The Renewal Schools program will be discontinued at the end of the school year due to their failure to achieve meaningful student academic improvement. The question is why did the Renewal Schools fail to significantly improve student academic achievement despite throwing money and additional resources at those schools? To me, the answer is simple, the additional money and resources did not go into the classroom but ended up with the hiring of additional administrators, consultants, and questionable professional development programs.
I believe that these are the causes for the Renewal School program's failure to improve student academic achievement.
- Large Class Sizes: Despite various studies that show lower class sizes are strongly correlated to improve academic achievement, most Renewal Schools had class sizes that were at contractual limits.
- High Teacher Turnover: Renewal Schools suffer from a higher teacher turnover than the rest of the NYC school system. This results in an unstable school environment and lower student academic achievement.
- Hiring of inexperienced teachers: The Renewal Schools were still subject to the DOE's misguided "fair student funding" and hired only untenured or "newbie" teachers to stretch their budget. In fact then Chancellor Carmen Farina prohibited Renewal Schools to hire ATRs, many of them veteran quality teachers. Talking about cutting off their nose to spite their face!
- Renewal School's Poor Reputation: It didn't take long for middle school parents to make sure that their academically achieving students did not include Renewal Schools on their list of high schools to attend. The result was the Renewal high schools were a "dumping ground" for academically struggling students that nobody else wanted.
- No Neighborhood Input: Since the Renewal Schools were subject to citywide open admissions and many of their student body came from other neighborhoods, local input was lacking, both because of neighborhood disinterest and the failure of school administrators to reach out to the community.
- Poor Leadership: Schools with strong leadership is a must for schools to improve. Unfortunately, many, if not all, schools had weak or incompetent leadership. That includes the Principal and the conflicting and confusing administrative directives from above. Moreover, many of the administrators were failed principals who found themselves in a position to guide the Renewal Schools principals on how to best run their schools. What a waste of money and resources. For example having Amiee Horowitz put in charge of the program.
- Cellphones In The Renewal Schools: The use of cellphones in the Renewal Schools serve as a distraction and hurts student academic achievement.