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December 5, 2018
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JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



Vast Majority of Schools In Receivership Make Demonstrable Improvement

Three Schools to be Placed Under Independent Receivership 

The vast majority of schools in receivership, 49 out of 52 schools, made demonstrable improvement in the 2017-18 school year, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced today. These schools showed progress on performance indicators jointly selected by the State Education Department and the districts in which the schools are located. Three schools in the Syracuse City School District – Danforth Middle School, Dr. King Elementary School and Westside Academy at Blodgett – did not make Demonstrable Improvement and will now be placed under an Independent Receiver. 

“While a significant majority of New York's struggling and persistently struggling schools are making progress to improve teaching and learning for our children, we know more needs to be done to ensure every child receives the education he or she deserves,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “That is why the Board of Regents and I are focused on providing equity in education for all students. District and school leaders, teachers, school staff and other stakeholders continue to work hard to implement strategies that are leading to increased student success. Now, using the strategies outlined in our ESSA plan, the challenge is to accelerate the rate of improvement, so all children have vast educational opportunities.”

“I have visited many of these schools and know the administrators and educators are working diligently to improve instructional programs,” Commissioner Elia said. “However, we must acknowledge that in many of these schools, levels of performance remain low and much more intensive efforts must be undertaken to ensure that more students reach higher levels of achievement. School accountability is one strategy under ESSA to promote educational equity to ensure that every student succeeds. With our upcoming identification of schools for comprehensive support and improvement and targeted support and improvement, schools will be able to better identity strategies to drive improvement.”

In the 2017-18 school year, there were a total of 60 schools in receivership, with 7 designated as Persistently Struggling and 53 designated as Struggling schools. Eight schools in receivership either closed at the end of the 2017-18 school year or are in the process of phasing out. NYSED did not make a 2017-18 Demonstrable Improvement determinations for these schools. 

In accordance with Education Law section 211-f and Commissioner’s Regulations §100.19, Commissioner Elia based the Demonstrable Improvement decisions primarily upon the degree to which schools achieved their progress targets. Each school’s Demonstrable Improvement Plan includes a minimum of ten indicators, which were submitted by the superintendent receiver and approved by the Commissioner or selected by the State Education Department for the school. 

In accordance with the law, indicators could include: student achievement and growth on state measures; reduction in achievement gaps among specific groups of students; graduation rates; student attendance; suspension rates; student safety; and parent and family engagement.

In late October, Commissioner Elia informed superintendent receivers, school principals and other local stakeholders of each school’s preliminary Demonstrable Improvement determination and allowed them the opportunity to comment on the preliminary determination.

As a result of this process, the Commissioner determined that 49 schools made Demonstrable Improvement.  A total of 40 schools achieved a Demonstrable Improvement Index of at least 67 percent. A total of 9 schools earned a Demonstrable Improvement Index of at least 40 percent and showed overall evidence of progress. 

For those schools that were designated as making Demonstrable Improvement but that did not achieve a Demonstrable Improvement Index of at least 67 percent, the Commissioner directed districts with these schools to immediately review the performance of these schools, identify the reasons these schools did not achieve at least two-thirds of their measures and take additional steps to intensively monitor and support these schools during the 2018-19 school year.  The Commissioner informed these districts that if these schools do not improve their performance on the Demonstrable Improvement Index in the 2018-19 school year, the schools will likely be designated as not making Demonstrable Improvement for that year.   

After reviewing information provided through the consultation and collaboration process by superintendent receivers, school principals, local collective bargaining unit leaders representing teachers, the chairperson of the Community Engagement Team and reports of Department staff school visitations, the Commissioner determined that three schools in Syracuse City School District that failed to achieve a Demonstrable Improvement Index of at least 67 percent did not make Demonstrable Improvement. These schools are Danforth Middle School, Dr. King Elementary School and Westside Academy at Blodgett.

