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New York

In a first, city plans to end contract with a support organization

For the first time since introducing school support organizations in 2007, the city plans to end its contract with one of them. But unlike when the city closes failing schools, it has refused to publicly release data showing how the network has performed. (Update 4/20: City officials now say they are planning to publicly release the data next week.) Replications — one of several non-profit organizations that provide schools instructional and administrative assistance — will not be able to contract with schools next year, a Department of Education official confirmed today. Every year, the DOE ranks how well support organizations and networks are doing based largely on the test scores and graduation rates of the schools they work with. These rankings have been used to close low-performing networks, but this is the first time a support organization has lost its contract because of them. Replications' founder John Elwell said today that the decision to cut ties with the DOE was a mutual one. "I was going to ask them to let us out of the contract," he said. Elwell said that for two years, DOE officials have been threatening to end the department's contract with him based on his network's ranking at the bottom of the list. He said this year 20 other networks placed lower than his in the rankings, but Replications did not do well enough to keep its contract. DOE officials have refused requests for the rankings, though they have shown them to principals. Former Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern disagreed with the DOE's decision not to release the rankings showing how Replications' schools had performed.
New York

City replacing two Rikers schools with one smaller program

Teachers at the only two schools on Rikers Island learned today that their schools will close next year. In their stead, a new school will open — one with a smaller and possibly new set of teachers. The change is part of a wider attempt to end programs under the city's alternative schools office, known as District 79, that city officials believe are ineffective, Department of Education officials said today. Earlier this year, the city announced it was also closing its only school designed to transition students from detention back into mainstream high schools. "Despite some of our best efforts, we're not making the gains for the students in some of the specialized programs," said Timothy Lisante, District 79's deputy superintendent for corrections and detentions. In an interview today, Lisante and District 79 Superintendent Cami Anderson said that consolidating the two programs would allow for smoother day-to-day operations of the school. Restarting the program will also give the city the opportunity to redesign its placement process, directing some students towards coursework that will prepare them to return to their community high schools and giving others more vocational training. "The prime vision here is to do everything we can to create a program that will accelerate [student's] progress so they can return to their home school or, if they're older, go into a rigorous GED program," Anderson said. But teachers union officials are crying foul at the city's timing, arguing that the last-minute announcement was disrespectful to the school's teaching staff.