The Failed Mission of Renaissance Schools

Testimony of Diane Payne to the BOE 11/19/20

Renaissance schools are district public schools. Though the District handed them to Charter Operators to effect dramatic change, that in no way diminishes the fact that they are neighborhood public schools. I urge you to make no change to Policy 141 and to begin the process of honest acknowledgement of the failure of this initiative to deliver “dramatic change” followed by decisive and strategic action to reclaim these schools.
In looking at the Mathematic Report on the District website, a few crucial questions leaped out. Why is a report being done when there is NO obvious dramatic change? If there was dramatic change, of course you would want to pay for a study to understand how and why so the change could be replicated. If there is NO obvious dramatic change, why are you paying for a study unless you are seeking some sort of crutch to continue a failed, painful, and costly initiative?
Why is there NO mention of dramatic change anywhere in this report even though that is the bedrock of this initiative? It is not referenced in any fashion because it doesn’t exist.
Why is there NO discussion of catchment students in this report? These ARE NEIGHBORHOOD schools whose primary mission is to serve the students in that neighborhood. Discussion of catchment seems crucial yet is nonexistent in this report.
The report lays claim to evidence of improvement in the SPR category of “Climate.” Again, noticeably missing from this discussion is any study or examination of areas affecting climate: percentage of students from the school’s catchment, possible barriers to enrollment, number of students who have left the school and why (counseled out?), number of students beginning in the school and staying through to graduation, backfilling protocols, student/teacher ratio, number of adult support staff/student ratio. All of these factors (and many I may be missing) play into climate. Why weren’t they dissected to determine their impact before asserting improved climate as a Renaissance outcome?
Finally cost/benefit analysis. District schools suffer financially with an increased Charter School footprint. Did this report analyze the cost of this initiative against the benefit of dramatic improved student outcomes? Since there is no dramatic outcome, it would seem impossible but no cost at all seems to be addressed in this report. Shouldn’t that be a crucial question answered in any discussion of Renaissance Schools?
Although some finances are dissected in a pie chart in one part of the report, where is the CMO management fees to be found and how do they compare as a key part of any Charter School?
In conclusion, the Renaissance School Initiative is a failure. The language in the Policy 141 does give the Board the ability to engage in enhanced oversight and should not in any way be altered to result in less oversight. The District has abdicated enough of its responsibility do not abdicate anymore.