School board members eye classroom instruction, school leadership as keys to improving struggling schools
FOR RELEASE: July 20, 2015
Most school board members believe improving classroom instruction and school building management will be the most effective options available to a receiver to improve a low performing school, according to a recent poll by the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA).
State law now requires school districts to appoint "receivers" to assume managerial and operational control of 144 struggling schools for the 2015-16 school year. Receivers have the authority to make sweeping staffing changes, expand instructional time, and override decisions of the board of education.
When presented a menu of options to increase academic achievement under the state's new receivership law, 41 percent of school board members cited improving the hiring, training, evaluation and advancement of teachers, leading to enhancements in the school culture and organizational structure, as the most effective strategies for improving school performance. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) believe the best strategy would be to replace unqualified teachers and administrators, including the school leadership.
"School board members recognize the importance of good teachers and principals in turning around a struggling school," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "You have to start with a strong teaching staff and competent leadership that can create the right environment for learning."
In 17 school districts, the superintendent has been given at least a year to improve performance by assuming the role of the receiver. Slightly more than half of board members (52 percent) agreed with giving superintendents that authority before an independent receiver is appointed. Thirty-one percent of respondents disagreed with that strategy, while 17 percent were not sure.
Nonetheless, school board members are skeptical that the receivership concept will result in a dramatic increase in student performance. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) said state-mandated receivers will not raise student achievement, while only 15 percent said they would. Twenty-two percent are not sure.
"Success in the short term will depend on what metrics the State Education Department establishes for progress," said Kremer. "Hopefully, steady progress over time will ultimately yield major gains in student achievement in struggling schools."
The informal poll was conducted in June 2015 and received between 515 and 520 responses, depending on the question.