New York City officials are gearing up for a whirlwind series of public hearings at low-performing schools under pressure to show rapid improvement.
Monday, Sept. 21 marks the start of a 10-day streak of public meetings at 62 schools at risk of takeover by an outside manager. Department of Education officials plan to hold nine to 12 meetings most days during that span, according to a schedule posted online — events that will offer the first chance for parents, teachers, and students to find out how they could be affected by the state’s new school-improvement law.
The public outreach process is required by a new law that puts the schools ranked in the bottom 5 percent statewide on a tight timeline to improve their academic performance.
In New York City, six schools that have been low-ranked since 2006 have only this school year to post gains before they could be taken over by a “receiver.” (A seventh school in that category, P.S. 64 in the Bronx, is in the process of closing.) The other 55 have two years to show improvement.
Fariña could be forced to turn schools that fail to meet their goals over to outside nonprofit organizations like a charter school management organization, a university, or another educational entity that Commissioner MaryEllen Elia must approve.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through the “receivership” law earlier this year because he believed school districts were not acting urgently enough to improve schools that have been struggling for years.
The law requires districts to hold public hearings in every school by the end of September to explain how schools could be affected by those changes, and to give parents and teachers the chance to offer recommendations for how to improve the schools. (Most districts met an earlier deadline, but state officials said that New York City asked for more planning time.)
The meetings offer a potential community engagement challenge for the de Blasio administration, which has emphasized the importance of the connections between families and schools. In New York City, public hearings at struggling schools under the Bloomberg administration had a reputation for being contentious, emotional affairs that lasted long into the night and often left families feeling unheard.
City officials said these hearings would be different. They are scheduled last just three hours, and no schools are in danger of being closed immediately.
“These hearings play a part in our larger goal of involving families in their child’s education, and we look forward to hearing directly from parents, students, and community members about what their school needs to improve and be successful,” spokeswoman Devora Kaye said in a statement.
Many of the schools are already part of the city’s own program to improve schools, known as the Renewal program. Out of the 62 schools facing a state improvement deadline, 50 are Renewal schools that are already receiving some interventions similar to what would be offered by a “receiver,” including the addition of more hours to the school day or more professional development time.
In addition to the Sept. 30 deadline to complete the public hearings, the city must send state officials the list of metrics they want to be used to evaluate schools’ progress by Oct. 2.