For these three Struggling Schools that did not make Demonstrable Improvement, the school district has 60 days to appoint an independent receiver and have that appointment approved by Commissioner Elia, or the Commissioner will appoint the independent receiver if that timeline is not met by the district.  Once an independent receiver is appointed and enters into a contract with the Commissioner, the independent receiver will assume full managerial and operational authority for the school consistent with Education Law to develop and implement a school intervention plan.  

A district may seek permission to close and phase out a Persistently Struggling or Struggling School that has failed to make Demonstrable Improvement. The district could also seek permission from the Board of Regents to replace the closed school with a newly registered school, upon the recommendation of the Commissioner that the new school has been reconstituted as a new and different educational program for students as reflected in significant changes in such area as staffing, instructional practices and school environment.

The 7 Persistently Struggling and 42 Struggling Schools that have made Demonstrable Improvement in 2017-18 will continue to operate under the authority of their superintendent receivers and will continue to implement their approved turnaround plans. For those schools that remain in receivership during the 2019-20 school year, Commissioner Elia will use 2018-19 school year results to again make a determination as to whether Receivership Schools have made Demonstrable Improvement and should continue under superintendent receivership.

Background on Receivership Schools

Schools placed into Receivership have been identified by the Commissioner as either Struggling or Persistently Struggling Schools. The Commissioner first identified Persistently Struggling Schools in July 2015. As defined by law and regulation, Persistently Struggling Schools were schools that had been identified as Priority status for the previous three years and were among the state’s lowest performing schools for the previous ten years.  

In July 2015, the Commissioner also identified Struggling Schools, which are schools that were in Priority status during the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. Persistently Struggling and Struggling schools are also known as Receivership Schools. 

A total of 144 schools were initially identified as Persistently Struggling or Struggling, with one school added subsequently due to a school splitting into a middle and a high school.  Of these, 74 had been previously removed from Receivership because of academic improvement and 19 have either closed or are closing, including three schools that failed to make Demonstrable Improvement in prior years and have been closed and replaced by new schools.

Beginning in July 2015, the Commissioner placed Persistently Struggling and Struggling Schools under the authority of superintendent receivers. The superintendents were provided with enhanced powers and responsibilities of a school receiver to support dramatic changes to increase student achievement. 

Accountability Under ESSA

Early next year, the Commissioner will announce the new accountability designations for schools under the New York’s approved Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.  Schools that had been in Priority status in the 2017-18 school year that are identified as Comprehensive Support and Improvement schools under ESSA will be subsequently identified for Receivership.  Current receivership schools that do not meet the criteria for identification as Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools will be exited from Receivership at the end of the 2018-19 school year.  For more information on New York’s approved ESSA plan, please visit the Office of Accountability ESSA webpage.

A list of Receivership Schools, Demonstrable Improvement Indices, and the Commissioner’s Demonstrable Improvement determinations for each school is available on NYSED’s website.

More information on the receivership process and Demonstrable Improvement Indicators are available on NYSED’s website.

To view how a school performed on each of the Demonstrable Improvement indicators, please go to that school’s information on the Department's Public Data site.

ESSA is Equity

Fundamentally, ESSA is about creating a set of interlocking strategies to promote educational equity by providing support to districts and schools as they work to ensure that every student succeeds. New York State is committed to ensuring that all students succeed and thrive in school no matter who they are, where they live, where they go to school, or where they come from.

ESSA strategies to foster equity include to: address disparities in training for teachers to help them be effective in the classroom; provide students more access to rigorous high school coursework; make schools equally welcoming environments for all students; increase fiscal transparency in school building spending; and use multiple measures to allow students to demonstrate proficiency in state learning standards.

The ESSA plan expands measures for school support and accountability and student success, and requires school-level improvement plans for the lowest performing schools overall as well as schools with the lowest performance for certain student populations. ESSA also provides states and LEAs with funding to provide additional support to certain groups of students as well as to schools that have been identified for additional support. The plan also includes strategies for supporting the professional growth of educators and ensuring that all students receive a culturally responsive education that supports their academic and social-emotional development.