New York School Closures: Department Of Education Identifies 123 City Schools That Must Improve By 2015

General view of an empty classroom at St Mary Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday Sept. 6, 2011, because the national t
General view of an empty classroom at St Mary Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday Sept. 6, 2011, because the national teacher strike. The chairman of the Kenya National Union of Teachers says 200,000 teachers in schools have started a strike to protest the diversion of funds meant to hire more teachers and ease classroom overcrowding, in a move expected to affect more than 10 million children.(AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

The New York state Department of Education has identified 123 city schools that must dramatically improve by 2015 or risk being closed, GothamSchools reports. In total, 221 schools were named to the list, which represents the bottom 5 percent of elementary, middle and high schools statewide as determined by federal government guidelines.

These “priority” schools were so named because they posted low graduation rates -- under 60 percent -- and poor test scores. The list of struggling schools was generated as part of the state’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. New York City has until October to submit transitional plans detailing what will be done in these schools to facilitate improvement.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the city must also reach an agreement on new teacher evaluations -- another requirement for NCLB exemption -- by January, or risk losing some state funding.

GothamSchools reports school districts will be able to allocate money once used to fund after-school tutoring, to new initiatives in the priority schools. School improvement plans must include an extended learning day and slightly increased spending on parent engagement.

Ira Schwartz, the state Education Department’s assistant commissioner for accountability, said some schools could be stripped of the “priority” designation if they significantly improve in the coming year. That said, once a school begins implementing a reform program, it must commit to it for all three years and be held accountable for long-term results.

Seventeen of the city’s priority schools are already in the process of closing, the New York Daily News reports.

Still, New York City placed 55 schools on the state’s list of 250 top-performing schools. According to GothamSchools, these institutions have either advanced student progress the most, or do not have prominent achievement gaps. They will receive between $150,000 and $300,000 to expand their successful models into more schools or more grades.

"There is still more work to do, and we will continue to support our struggling schools while holding them accountable to the high standards our students deserve," New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

The city boasts around 1,750 public schools, including charter schools.