Mayor Reorganizes New York City Schools Again

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave his State of the City speech recently and included some unexpected changes for the New York City schools that could profoundly change their current operation. Though the pre-speech release noted that his speech would focus on tax cuts, many were caught by surprise on what could be called only his second reorganization of the New York City schools.
 
The announcement was followed by a prepared public relations campaign of press briefings and New York City schools’ chancellor Joel Klein spoke to business leaders the following day. Here are the major points of the mayor’s announcement:
 
  • The New York City schools would remain public and under the control of the Department of Education.  The department will continue to be responsible for setting educational standards, allocating funds to the New York City schools, and hiring/firing New York City schools’ principals.
  • Principals will be empowered to control key issues within their New York City schools. They will have more autonomy, beginning with the next school year, managing their individual budgets and staffing, as well as determining the best teaching approach for their individual New York City schools. Principals will be expected to partner with a support organization.
Along with empowerment and more autonomy comes more accountability. An array of measurements will be employed to ensure the principals are succeeding in their New York City schools. Student grades will be accessible to parents, one of the most effective forms of accountability. New York City schools’ principals who do well will enjoy additional funding for their schools.
Mayor Bloomberg sees this move of empowerment and accountability as a longtime corporate success tool — succeed or lose your job. Others worry he may be losing sight of the learning and teaching aspect of education.
  • Support organization partnerships will be established for each of the New York City schools. Each support organization comes from a private group, such as nonprofit agencies and colleges/universities. The support organization will provide professional development support to the principal, his teachers and staff. It will help interpret test results and other statistics, as well as identify helpful teaching approaches for the individual New York City schools.
  • Four years ago, when the mayor took control of the New York City schools, he created ten regions. Now that they have served their purpose and completed their work, they are being eliminated. The mayor did not address, however, what group or agency would be responsible for the administration of high schools and admissions for middle schools, previously handled by the regions.
  • Chancellor Klein has long criticized the New York City schools’ tenure policy of three years on the job and a teacher qualifies for tenure, making it difficult to fire ineffective teachers. Under the mayor’s new proposal, the tenure standards will become more difficult but not impossible to achieve. He intends to work with the United Federation of Teachers (the teachers’ union for the New York City schools), whose consent is required for any major changes in tenure policy. The mayor aims to use tenure to improve teacher quality with salary increases, develop a program for experienced “lead teachers” to mentor others, and a housing bonus for experienced teachers in teaching fields of short supply.
  • Lastly, the mayor is looking at changing the New York City schools’ funding formula. He wants to fund each child rather than each New York City schools, believing the current policy is extremely complex and unfair.  Each of the New York City schools would receive $3,000 to $3,750 per child with additional funding for poverty-level, non-English speaking, special education, and/or low academic performance-level children. There may possibly be extra funding for the gifted and talented children.
 
Comments and discussions already have commenced from parents, special interest groups, and advisory councils/committees. It is difficult to see how all of the mayor’s changes will benefit the New York City schools’ students directly. Parents especially have an interest is seeing smaller class sizes and keeping their children from dropping out of school — none of which was mentioned in the mayor’s announcement.

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