Pseudo-charters in New York

New York City is creating pseudo-charters — schools freed from some red tape and judged by results — in autonomy zones. Education Week reports:

Started this month with 30 secondary schools, the pilot project sets specific performance targets for schools to meet in exchange for removing them from the bureaucratic hierarchy governing most of the city’s 1,300 public schools.

. . . Half the schools in the zone are brand-new this fall, and most of them are small. A notable exception is a Brooklyn high school with more than 3,000 students. Also accepting the districtís invitation to take part are three charter schools — one that just opened and two that had been district-run but converted to charter status.

The teachers’ and principals’ unions aren’t happy they weren’t invited to help set policy.

For the first year, all schools are supposed to attain “attendance rates of 90 percent and course-passing rates of 80 percent.” Existing schools are supposed to reach an 80 percent graduation rate for 12th graders and a 90 percent college-acceptance rates for grads.

While “autonomy zone” schools can choose their own English and math curriculum, they’ll have to abide by union-negotiated rules on teacher hiring and working conditions. Principals will not be evaluated based on their school’s success in reaching targets.

Principals hope they’ll gain more authority, though it’s not clear they’ll get enough to make a difference.

For his part, Louis Delgado hopes that the autonomy zone might help his 400-student Manhattan high school gain greater independence in hiring decisions. The 11-year-old Vanguard High School uses the district’s “school based” option for hiring teachers, which allows a committee of teachers and administrators at the school to screen candidates and offer them jobs. But those candidates can be bumped by more senior teachers who are laid off elsewhere in the system, the principal said, a situation he hopes the zone can help change.

This is a one-year experiment.

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  1. Bluemount says:

    Still, Ms. Levy of the principals’ union argued that schools in the zone “are going to gain nothing” in such areas as budgeting, staff hiring, or testing. “I don’t know what’s innovative about it, frankly,” she said.
    It seems like a control experiment on the effect of school size size on a student population. I suspect we will find when social groups are similar, smaller schools are less violent. The primary concern seems to be over budgeting, staff, measures and control. Although there is a mention of hiring a parent representatives, there is no actual input from parents. I wonder if these parent representatives will eventually become an elected position, since being choosen by the school makes them more of a school representative.

  2. I think it’s too soon draw conclusions, especially with just this one news story to draw from. We’ll have to wait and see how much autonomy, what kinds and how long that autonomy lasts.

    If this is bogus then there’ll be a creeping increase in control which limit the scope of the schools flexibility to the point that they’re indistiguishable from the common, disctrict-based schools.

    Still, the need to even put on a show of creating autonomous schools is hopeful, if that’s what it is. You don’t bother with that sort of subterfuge unless you have too.