High school initiatives include programs and pilot initiatives that target specific underperforming schools, as well as school discipline policies that may affect outcomes for students citywide. Overarching initiatives address high school performance generally and may impact disadvantaged groups indirectly, while more specific policies target disadvantaged groups or schools with high proportions of disadvantaged groups.
One overarching initiative is DOE’s Renewal School program, referenced in the Elementary and Middle School Education topic, which invests in underperforming schools and builds community partnerships to improve academic achievement. Again, part of the program plan is to transform low-performing schools into better-performing Community Schools, building partnerships with community-based organizations to strengthen the schools’ roots in community and improve students’ academic performance and graduation rates. The Renewal School program targets high schools with graduation rates in the bottom 25% for each of the three prior years and works to improve outcomes for all students in targeted schools, regardless of race, income, or disability status.
With respect to more targeted initiatives, DOE’s Single Shepherd initiative speaks to the inequalities reflected in three of the four indicators in this topic: race and academic performance, income and on-time graduation, and disability and on-time graduation. Started in fall 2016, Single Shepherd serves all middle and high schools in districts 7 and 23, where more than 96% of students are black or Hispanic. Additionally, more than 91% of students in these districts live in poverty and more than 23% of students have disabilities, compared to 77% and 19% across NYC public schools citywide, respectively. The program connects middle and high school students in these districts with mentors, or “Shepherds,” to guide them to graduation and help them with their post-graduation plans. Single Shepherd is a pilot program under the Equity and Excellence for All initiative discussed in the Early Education and Elementary and Middle School Education topics.
Mayor de Blasio’s roadmap for reducing punitive school discipline and eliminating disparities in rates of suspensions, arrests, and summonses for students of color and students with disabilities, in turn, speaks to the inequality reflected in the race and school discipline indicator. Announced in November 2015, strategies include reducing suspensions for insubordination, an area with noted racial disparities, as well as introducing de-escalation training, restorative techniques, social-emotional learning, and metal detector protocols, based on recommendations from the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline. Phase Two of the Leadership Team’s recommendations, published in July 2016, suggested updating the discipline code to reduce suspension use, expanding resources for high-need schools and students, clarifying safety policies and procedures with staff, and increasing reporting and transparency.