There seems to remain a lack of information flowing out of City Hall to the public, despite some improvements in that department.
Consider the school improvement grant applications the district submitted at the end of December.
Four of these plans involve bringing in an outside group to run a school. Three involve replacing half of the teachers.
The district released some form of those four plans well before the School Board made the final decision on them. But it wasn't until more than two weeks after the board approved the plans that the district released the other three.
When I asked periodically in December for copies of those plans, I was told they weren't in their final form yet. If you follow that through to its logical conclusion, then the board approved the plans without seeing exactly what was sent to Albany for consideration. (The board did see some draft of each plan before it voted, but I don't know how close those plans were to their final form.)
As far as I know, the district still has not posted the three turnaround plans on its website. For those of you who are interested, here they are:
- The turnaround plan for Bilingual Center School 33, which features a dual-language immersion program
- The turnaround plan for Futures Academy, which features single-sex classrooms for students in fourth to eighth grade
- The turnaround plan for Drew Science Magnet, which would expand to pre-k through eighth grade
And, while the district does have the initial proposals from vendors for the other schools posted on its website, it does not have the final plans that were submitted to the state. Here they are:
- Johns Hopkins University would run East and Lafayette high schools. (Here's the plan for East and here's the plan for Lafayette.) The two proposals submitted by Johns Hopkins were virtually identical, word for word, aside from one $50,000 provision specific to the Lafayette plan to provide teachers with 10 days of training in working with immigrant students.
The university has an arm called Talent Development Secondary, which has been working with struggling schools for 16 years. Central to the approach is a research-based curriculum and extended class periods. Students take four 90-minute classes that each meet every day for a semester.
In tenth grade, each student enrolls in a career academy, such as finance, information technology, or health science.
- Canisius College would run Waterfront Elementary School. Canisius' plan draws heavily on its partnership with Fordham University, which has been working with low-achieving schools in New York City.
The plan for Waterfront calls for data-driven instruction that establishes high academic expectations for all students.
Plans call for making families and students in grades five to eight aware of high school and college options; setting educational goals; and accessing financial aid and scholarships to realize them.
- Research to Practice, a Long Island group, will run Buffalo Elementary School of Technology.
The group includes an assortment of high-profile names in education, including Manny Rivera, former Rochester superintendent; Rudy Crew, former Miami-Dade County superintendent; and McGraw-Hill Education. It submitted proposals for four Buffalo schools, but an advisory committee did not recommend that the group be considered to run the other three schools.
The plan for BEST calls for developing an "individualized, data-based action plans for each student," then monitoring each student's progress in key areas.
The plan also calls for maximizing instructional time, increasing parental involvement, and better integrating technology.
- Mary Pasciak