as city and teachers union officials haggle.

“While we work to finalize labor issues, we’ve been granted a one week extension on our application,” Department of Education spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said. “Given the wide variety of schools involved, we want to make sure we have as many options as possible to fix these struggling schools.”

One major issue is whether the union contract limits which of the four models can be applied to schools. City officials have argued that the only model that does not require that teachers lose their position — the so-called “transformation” model — requires an overhaul to the contract to meet its other conditions. Those conditions include that the schools institute merit pay and that teachers whose students do not show great enough test score gains lose their jobs. Union officials have said that they are willing to work out plans for individual schools, but so far the two sides have been unable to strike a deal.

“The issue for us is, ‘what’s the educational plan?'” United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew told me today.

Mulgrew wouldn’t elaborate on exactly what he was looking for in an educational plan. But he did say that the new teacher evaluation law — which allows teachers to be judged based on their test scores for the first time — solves some of the obstacles to using the transformation model.

The city’s turnaround plans are now due to the state on June 18.

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