turning it around

With evaluation standoff past, city wins new round of grants

New York City is getting nearly $75 million in federal grants to help 16 struggling schools improve and support another six school buildings where schools are shuttering, the state announced today.

The grants are the second round of New York State’s disbursements from its share of the U.S. Department of Education’s $3.5 billion grant program known as School Improvement Grants, or SIG. The grants are designed to improve outcomes in schools with large numbers of students in poverty.

Two years ago, the city forfeited a large chunk of the first round of grants after failing to reach a deal with the teachers union on teacher evaluations, which was required to qualify for the majority of the funding. Officials said today that of $58 million awarded to the city, just $15 million was spent that year. The rest was returned back to the state. Those funds may be reallocated to future grant winners, a state spokesman said.

Now that evaluations are in place for the 2013-2014 school year, teachers union leaders endorsed this year’s grant applications. Union officials cited other reasons this year’s applications were an improvement over the previous round, too. They said that this year, individual schools had a more prominent role in determining how the grant money will be spent. In previous years, the city Department of Education applied centrally.

“It’s more targeted to the needs of the students versus the needs of the administration,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said of the new grants. Mulgrew said he was “very happy” with this year’s version.

A department spokesman said the while grants will still be “centrally facilitated,” the city has improved the way it engages with schools in the process.

Over the next three years, 16 schools will split up $20 million to implement the “transformation” strategy, one of four improvement models in the grants. The strategy, which calls for less invasive reforms, requires that schools replace their principals, bring in extra support services, and experiment with new teacher training and longer school days.

An additional 14 schools, including six that will begin phasing out in the fall, will receive $55 million under the “turnaround” model. Turnaround requires a new principal and that most teachers be replaced — hallmarks of the city’s longstanding closure program.

It’s the third straight year that the department will allocate a significant portion of the federal grants to schools being closed, though officials did not provide details about how funds would be broken up. The city spent $15 million in 2011-2012 and $24 million in 2012-2013 on the “turnaround” schools.

“The additional dollars will support students at schools that are phasing out, provide resources to bolster interventions in schools that are struggling, and help new schools deliver great outcomes,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

The city’s school closure policy has been criticized in the past for concentrating needy students in a small number of schools and not doing enough to support schools that are phasing out.

Commissioner John King has been among those critics. Last year, he threatened to withhold funding to the city if it did not show proof that it was making changes to the way students were assigned schools. A city official said that no such conditions were attached to this year’s SIG grants.

“Many English language learners, students with disabilities, and low-income students are in schools that need to change,” King said today in a statement. “SIG grants can help give those students the opportunity to attend schools that are changing what’s happening in the classroom.”

Specific details of how schools plan to use the funds weren’t released, but the state’s press release highlighted a few of the winning applications. Harlem’s P.S. 123, for instance, plans to use its $4 million winnings to add arts and sports programs and provide “job-embedded, authentic” professional development.

A complete list of schools receiving grants is provided in the press release below.






State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. today announced that seven school districts will receive more than $126 million in federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) awards to support turnaround and transformation efforts in thirty-four schools. King said that New York City will receive $74.2 million; the Buffalo City School District will receive nearly $13.1 million; the Rochester City School District will receive $22.5 million; the Utica City School District will receive $4 million; the Amsterdam City School District will receive nearly $3.9 million; the Schenectady City School District will receive $4.5 million; and the Albany City School District will receive $4.3 million. The school districts will use the grants to engage in dramatic and transformative whole-school change in their lowest performing schools. 

“SIG grants are an important part of the Board of Regents Reform Agenda,” New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said.  “Too many students are struggling in low-performing schools, denied a realistic chance at success. SIG awards are targeted to help our most at-risk students so they will be prepared to graduate college and career ready.  These grants are focused on improving chronically underperforming schools and raising achievement.”

“Many English language learners, students with disabilities, and low-income students are in schools that need to change,” King said.  “SIG grants can help give those students the opportunity to attend schools that are changing what’s happening in the classroom.  Our goal is to prepare all students to graduate college and career ready.  SIG grants are an important step toward giving students in struggling schools more opportunities to succeed.”

SIG awards are targeted to support the implementation of a whole-school change model in Priority Schools (Priority schools are among the lowest performing schools in the state based on combined ELA and math performance). To receive funding, districts with identified schools must implement one of the following prescribed intervention models:


  • TURNAROUND MODEL: Replace the principal and at least half the staff as part of the process of phasing out and replacing the school with a new school(s) or completely redesigning the school.
  • RESTART MODEL: Convert the school to a charter school, replace the school with a new charter school that will serve the students who would have attended the public school, or contract with an Educational Partner Organization (EPO), such as a local Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), institution of higher education, or other non-profit partner organization as identified in Education Law 211-e, to govern and manage the Priority School and its implementation of the SIG plan.
  • TRANSFORMATION MODEL: Requires replacement of the principal, but without the requirement to replace at least half the staff. Rather, the implementation of
    approved Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plans would serve as the basis for rewarding effective teachers and removing ineffective teachers after ample professional development opportunities.
  • SCHOOL CLOSURE: Close the school and enroll the students in higher achieving schools in the district.

For example, the Rochester City School District will extend learning time in each of its Transformation Schools. The Albany City School District will adopt a full service neighborhood school model with after-school programming for students and families at the Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy.  New York City will provide job-embedded, authentic professional development for teachers as well as social service, extracurricular arts and sports enrichment programs through partnerships at PS 123 Mahalia Jackson.

Of the forty-one eligible applications received, thirty-four schools are approved to receive SIG awards for the September 1, 2013 to August 31, 2016 project period. This second round of the 2013 SIG RFP competition resulted in SIG awards totaling $126,516,610. The RFP is posted at http://usny.nysed.gov/rttt/rfp/ta-13/home.html.   A summary of the district awards is attached. The application process will be forwarded to the Office of the State Comptroller for review and approval.

SIG aligns with the New York’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver application that the U.S. Department of Education approved on May 29, 2012 (see http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/ESEAFlexibilityWaiver.html).


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Follow the Commissioner on Twitter: @JohnKingNYSED






New York City

























The Hunts Point School

PS 123 Mahalia Jackson

Cypress Hill Collegiate Preparatory School

PS 15 Roberto Clemente

Juan Morel Campos Secondary School

JHS 291 Roland Hayes

PS 107

School for Democracy and Leadership

Alfred E. Smith Career Tech High School

East Flatbush CommunityResearch School

The Heritage School

PS 277

Bronx High School of the Visual Arts

Marta Valle Secondary School

DeWitt Clinton High School

Martin Van Buren H.S.

JHS 302 Rafael Cordero


PS 50 Clara Barton

Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications

PS 64 Pura Belpre

MS 142 John Philip Sousa

Performance School

















Turnaround (Phase-Out JHS 302 ; Phase-InVista Academy andLiberty Avenue Middle School)

Turnaround (Phase-Out PS 50; Phase-In Fairmont Neighborhood Schools)

Turnaround (Phase-Out Jonathan Levin; Phase-In New DirectionsSecondary School)

Turnaround (Phase-Out PS 64; Phase-In Walton Avenue School & Lucero Elementary School)

Turnaround (Phase-Out MS 142; Phase-InBronx Alliance Middle School)

Turnaround (Phase-Out Performance School;Phase-In ConcourseVillage Elementary School)

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.