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New Visions for Public Schools

(New York City) ­ New Century High Schools


ew Visions for Public Schools is a school reform organization based in New York City dedicated to improving the quality of education children receive in New York City's public schools. New Visions pursued its mission with great success during its early years, starting forty new schools in New York City between 1993 and 1998. That successful endeavor acted as preparation for an even more ambitious initiative. In 2001, New Visions entered into partnership with the New York City Department of Education, the New York City United Federation of Teachers, and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators to create a portfolio of ninety small high schools in New York City by 2010 ­ a project called the New Century High Schools Initiative. Since the Initiative's inception, this partnership has made great strides toward its goal, receiving over $70 in support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Open Society Institute. Today, seventy-eight small high schools serving over 13,500 students have been created, representing a mix of new, freestanding small schools and campuses of small schools housed in the buildings of former large, comprehensive high schools. In this session, the site team will talk about the opportunities and challenges it faces in "replacing" chronically underperforming schools with new, smaller learning environments that embody ten characteristics of effective high schools that are guiding principles for New Visions.


Drawing its students from the most disadvantaged communities of New York City, the New Century High School Initiative has focused its work on three goals. The long-term goal is for each school to graduate at least 80 percent of its students in four years while drawing its students from the Total Enrollment 20,338 most disadvantaged communities of New York City. Hispanic 47% The intermediate goal is to build peer-to-peer networks African American 43% to foster disciplined innovation across schools, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the reform effort. The Asian American 3% short-term goal is to replace large, failing comprehenWhite 3% sive high schools with a portfolio of new, small schools Native American <1% that embody key findings of research on best practice Special Education 12% in secondary schooling, especially in schools serving low-income students and students of color. New English Language Learners 10% Visions staff, its partners, and its evaluators have Free/reduced-price lunch 85% focused their data collection and analysis on these Demographic Information goals.

Currently, only 51 percent of New York City high school students graduate in four years and, in historically low-performing schools, the graduation rate averages just 31 percent. Only onethird of the city's graduates earn Regents diplomas, which signify readiness for college-level work. New Visions and its partners expect New Century High Schools, ultimately, to reach graduation rates of 80 percent and attendance rates of 92 percent. Additionally, every New Century High School student must meet New York State's demanding graduation requirement of passing five Regents exams. Although it is early in the Initiative, achievement and engagement outcomes look encouraging: · From 2002 to 2004, 93 percent of New Century High School students were promoted from 9th grade, compared with 68 percent in the city as a whole. · The average attendance rate in New Century High Schools for 2003/04 was 88.2 percent, compared with 73 percent in the host, large high schools. · The average annual suspension rate across all New Century High Schools in the Bronx was 2 percent in 2002/03, compared with 7 percent in the host, large high schools. · Eighty-eight percent of students at the twenty-eight New Century High Schools opened by 2003 had passed the Living Environment Regents exam, and 64 percent had passed the Math Regents exam.


A central tenet of the New Century High Schools Initiative is school-level partnerships between school staff ­ primarily teachers and principals ­ and staff of community organizations to co-design, co-implement, and co-operate the new small schools. These partnerships are supported by a set of core beliefs about partnering that influence how each small school is formed and managed. Partnership is an essential part of the Initiative. Neither schools alone nor community partners alone can provide quality education, particularly for youth who have been underserved, underachieving, and turned off to school. However, schools and community organizations together can create quality schools. Partnership at the school level means collaboration. School staff and community partner staff should pool and strategically utilize their collective assets and expertise to meet the various needs of students and families. Community partners may be from any sector: institutions of higher education, communitybased organizations, cultural institutions, social service providers, youth development organizations, and so forth. Community partners may also play a variety of roles, including provider of "direct services to students and [their] families," supporter of the "curriculum and pedagogy of the school," and source of the necessary "political will and organization to . . . stretch the realm of [educational] possibility."

New Vision for Public Schools (New York City)


There are many different ways of structuring a partnership. Partnerships may have a single community partner or multiple organizational partners. Partners may work on several areas together or members of the partnership may distinguish particular areas in which each partner works. The organizational partner serves as the fiscal agent for Initiative funds. This was a strategic decision to help create leverage for the organizational partner, which also receives some Initiative support for its work in the school. Reflecting these values about partnering, each New Century High School is co-led by a community partner that is connected to the theme or career focus of the school. The lead partner is involved with the school on a variety of levels, including after-school programs, in-school instruction, professional development, and school management. Many New Century High Schools also have additional collaborating community partners that share expertise and leverage their efforts with educators, the lead partner, students, and families. Currently, 250 community partners are involved with the New Century High Schools.

The Challenge Ahead

In the next few years, New Visions faces the challenge of supporting both sustainability and innovation simultaneously. Promising approaches that New Visions is currently exploring include cross-school networking and knowledge-management strategies, as well as the development of targeted tools such as a draft rubric of the ten principles of effective schools around which the New Century Initiative was built.

The Presenters

Ron Chalusian Beverly Donohue Iris Zucker

Vice President, Programs, New Visions for Public Schools Vice President, Policy and Research, New Visions for Public Schools Principal, Marble Hill School for International Studies

For More Information

New Visions for Public Schools

New Vision for Public Schools (New York City)



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