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PR- 198-06
June 12, 2006


As Pledged In Mayor's State of the City Address, More Schools Are Being Granted Greater Autonomy In Exchange for Greater Accountability

1 Out of 5 City Schools Is Invited to Become an Empowerment School

Four years after gaining mayoral control over the New York City school system and after successful implementation of reform initiatives that have increased accountability in the City's schools and expanded the authority of principals, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced the next major step in that process. As pledged in his State of the City address, the Mayor is inviting 331 schools to become "Empowerment Schools." This includes the original 48 schools in the two-year-old autonomy zone pilot program, as well as more than 280 schools from all five boroughs that applied to join. Principals at these schools will receive greater discretion over budgets, educational programming, teacher development, school scheduling and hiring. In exchange for greater flexibility and control, principals will sign performance agreements that lay out principals' new powers, resources, and responsibilities. In addition, schools will receive about $100,000 in newly unrestricted funds and about $150,000 in new, discretionary funds made possible by streamlining the central and regional DOE bureaucracy and redirecting financial resources back to the schools. This next step in the City's Children First education reforms builds on the success of prior system-wide accomplishments, including expanding high-quality educational options at every level from early childhood to high school, reducing the achievement gap and decreasing school violence.

"Four years ago, I asked New Yorkers to give me the power to make decisions about education and hold me accountable for results," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We've made great strides over the past four years - stabilizing and restructuring the school system, creating greater educational options from early childhood to high school, and increasing autonomy and accountability system-wide. With Empowerment Schools, we're giving principals the authority and the tools they need to run their schools and in turn, holding them accountable for raising the bar of achievement and making real and measurable progress. At the same time, we're streamlining the bureaucracy and putting our resources where they belong - back in our classrooms with our kids."

"I'm overjoyed that so many of our schools are poised to become Empowerment Schools. These schools are critical to moving our entire system forward," said Chancellor Klein. "The more than 300 principals who are ready to take on the dual challenges of responsibility and accountability have made a powerful statement. They want to be leaders who are prepared to set ambitious goals, make more decisions about their schools' destinies, and constantly push to make progress."

One of the key elements of the City's system-wide school reform has been to empower principals to be effective leaders of their schools and to hold them accountable for improvements. As a result, over the last few years, principals have gained greater authority in a number of key areas, including budget and hiring decisions. The Empowerment Schools initiative, which grew out of the autonomy zone pilot program launched in the fall of 2004, was designed to take school autonomy - and accountability - to a new level. This year, 48 schools participated in the pilot program. Schools in the first year of the pilot program showed great success, with approximately 80% of them meeting and fulfilling target goals. Schools in the autonomy zone outperformed citywide averages as well as their own past performance prior to entering the pilot program.

The Chancellor invited principals interested in turning their schools into Empowerment Schools to apply on April 29. More than 350 schools applied by the May 17 deadline. The principals whose schools were selected have until June 19 to consult with their school communities before deciding whether to sign "Performance Agreements," which lay out principals' new freedoms and responsibilities. When this process is completed, approximately one in five City schools could be Empowerment Schools. Those who sign will receive additional resources this coming fall, depending on the size of the school, and can spend these new resources on a menu of goods and services or additional school staff, rather than having administrators outside the schools make spending decisions on their behalf.

The Department of Education has identified about $80 million in savings to fund these initiatives. This is comprised of about $50 million from the regional offices (a reduction of about 350 jobs) and about $30 million from central offices. The DOE is using this money to support the three pillars of Children First-leadership, empowerment, and accountability. The majority, about $49 million, will go directly to the Empowerment Schools. An additional $15 million will fund leadership development and a state-of-the-art data management and interim assessment system. This is the first installment towards the Mayor and Chancellor's commitment to cutting $200 million from the bureaucracy and redirecting it to schools. An additional $16 million will create a leaner, customer-oriented support organization for Empowerment Schools. The new structure will be 40% leaner than the one it replaces.

This summer, Empowerment School principals will form into "networks" of no more than 20 schools. Together, these networks will choose "network support leaders" who will work with small teams to help principals learn from each other and solve problems related to instruction, periodic assessments and accountability efforts, back-office services, and discipline. A single Integrated Service Center will support the network support teams with instructional and youth development support, as requested by schools, operations, suspensions, health, special education, and legal issues, as well as helping schools buy services that meet their specific needs.

The City's schools have made great strides over the past school year, building on a strong four-year record of progress. Last week, the State Education Department placed 290 City schools on its high-performing list, up from 196 the previous year. The State put an additional 54 schools on its rapidly improving list.

The Department is expanding options for students at all levels. It created 80 new Advanced Placement courses at 40 campuses and expanded Gifted and Talented options for top students, many of them in previously underserved neighborhoods. The Department also expanded interventions to help struggling elementary and middle school students.

This year, 22,588 students participated in Saturday Preparatory Academy, which the Mayor and the Chancellor created two years ago as part of their effort to end the Social Promotion of struggling students. And the Department pioneered programs to reengage high school students considering dropping out of school. More than 6,000 of these students enrolled in Learning to Work programs, receiving career preparation, workforce preparation, academic support, and counseling. Of these, more than 800 participated in internships at businesses and government offices around the City.

The DOE, with the New York Police Department, made major strides in improving school safety citywide. Major crimes are down 9% in City schools this year. Total violence is down 12% in City schools. This year alone, more than 2,000 teachers and counselors were trained to prevent bullying, and the DOE conducted more than 2,000 school visits to help refine schools' safety and security practices.

In addition, the City is moving forward with a sweeping five year $13 billion capital plan that will reshape the physical plant of the New York City public schools. This year, the State will provide its half of the funding, $1.8 billion, and has authorized an additional $9.4 billion in financing through the New York City Transitional Finance Authority, of which the State will pay half and the City will pay half. This will help finance thousands of new classroom seats, science labs, libraries, and arts facilities.


Stu Loeser/Virginia Lam   (212) 788-2958

David Cantor   (Department of Education)
(212) 374-5141

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