A study that the city Department of Education commissioned to boost the chances of having the next mayor continue the "network" school support structure concluded that while the theory is sound, the execution has not been.
Struggling schools have gotten too little support and communities and schools have had too weak of a connection under the networks, according to the report, released today by the Parthenon Group. One solution, the consulting firm suggests, is restoring some authority to district superintendents — whom the Bloomberg administration stripped of most power in 2007.
Networks replaced a system of school support that was linked to schools' geographic districts. Instead of coaches and advisors giving professional development, curriculum, and budget help to all of the schools in a single area, they currently work with schools that choose their brand of support, no matter where the schools are located.
The new report comes at a time Mayor Bloomberg's successor, Bill de Blasio, is deep into planning for his transition to City Hall. De Blasio has said he thinks districts should play a stronger role in school support, but he has so far offered few details about how he plans to change the way schools get help.
The report contains several ideas for de Blasio and his transition team. Before it got the contract to study networks, Parthenon secretly told the department that it would seek to identify "low-hanging fruit" that could be changed without overhauling the network structure entirely.
During a panel discussion Monday, Merryl Tisch said that "networks have basically failed children" who are English-language learners or who have special needs.
The next mayor should “reconsider” the current system of school-support networks, State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said Monday, adding her voice to a chorus of critics – including mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio – who have questioned the signature Bloomberg education policy.
“Me, if I were going to take over the school system, I would look heavily to change the networks,” Tisch said during a panel discussion hosted by the nonprofit group, PENCIL.
“I think the networks have basically failed children who are [English-language learners],” added Tisch, who is due to defend the state's education policies at a state senate hearing Tuesday. “They have failed children who have special needs.”
Under the $90 million network system, principals choose from about 55 Department of Education or nonprofit-run support providers, which assist schools with teacher training, budgeting and more.
The networks emerged as part of a major school-system overhaul under Mayor Michael Bloomberg that shifted power from district superintendents to individual principals, who became more accountable for student performance.
Proponents argue that the network system enables principals to partner with like-minded leaders, regardless of geography, in the process eliminating the patronage system that thrived when superintendents held sway.
But critics charge that some networks do little to aid their member schools, while separating schools from their communities and cutting locals out of the decision-making.