Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and Answers about schools identified as Persistently Lowest-Achieving and concurrently as Schools Under Registration Review

Q. Why are schools identified as Persistently Lowest-Achieving (PLA) and concurrently as Schools Under Registration Review (SURR)?

A. At the Regents meeting in June 2010, the Board of Regents amended sections 100.2(p)(9), (10) and (11) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education to consolidate the process of identifying SURR with the USED framework for identifying PLA schools in order for states to access State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (Phase II), School Improvement Grants and other federal funding opportunities. The regulations also require all newly identified SURR schools to implement intervention strategies based upon School Improvement Grant guidelines issued by USED in a format and timeline approved by the Commissioner.

Q. What action did the Commissioner take today?

A. The Commissioner identified 67 schools as PLA and concurrently newly identified 58 of these schools for SURR. This list includes 27 schools that were identified as PLA last year that did not implement one of the four intervention models for the 2010-11 school year. The Commissioner also removed from registration review six schools that had previously been identified as SURR and have met the targets established for them.

Q. What are the intervention strategies?

A. The intervention strategies are: the turnaround model, in which the principal and at least half of the staff are replaced and the educational program is fundamentally changed; the restart model, in which the school is converted or replaced by a charter school or by school operated under contract by a educational management organization; the transformation model, in which the principal is replaced and the staff are evaluated in accordance with new State legislation and provided appropriate professional development to implement a new educational program at the school; and the closure model.

Q. What happens if the leadership of the school is new? Does he or she still need to be removed?

A. A school leader who has been at a school for less than two years and has already begun to implement some or all of the elements of an intervention strategy may remain at the school.

Q. What is the relationship between the transformation, turnaround, and closure interventions models and existing collective bargaining agreements?

A. While the provisions of existing collective bargaining agreements remain in effect, districts may need to negotiate amendments to certain provisions of their agreements in order to implement a model. If an existing collective bargaining agreement precludes a district from fully and effectively implementing an intervention model and an agreement to amend the contract cannot be reached, the district will be ineligible to receive School Improvement Grant funding and, in certain circumstances, the school could be at risk at having its registration revoked.

Q. Who decides which intervention model will be implemented in a school?

A. The district decides which model should be implemented. A plan approved by the Board of Education of the district must be submitted to the Commissioner for approval. In developing the plan, the district must consult with the educational community and seek their participation in the development of the plan. The findings of the Joint Intervention Team assigned to the school by the Commissioner will help inform the decision of the district.

Q. What criteria were used to identify these schools as SURR/PLA?

A. The criteria used to identify the schools as SURR/PLA were the following: the Grade 3-8 English language arts and math assessments; the performance of students who first entered ninth grade in terms of meeting the graduation assessment requirements in English language arts and mathematics; and a school's graduation rate.

Q. How poorly did a school have to perform to be identified as persistently lowest-achieving?

A. To be identified as persistently lowest-achieving, a school had to:

  • be a school in the Restructuring phase of New York's Differentiated Accountability System; and
  • have for 2009-10 school year results an average Performance Index for the All Students group in English language arts and mathematics of 141.5 or less for a Title I school and 162 or less for a non-Title I School; and
  • have failed to make at least a 25 point gain on each ELA and mathematics measure for which the school was accountable between 2006-07 and SY 2009-10; or
  • have a graduation rate below 60 percent for the All Students group on its 2003, 2004, and 2005 graduation rate cohort.

Q. What is the School Accountability Performance Index?

A. The Performance Index is a value from 0 to 200 that is assigned to an accountability group, indicating how that group performed on a required State test (or approved alternative) in English language arts, mathematics, or science. The Performance Index is calculated based upon the percentage of full-year tested students who score at Levels 2 and above and the percentage who score at Levels 3 and above on the Grade 3-8 English language arts and mathematics assessments. A high school student who achieves a score on a Regents exam of between 55-64 or, a student with a disability who scores 65 or higher on a Regents Competency Test, within four years of entry into grade 9 are assigned a score of Level 2. Students who pass a Regents examination in these subjects with a score of 65 or higher are assigned a score of Level 3.

A school in which all students perform at or above Level 3 will have a Performance Index of 200; a school in which all students perform at Level 2 will have a Performance Index of 100; and a school in which all students perform at Level 1 will have a Performance Index of 0.

Q. Why did SED select these criteria and performance levels to identify schools as persistently lowest-achieving?

A. The United States Department of Education's definition of persistently lowest-achieving schools requires states to identify those schools that are lowest achieving in English language arts and mathematics combined based on the performance of the all students group and that have failed to show progress in recent years on these assessments. The definition further specifies states are to identify as lowest-achieving five percent of their Title I schools in Improvement, Corrective Action, or Restructuring, or five schools, whichever is greater, and a comparable number of Title I eligible secondary schools. The definition also requires that schools that have graduation rates below 60 percent for a number of years be identified. Based on this definition, NY was required to identify 24 Title I schools and five Title I eligible secondary schools based on ELA and math performance. The State Education Department decided that it would define lack of progress as schools that were in the Restructuring phase that had failed to make at least a 25 point gain in both ELA and mathematics since 2006-2007. Based on this definition, the cutpoint to identify the required number of schools was an average performance index of 141.5 for Title I schools and 162 for Title I eligible schools.

Q. Were all the schools that failed to meet these criteria identified as SURR/PLA?

A. No. non-Title I elementary schools; schools that were already in the process of phasing out as of September 2010; and, on a case by case basis, transfer high schools were not identified as persistently lowest-achieving. The following three schools in Special Act school districts were identified as PLA only, and not as SURR: George-Junior Republic Union Free School District (UFSD), Greenburgh Eleven UFSD, and Mount Pleasant Cottage UFSD.

Q. What will these schools have to do to be removed from registration review? How long will they have to accomplish this?

A. Schools will need to meet conditions established in a performance contract that the district will enter into with SED. In addition, schools cannot be removed from registration review if they are below the criteria for PLA identification.

Q. What must a district do if it has a school identified as persistently lowest-achieving?

A. Districts that have schools that have been identified as persistently lowest-achieving will be required to select one of the four intervention models and submit an intervention plan to the Commissioner for approval. In developing the plan, the district must consult with the educational community and seek their participation in the development of the plan. Once the plan has been approved, the district must support the implementation of the plan.

Q. What is the timeline for districts to implement the model they select?

A. Immediately after identification of new schools, districts should analyze school data and begin to consider which school intervention model is appropriate to implement in SY 2011-12. Districts may with the approval of the Commissioner seek to begin implementation of a elements of a model in a later year.

Q. What happens if the district does not satisfactorily implement a plan for a school under registration review?

A. The Commissioner can recommend that the Regents revoke the registration of the school. Upon approval of revocation of registration by the Board of Regents, the Commissioner will develop a plan to ensure that the educational welfare of the pupils of the school is protected. Such plan shall specify the instructional program into which pupils who had attended the school will be placed, how their participation in the specified programs will be funded, and the measures that will be taken to ensure that the selected placements appropriately meet the educational needs of the pupils. The Commissioner shall require the board of education to implement such plan.

Q. What resources will be available to support districts in implementing one of the four intervention models?

A. The State Education Department will provide up to $2 million per year, per school, for up to three years to support model implementation in districts that demonstrate the ability to fully and effectively implement one of the intervention models. The Department will also be directly providing or arranging for the provision of technical assistance and support to districts as they work with schools to implement an intervention strategy. A number of initiatives that are funded through New York's Race to the Top grant are also available to support these schools.

Last Updated: February 8, 2011