In recent years, New York has undertaken a number of initiatives to transform the way schools are run: a better teacher and principal evaluation framework, a larger investment in its student data system and the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, to name a few. Many
of these programs seek to raise achievement for all New York students, but some have focused specifically on boosting student achievement in the state’s persistently underperforming schools.

These include special turnaround efforts in New York’s lowest performing schools. Unfortunately, these efforts—although they represent important steps forward—have failed
to reverse abysmally poor student achievement and
graduation rates in all schools. This is especially true in New York’s “Big 5” urban centers: New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

This report makes the case for a new approach to chronic school failure: creating a new school district devoted exclusively to turnaround schools.

Turning around New York’s failing schools is a difficult but critical challenge, especially as schools continue the transition to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards. Students won’t succeed with high expectations alone—they also need adequate support and preparation to help them meet those expectations.

This issue brief 1) explores the history of school improvement efforts in New York, 2) highlights specific examples of the current challenges that face New York’s low-performing districts, 3) describes promising strategies currently underway in other states and 4) recommends policy changes that would create a new, statewide turnaround district so that all New York students—no matter what school they attend—have the shot at success that they deserve.

Publish date: January 2015 Number of pages: 15