worst-of list

New York State places dozens of NYC schools on replacement list

The New York State Department of Education has singled out 34 New York City public schools, most of them large high schools, that it believes should be replaced.

Many of the schools are already on the city’s to-be-closed list and others have had poor reputations and low grades on the city’s annual report cards for years. Now that SED has designated which schools are the bottom five percent across the state, school districts will have to submit plans to Commissioner David Steiner detailing which of four federally mandated plans they intend to implement.

The plans are a menu of sorts: four options the U.S. Department of Education believe can transform “persistently low achieving” schools into success stories. Before the list came out today, state officials said they planned to replace many of the schools with charter schools, a proposal that could be severely delayed by the state legislature’s recent decision not to lift the state’s charter cap.

Long before the list came out, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch said the state’s choices would not be controversial.

“There is not going to be a person in New York state who will be able to defend any of the schools that end up on our replacement list,” state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in October.

Yet parents, students, and teachers have been turning out in the hundreds all winter for large-scale protests of the Department of Education’s plans to close schools that are also on the state’s list.

Districts can choose to turnaround, restart, transform, or close their schools. The turnaround model has two versions in New York: in one a school is closed and replaced by a new school and in another the school’s structure and design is completely rehabbed. The restart model involves turning a public school into a charter school that serves a whole new batch of kids or one that serves the exact same student body. New York City does the former with some frequency, but the latter is unprecedented.

The last two options include transforming a school — allowing the school to remain open until it shows improvement — or closing a school.

Schools that appear onto SED’s list are Title I schools that have not met their Average Yearly Progress goals and have the lowest combined scores on the state math and English tests or the lowest graduation rates.

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:


The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.


In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news