New York City will announce new closures and mergers of schools in its Renewal turnaround program this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday, though it’s unclear how many schools will meet that fate.
“Some schools have done really, really well and I think are well on their way to no longer being Renewal schools,” de Blasio said at a press conference on state test score results. “There are going to be some when we go through the whole process, I’m certain, some will be slated for closure.”
The mayor indicated that the city’s plan will be revealed in November after a more complete review of each school’s performance, adding that schools that have become “too small to be effective” could also be shuttered.
Those comments come as the Renewal program is about to finish the third year of what the mayor initially called a three-year program, and has previously said schools that didn’t measure up could be closed. But de Blasio made clear that his signature turnaround effort would extend beyond that timeframe, saying schools that were showing “momentum” could stay in the program for one or two more years.
So far, the city has spent $383 million on Renewal — which infuses schools with extra social services and academic support — and has already budgeted $372 million over the next two years, according to figures from the Independent Budget Office. Due to previous mergers and closures (five Renewal schools closed this year) the program will cover 78 schools this fall, down from an original 94.
Designed to turn around the city’s lowest performing schools instead of following former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s practice of closing them, the Renewal program has produced mixed results so far.
On Tuesday, the city released test score data showing that elementary and middle schools in the program posted larger increases in English and math pass rates than the citywide average. Overall, Renewal schools saw a 3.2 percentage point increase in English proficiency, compared to 2.6 percent citywide. And Renewal schools improved by 1.5 percentage points in math, slightly more than the 1.2 citywide increase.
But the schools still score far below city averages, and 60 percent of them posted neutral or negative gains in math proficiency; 18 percent made no progress in English. Academic experts have also reached different conclusions about whether the program is generating positive academic results.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña emphasized Tuesday that some Renewal schools would see changes in leadership this September (education officials could not say how many schools would get new principals). Fariña also said “we’re going to be looking at our Renewal team, and we already started restructuring what some of the support will look like.”
It was also unclear how many schools could leave the Renewal program, and whether they will keep their nonprofit partnerships and extra academic support.
“We have to work out the details,” de Blasio said, “but we’re not going to leave a school in the lurch.”
Update: This story has been updated with a quote from Chancellor Carmen Fariña.