Two NYC high schools to require all staff members to reapply amid renewal efforts
- Under New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Renewal” program for low-performing schools, the entire staff at two low-performing schools in the district, Flushing High School in Queens and DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, will be required to reapply for their jobs next spring, Chalkbeat reports.
- Rehiring decisions will be made by committees at each school, which will include the principal and an equal number of union and city appointees who are authorized to hire as many or as few of the staff members as they like, and the city's education department will help the rest find a year-long teaching position at another school.
- However, some school officials are concerned that recruitment for replacements for teachers the school will inevitably lose may be difficult, as strong, experienced teachers rarely apply at troubled schools with such a stigma.
The premise behind this decision is that principals and teachers have the biggest impact on student achievement. Though outside factors such as poverty and community health and culture clearly play a large role in school performance, most of these factors are beyond the scope of educational intervention. Studies have shown teacher effectiveness has the single greatest impact within the control of a school district. Principal impact is arguably the second most important factor. As New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña reportedly said in a statement, “Having a strong leader and the right team of teachers is essential to a successful school and this re-staffing process is the necessary next step in the work to turnaround these schools.”
This method is an adaptation of the turnaround model offered in federal and some state models before. Part of this model required that the principal and at least 50% of teachers at a school be replaced in order to give the school a fresh start under new, and presumably more effective, leadership. The turn-around model is one of the methods recommended under President Barack Obama’s tenure when he pointed out that about 12% of schools in America produce about 50% of its drop-outs.
These methods seem drastic, however, and school leaders should do all they can to avoid getting to this point. Other strategies should be considered first, including reassigning principals to schools where they can have the most impact, finding ways to motivate teachers to improve, and helping improve teacher performance through professional development and mentoring models. Such methods will be easier to implement in the long run than struggling to recruit high-quality teachers for failing schools.