Rochester ‘persistently struggling schools make demonstrable improvement

Local News

Nine out of 10 Persistently Struggling Schools in New York State made demonstrable improvement during the 2015-16 school year, including four in the Rochester area.

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen 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 SED 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; measures of school safety; and parent, family and teacher engagement.

Commissioner Elia determined that eight schools achieved a Demonstrable Improvement Index between 58 percent and 100 percent, the level needed to make demonstrable improvement for the 2015-16 school year.

Two schools – including East Upper High School in Rochester – received a Demonstrable Improvement Index of less than 40 percent. 

After reviewing the demonstrable improvement data for East Upper High School, Commissioner Elia determined that the University of Rochester serving as the Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) beginning in the 2015-2016 school year constituted an extenuating circumstance that warranted permitting the school to continue under the EPO’s operation with the EPO retaining the vested powers of a receiver.

In addition to East Upper High School, East Lower School, James Monroe High School, and School No. 9 – Martin Luther King Jr. also made demonstrable improvement.

The state first identified Persistently Struggling Schools in July 2015. As defined by law and regulation, Persistently Struggling Schools were Priority Schools for the previous three years and 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.

Receivership Schools are required annually to make demonstrable improvement on indicators that were jointly selected by the district and SED.

Additionally, these schools are required to set up a Community Engagement Team comprised of community stakeholders with direct ties to the school, such as the school principal, parents, teachers, other school staff and students attending the school. 

The Community Engagement Team is charged with developing recommendations for improvement of the school and for soliciting input regarding their recommendations through public engagement.

Beginning in July 2015, the state 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. 

East Upper High School will have the authority of a superintendent receiver for an additional year.

In Persistently Struggling Schools, the superintendent receivers were given one year to make demonstrable improvement in student performance. 

If a school fails to make demonstrable improvement after one year, the Commissioner is required to direct the district to appoint an independent receiver for the school. 

In Struggling Schools, demonstrable improvement determinations will first be made based on 2016-17 school year results.

Schools that have made demonstrable improvement will continue to operate under the authority of their superintendent receivers and will continue to implement their approved turnaround plans. 

At the end of the 2016-17 school year, Commissioner Elia will again make a determination as to whether they have made demonstrable improvement.

For a school that has not made 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.

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