NYC gets $4.7M to improve teacher retention in high-need schools

New York City is getting some — but only some — of the federal funds that it asked for to improve teacher retention in high-poverty schools.

The State Education Department announced today that it has awarded the city Department of Education $4.75 million through a state “Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness” grant. The amount is far less than the $12 million that the city and teachers union came together late last year to request, but it is still the largest of the 28 grants that the state parceled out from its federal Race to the Top funds.

The city got a smaller award because its application was not among the highest-rated in the state, according to a spokesman for the State Education Department. In keeping with the program’s rules, the city was invited to scale down its request, meaning that its teacher retention projects will be smaller-scale.

Why did the United Federation of Teachers sign on to the grant in December, after declining to do so for months? Here’s what we reported at the time:

“The main thing that’s changed is that a new administration will be implementing that grant and that one of its stated priorities is teacher retention,” said Amy Arundell, the UFT’s director of personnel and special projects. While the Bloomberg administration has launched some teacher retention initiatives, Arundell said its philosophy has focused too much on rewarding top teachers and punishing low performers. (Bloomberg’s rhetoric on teacher quality and efforts to rid the city of weak teachers led the ice to form in the first place.) She said the union prefers a shift toward greater professional development for all teachers and additional support for novice teachers.

The grants — which amount to $24.2 million across 28 districts and groups of districts — are the last in the STLE bucket of Race to the Top funds, the $700 million that New York won from the Obama administration in 2010 by committing to education policy changes including overhauling teacher evaluations. Many of those grants are entering their final year, raising questions about how districts will be able to continue initiatives that they have been able to pay for in recent years.