What are the chances that the Renewal Schools will improve student academic achievement? To see if these schools can really succeed, I decided to take Mr. Peabody's "way back machine" to 1996 when Chancellor Rudy Crew, frustrated with the poor results from many schools who had too many high poverty, special education, and homeless students, decided to take the bull by the horns and tackle the problem. He took the lowest performing schools and made it his own district called the Chancellor's District. Fifty-eight elementary and middle schools were selected to be part of this new district, along with fourteen high schools. These schools were part of the seven year experiment to show that additional funding and class size limitations could result in the narrowing of the student academic achievement gap.
The Chancellor's District had mixed success before Chancellor Joel Klein shut the district down in 2003. However, before the Bloomberg administration eliminated the Chancellor's District, the schools did show a narrowing of the academic achievement gap in English, primarily because more funding and resources were concentrated in the literacy field. However, disappointingly, there was little significant improvement when it came to the Math scores. Despite promises by Joel Klein to continue to provide the additional resources under his "Children First" program, the schools were quietly put back into their community districts and the promised resources never materialized.
The Chancellor's District had a program called "A Model For Excellence" that included the following components.
- Class sizes were capped at 20 for K-3 and 25 for the higher grades.
- School day was extended by 20 minutes and the year an extra week.
- Small group after school tutoring and other activities till 6pm.
- Each school had an on-site teacher center and a teacher specialist.
- Student services were $2,400 per student higher than other struggling schools.
- All teachers must be certified in the subject they were teaching.
- Additional Professional Development and Supervisors
This brings me to the Renewal Schools and their requirements.
- Class sizes capped at contractual limits (25-33 students).
- School day extended an additional 40-45 minutes.
- Similar to the Chancellor's District.
- No on-site teacher center or specialist, coaches instead.
- Subject to the school's "fair student funding" requirements.
- Mostly "newbies" hired, some not certified in the teaching subject.
- Same as the Chancellor's District.
When one compares the requirements and their mixed academic results of the Chancellor's District to the Renewal School requirements which seems less attractive for both teachers and students, the projected academic improvements appears to be wishful thinking.