Strengthening NY's Educational System: Senate Passes Legislation To Ensure High Performing Charter Schools, Improve Teacher Evaluation To Improve "Race To The Top" Score

 

Working to improve New York’s score in the Race to the Top, the Senate Democratic Majority passed legislation (S7990, S7991, S8001) to increase the charter school cap, improve teacher evaluation, and invest in date tracking systems. Combined with the increased cap and oversight of charter schools, the educational reforms passed by the Senate move New York one step closer to winning in the Race to the Top.

“Nothing is more important than investing in our children and our future by improving our score for Race to the Top. Raising the charter cap, reforming charter schools, improving teacher evaluation, and investing in tracking educational outcomes will give New York the points we need to win,” said Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson.

Sampson continued,  “I want to thank my friend and colleague, Senator Bill Perkins for his valuable insight, bold leadership of crucial charter school hearings, and absolute dedication to shaping the debate on charters to increase transparency, oversight, and educational opportunities for our children. I congratulate Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, Chair of the Senate’s Education Committee, for her role in making this important reform package possible. And I also want to thank Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver, Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Tisch, Commissioner Steiner, and our partners in labor and the charter movement for working together to deliver for New York’s children.”

“Few things incite such passion as the education of our children,” Senate President Pro Tempore Malcolm A. Smith said. “Raising the charter school cap will put New York in a more competitive position to receive the much needed $700 million in federal Race to the Top funding.  This legislation gives us the unique opportunity to offer parents educational opportunities for their children they might not otherwise have.” 

“I am very pleased that we were able to reach agreement on reforms that will allow New York to submit a very competitive application for Race to the Top funding,” said Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck), lead sponsor of today’s bills. “More importantly, it is my hope that these reforms will spur innovation in education, address the achievement gap, and better prepare our teachers and students for the challenges of the 21st century.”

“We took a giant step forward today toward the goal of ensuring a quality education for all students,”  Senator Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) said.  “Because of the reforms we instituted, New York has an inside track in the Race to the Top, a race with a $700 million purse that will help pay for the education of every child in school today.”

Charter School Legislation Summary:

Cap and RFP:

  • Raises the cap on charter schools from 200 to 460 to be shared between the State University of New York (130) and the Board of Regents (130) through an RFP process.
  • Applicants must meet the established enrollment and retention targets of students with disabilities and English language learners;
  • Demonstrate a commitment to address the student achievement gap in reading/language arts and mathematics; and
  • Share best practices and innovations with low-performing public schools, among other RFP requirements.

 

Enrollment of Students with Disabilities, ELLs, and FRPLs:

  • Charters must meet or exceed enrollment and retention targets for students with disabilities, ELLs, and FFPLs.
  • Charters must demonstrate at the time of renewal how they will meet those requirements, with repeated failure to meet those targets serving as cause for revocation of the charter.
  • Authorizes the establishment of charter schools dedicated to serving students with disabilities and ELLs. 

Oversight and Accountability:

  • Increased oversight of charter schools applies to their financial, operational and management programs, including the disclosure of conflicts of interest and the conducting and publicizing of monthly board of trustee meetings.
  •  Authorization of a State Comptroller audit.
  • Requires the enrollment lottery process comply with the open meetings law and the submission of a uniform application created by the Commissioner in the predominant language in the community in which the charter is located.
  • Charter schools would be subject to SED approval and required to meet SED health and safety requirements to the same extent as public schools.
  • The five year term for charters would be comprised of five instructional years, and parent associations are to be established in New York City charters.

Co-Location:

  • Before co-location is permitted in a public school building, the Chancellor is required to provide notice and identify buildings where any charter may be co-located, including the rationale for the co-location selection.
  • After co-location is selected, the Chancellor must develop a publically available building usage plan comprised of the actual allocation and sharing of classroom and administrative space; a proposal for the collaborative usage of shared resources; a justification of how the shared usage results in an equitable manner; and safety and security information.
  • Requires the creation of a shared-space committee consisting of the principals, teacher representatives, and parents.
  • Any capital improvement or facility upgrade to a co-located charter school in excess of $5,000 requires a matching capital improvement or facility upgrade in the non-charter public school.

 

For-Profits:

  • For-profit organizations are prohibited from applying for or operating any of the newly authorized charter schools.
  • Those for-profit organizations already in existence have right of renewal to continue the management and operation of their current charter schools.

Teacher Evaluation Legislation Summary:

  • Alters the teacher and principal evaluation system based in New York.
  • The new system would use a four-tier annual review that is based in part on student performance data and would have an expedited tenured teacher disciplinary hearing process for those who consistently have the lowest scores on their evaluations. 
  • 40% of such performance evaluations would be based on student performance measures.
  • The 40% student performance measure is divided between performance on state standardized tests and locally-designed student performance measures, which may include student portfolios, culminating projects, or other student work.

Data Systems Legislation Summary:

  • Provides $20.4 million to strength New York’s pre-kindergarten through higher education student data system. 
  • Systems already in place provide the ability to track enrollment and assessment data for students in P-12 public schools. 
  • This appropriation will provide the ability to match teachers with their students, to connect the P-12 data system with the data systems of SUNY and CUNY, and to fully analyze and use the data collected in order to improve student achievement.

 

Educational Partnership Organizations (EPOs):

  • Authorizes school districts  to contract with Educational Partnership Organizations (EPOs) to  assist in the turnaround of failing schools.
  • An EPO is defined as  a non-profit organization with a proven record of success in intervening in low performing schools, as determined by the Commissioner of SED. 
  • This legislation would be helpful not only in securing additional points in the Race to the Top application process, but also would allow school districts more options to comply with new federal Title I regulations.