Parents from low-income and working-class communities in New York City have been fighting for years for dramatic improvements in struggling neighborhood schools. Now the Obama administration has focused its education agenda on this challenge and is investing billions of dollars in turning around failing schools. This dramatic increase in political and financial support creates an opportunity for districts to focus on equity and finally get the work of improving lowperforming schools right.
Federal funding for school turnaround has already begun to flow. In the next few months, thirty four NYC schools (thirty-three high schools and one elementary school) will start receiving up to $2 million each year for three years in School Improvement Grants (SIG) to implement one of the four federal options:
- Restart: Convert the school to charter, or close and reopen it as a charter school
- Closure: Close a school and enroll the students in other higher-achieving schools
- Turnaround: Phase out the existing school and replace it with new schools (NYC version of turnaround)
- Transformation: Replace the principal and redesign the school by increasing learning time, reforming curriculum and instruction, and increasing teaching quality
To take strategic advantage of this opportunity to create sustainable change in our city's most struggling schools, the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) urges the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to create a School Transformation Zone to support these schools in implementing effective school improvement models without collateral damage to other schools. Innovation cannot be reserved only for better performing schools; the Zone will support comprehensive, innovative plans that will increase student achievement in the lowest-performing schools.