The Renaissance Schools plan: What it all means
The Notebook editors have assembled this list of common questions and answers from School District materials and interviews with District staff. (This is also available in Spanish.)
What is the purpose of Renaissance Schools?
This is a new District program to transform some of its chronically underachieving schools into high-quality schools. The District has committed to accomplishing these “school turnarounds” while serving the same students at these schools.
What does it mean if a school is on the Renaissance Schools list?
The District has determined its most troubled schools through a formula based on a variety of measures of student and school achievement. There are now two separate lists totaling 26 public schools whose performance is the worst on those measures – most in need of a dramatic academic improvement.
All 26 schools will get some help, but only some will become Renaissance Schools this school year. At schools ultimately picked by the District to be Renaissance Schools, a “turnaround team” of District personnel, charter management organizations, or education management organizations (EMOs) will be put in charge of transforming the schools. A committee representing the school community will help with selecting the team.
What’s a Renaissance Eligible School?
Renaissance Eligible Schools are those in line for the most drastic interventions this year. These 14 of the lowest-scoring schools – in the bottom tenth of District schools on performance measures – are being considered for overhaul because they are struggling academically despite already having received extra staff and special supports from the District’s Empowerment Schools program. After further study by a review team, the District will select an undetermined number of these schools for turnaround by September.
What’s a Renaissance Alert School?
Renaissance Alert Schools are an additional 12 schools whose performance is also in the bottom tenth for the entire District. However, these schools were not previously designated Empowerment Schools and have not been getting extra resources and supports. As a first step, the District plans to start providing added supports immediately.
If a school is on one of these lists, will it close?
The District says none of the Renaissance Eligible or Renaissance Alert schools will close. District staff say that each will continue to operate as the neighborhood school, and students at the school are guaranteed the right to stay there.
What will change at the school?
Those chosen to be Renaissance Schools will see substantial changes next fall in staff, including the principal, teachers, and support personnel. The District says it will bring in successful school leaders or educational organizations, from the District and outside, to lead the transformation of these low-achieving schools. Put in charge of a Renaissance School, they will be expected to provide a longer school day and school year, a quality curriculum, student enrichment programs during and after school, and other changes to the academic program and school environment. Teachers who want to stay will have to reapply for their jobs.
How is this different from the hiring of education management organizations (EMOs) to run schools after the state takeover in 2001-02?
Some Renaissance Schools, called innovation schools, will be run by District teams. Both the District-managed Renaissance Schools and those that are operated by an outside turnaround team are being promised extensive autonomy to implement successful programs.
Other differences from the 2002 model are that the District says it will start with a small number of schools in the first year and will encourage extensive community involvement from the beginning, including a School Advisory Council that will make recommendations about the provider to work with the community on school improvement. Finally, the District says that it will have clear accountability measures to check up on whether the turnaround team is doing its job.
Who will be eligible to run a Renaissance School?
The District is inviting both its own personnel and external operators to apply to run a Renaissance School. The District will evaluate applicants to determine if they have a track record of success in improving student achievement in urban schools and whether they can provide all the required elements of a Renaissance School program.
Applicants that pass through a two-step process and are deemed by the District qualified to be a turnaround team then will take part in a matching process in April where the teams are matched with a Renaissance School. These lead applicants are also expected to partner with support applicants that can provide services or programs to help with the turnaround.
What are the different possible types of Renaissance Schools?
A Renaissance School run by an outside group can operate either as a charter school with an independent governing board or as a contract school reporting to the School District. In either case, the teaching staff will no longer be School District employees or members of the teachers’ union.
A Renaissance School can also be an innovation school run by District staff who have demonstrated their ability to accelerate student achievement. The other District-run Renaissance School model available to targeted schools will be the Promise Academy, which will be designed and implemented by a team in Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s office.