Three New York City schools could be taken over this year — but the state doesn’t know yet

Nearly a month after the first day of school, three struggling Bronx schools still don’t know whether they will be taken over by outside managers later this year.

That’s because despite promising to make an announcement this summer, the State Education Department has yet to indicate whether the state’s 10 lowest performing schools have made enough improvement to avoid the consequences of a “receivership” law that can force school districts to give up control to an independent entity.

Under that 2015 law, seven New York City schools were labeled “persistently struggling” — meaning that they had been ranked in the lowest five percent in the state since at least 2006. They were given one year to post major gains or face the possibility of takeover.

That deadline was up this year, and the state said it would announce whether schools would be subject to takeover by the start of the school year.

“Prior to the start of the 2016-17 school year, the department intends to publicly announce whether or not the Persistently Struggling and Struggling Schools made [demonstrable improvement],” which would avoid a takeover, the State Education Department wrote in aMay letter.

But that deadline has come and gone, and the state has yet to announce whether schools made enough progress to skirt management changes. The number of New York City schools that could be subject to an outside manager this year is now limited to three Bronx middle schools: J.H.S. 162 Lola Rodriguez De Tio, I.S. 117 Joseph H. Wade, and J.H.S. 022 Jordan L. Mott. Each of those schools is also in the city’s “Renewal” turnaround program.

In the event that a school doesn’t hit targets, which can include everything from test scores to graduation rates, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña could be forced to cede control to an outside entity known as a “receiver,” which she would choose and could be a school improvement expert or nonprofit.

In August, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia told Politico New York that determining whether schools would be subject to outside oversight would depend on a review of recently released test scores and would “be done quickly.”

Asked about the cause of the delay, department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis wrote in an email that the state “has been working with the districts to verify data needed to make determinations on demonstrable improvement.” She would not say when the state planned to announce whether schools made enough progress to avoid a takeover, but noted, “We expect to complete that process very soon.”

City Department of Education spokeswoman Devora Kaye wrote in a statement, “Our first priority is doing what’s best for students to ensure a high-quality education.”  She did not say whether she anticipated disruptions if the schools are taken over by outside managers mid-year.

But the possibility that some schools will be forced under new management after the school year has already started worries some observers.

“Stability is extremely important to schools,” said David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and The CUNY Grad Center. “The day-to-day running of the school may not be affected, but planning certainly is.”

This article was first published on Chalkbeat New York on October 3.