The proposal, which
But the education department wants to keep multiple options available when districts fall unaccredited, including collaboration with the local school board, appointing a new board or changing the structure of the district such as with a new administrator who answers to the state education commissioner.
If a district fails to recover from unaccredited status under its performance contract, the state, at its discretion, can declare the district lapsed. Then the state would move forward with takeover plans that could include taking direct control of schools or giving them over to other operators or districts under contracts.
The proposed statewide plan, which is being forwarded to the board's March meeting for approval, means to be tough but flexible to the varying conditions in any district, Education Commissioner
"I hope this sends the message that we are anxious to work with them," Nicastro said. "We want them to turn around and we are willing to do anything to help them make that happen."
The state also wants to reserve multiple options to help the schools, however, if the district falls, she said.
"It is not OK to continue to support failure," Nicastro said.
Green said the state's plan "incorporates much of what we submitted in our plan" for improving the district. He pointed to elements of the plan that support local control of schools, allowing for the current administration to remain in place.
While acknowledging that the district still has a long way to go, Green said: "I'm very confident that our teachers and students have given evidence that this is a district on the climb. ... We are very optimistic."
The state is debating reform ideas for the
The conversation has been politically charged. The state school board is weighing the role of elected local school boards versus appointed boards. It's weighing increased system support versus system overhaul.
It is contemplating ideas proposed by teacher groups, community agencies, superintendents and school districts, as well as the most radical plan on the table from a consultant that was commissioned by the state.
The pressure for action has intensified because of a flawed state law that allows families in unaccredited districts to transfer to neighboring districts with the costs of tuition and transportation paid by the unaccredited districts.
The state board did vote Tuesday to begin a transition process to take control of the unaccredited
Some lawmakers and education officials had hoped the education department would consider a policy move to evade the transfer law. But Nicastro and the state board decided against it.
The department is recommending keeping the current "unaccredited" classifications that trigger the transfer law, leaving the responsibility to address the law with the legislature.
Lawmakers have been debating potential fixes for the law -- but tangling over how to ease the damage to unaccredited school systems while giving families options out of failing schools.
The education department believes it needs to maintain "the integrity" of its accountability system, Deputy Education Commissioner
But the legislature needs to press forward with ideas to fix the transfer law so it is not so financially crippling, she said.
"If things stay as they are," she said, "it is truly a crisis for these districts."
Normandy is deep into its crisis. In proposing state intervention, Nicastro said the state wants to ensure that Normandy students can finish the year without having to change schools, filling any funding gaps by whatever means necessary.
The board unanimously approved the department's proposal to take control of the finances immediately, and to begin writing a transition proposal to take control of the district
"We're trying to get clarity now what it's going to look like," McNichols said. "We have a comprehensive improvement plan. Our fund balance was growing before the transfers. The thing that got us in this financial crunch is the transfers."
The new accountability system would mean little change for most districts in the state.
Roughly eight out of 10 of the state's more-than-500 districts would be classified as high-performing and warrant only slight state monitoring.
The plan proposes a Tier Two accreditation, in which a district is nearing a provisional status, or has been in two years of decline, at which time the state would conduct a more thorough review of the district's operations.
Performance plans come into place for districts that fall into the provisional range or unaccredited range, which currently would include about 3 percent of the state's districts, serving 62,000 children. In the
In considering the education department's working plan, the state board picked up its conversation from a workshop
Consensus was unclear, but at least some of the board members in the seven-member panel were leaning away from some of the dramatic ideas the state's consultant --
CEE-Trust's plan would eliminate the current board and administration in favor of a community schools office whose primary role would be recruiting independent, non-profit groups or institutions to run schools that would have the freedom to determine their own leadership, staffing, curriculum and programming as long as the schools met performance agreements.
Whether board members were inclined to try to work with the elected boards -- as new board member
The proposal presented Tuesday does not propose the independent network of schools in the CEE-Trust plan, but leaves the state broad latitude in determining an alternative structure for an unaccredited or lapsed district.
"We believe schools are best run in the local community," Nicastro said. "But there could be structures other than the current district structures, and these are things we will explore."
The state is ratcheting up its role, Vandeven said, "moving from being diagnostic to being more prescriptive."
Tier Two accredited districts will come under scrutiny. The focus will be not just district-wide, but school by school.
Provisional districts will have to commit to any of a number of reforms and spell them out and the required improvements in a performance contract. Reform measures could include new teacher evaluation systems, new literacy plans, leadership development, preschool programming or extended school days.
An unaccredited district will have to negotiate its governance structure with the department and the state board, establishing required expectations if it keeps its board intact, or proposing takeover models.
"I hope we can find a way to work with
"There is a track record trending to progress," he said. "And that needs to be rewarded with an opportunity to continue."
The next round of state report cards will come out this summer, and Nicastro said again Tuesday that if
The district has been unaccredited since
But roughly 70 percent of the district's students still performed below proficiency, and no progress points were earned in English language arts performance. The state board decided last fall, at Nicastro's recommendation, that
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