NEW YORK, NY 10007

June 15, 2006

Empowerment Schools FAQ

General Questions

What is an Empowerment School and how is it different from other schools in the city?

Empowerment Schools are schools at which principals have greater autonomy in exchange for agreeing

to take on greater responsibility for producing results in terms of student academic achievement. While

Empowerment Schools will be different in terms of accountability, goal setting, and autonomy—and will

have different support structures than other schools—they are not dissimilar from other schools. Like

most public schools in the City, these schools accept students who fall into their zones. They take all

students, including English Language Learners and Special Education students. And, like all New York

City public schools, they must follow City, State, and federal standards.

Why are you expanding this initiative?

Empowerment Schools will build on the record of success demonstrated by schools in the “autonomy

zone” pilot program, which was launched in the 2004-2005 school year. The Department of Education is

expanding this initiative because of principal satisfaction, demand from other schools to participate, and

the strong results achieved by schools in the pilot program.

What’s the record of schools in the “autonomy zone” pilot program, the first phase of the

Empowerment Schools initiative?

Autonomy zone pilot schools outperformed citywide averages in their first year 2004-2005, as well as

their own past performance prior to entering the zone. Twenty-two of the 26 participating schools met

their performance targets (85%).

Will Empowerment Schools represent a major break from the past—when the Chancellor and the

Mayor created 10 regions?

No, this is an evolution. At first, the Mayor and the Chancellor had to stabilize the school system. Now

that the system is stable, the Department of Education is ready to devolve power and decision-making to

schools—an important part of the Children First vision from the beginning.

What does this mean for the recently-created regional structure?

There will still be 10 regions next year. They will continue to support the vast majority of New York City

public schools.

How will the DOE ensure that Empowerment Schools are serving all students, including high

needs populations?

There will be no differentiated enrollment policies for the empowerment schools. Schools will admit

students in the same way as the regions.

Parent Questions

Are principals required to consult with parents before signing the Performance Agreement by the

June 19 deadline?

Principals are required to consult with parents. This can be done through school leadership teams, parent

associations, or separate meetings with parents or their representatives.

How will the Empowerment Schools impact Community Education Councils?

Community district schools designated as Empowerment Schools will remain part of their community

districts, and parents from those schools will be eligible to serve on Community Education Councils. The

powers and duties of Community Education Councils will be unchanged.

Are Empowerment Schools required to have PTAs or PAs?


Will Empowerment Schools continue to have Parent Coordinators?


What do parents do if they take issue with something Empowerment School principals are doing?

Parents can continue to go to the CEC for assistance. Plus, network support leaders and their teams will

be responsive to parent concerns. And, as always, parents will be able to go to parent support offices,

the Office of Parent Engagement for support. Or, they can call 311.

What if principals do not consult with parents or disagree with parents on the decision to move

forward to become an Empowerment School? Is there any recourse for parents?

Principals have a week, from June 12 through June 19, to consult with their school communities

(teachers, staffs, parents) before signing the Performance Agreement. While parents must be consulted,

this is ultimately the principal’s decision. This mirrors the decision-making process in place in all New

York City public schools.

Do CECs retain zoning powers over Empowerment Schools if lines need to be changed?


Can an Empowerment School be forced to accept overflow students from other schools within

their district?

Yes. Empowerment Schools will accept students the same way as schools throughout the City. There

will be no differentiated enrollment policies for the empowerment schools.

Applications and Invitations

How many schools applied to become Empowerment Schools?

A total of 353 schools expressed interest in becoming Empowerment Schools.

How many schools were selected?

A total of 331 schools were invited to become Empowerment Schools.

How were schools selected and who decided?

Members of the Chancellor's senior leadership team reviewed the applications. Admission was based on

a number of factors, including past performance, attendance, compliance data, and principals’ responses

to questions about how they would benefit from additional autonomy and accountability.

How geographically diverse is the pool of invited schools?

Schools invited to become Empowerment Schools represent every borough and every region.


Borough Number

% of


Brooklyn 85 26%

Bronx 108 33%

Manhattan 99 30%

Queens 38 11%

Staten Island 1 0%

Pool 331 100%

Region Number

% of


R1 52 16%

R2 46 14%

R3 20 6%

R4 15 5%

R5 15 5%

R6 29 9%

R7 9 3%

R8 34 10%

R9 63 19%

R10 44 13%

D75 1 0%

D79 3 1%

Pool 331 100%

How diverse is the pool of invited schools in terms of grade level?

Schools invited to become Empowerment Schools come from every grade level, with particularly strong

representation at the elementary and high school levels. Specifically:

Grade Level Number % of Pool

Elementary 91 27%

K-8 5 2%

Middle 53 16%

K-12 2 1%

Secondary 39 12%

High 140 42%

Special Education 1 0%

Pool 331 100%

Next Steps

What happens now that these schools have been invited?

Principals have a week, from June 12 through June 19, to consult with their school communities

(teachers, staffs, parents) and decide whether or not they will accept the invitation to become

Empowerment Schools. If they accept, they must sign a Performance Agreement. In the summer of

2006, principals will set individualized targets for student progress with the office of the chief

accountability officer (Jim Liebman). At the end of each school year, schools will be assessed and

graded on the basis of whether they were able to meet these targets. This June, schools will choose

teams, or “networks,” with up to 20 other schools. These networks will select “network support leaders,”

which will serve and help the schools. The new structure will be up and running by September, when

school opens for the 2006-2007 school year.

What is a Performance Agreement?

The performance agreement is a standard document that must be signed by all schools that want to be

Empowerment Schools. It is in effect from the 2006-2007 school year through the 2009-2010 school

year. It lists their autonomies, their responsibilities, expectations regarding student achievement, and

rewards and consequences for meeting or not meeting these expectations.

What new powers will Empowerment Schools have?

Empowerment School principals have authority to make decisions on:

Educational programming

o Professional development

o Implementation of the core curriculum or ability to propose an alternative curriculum for

approval by the DOE

o Implementation of the DOE interim assessment system or option to propose an

alternative for approval by the DOE

o Summer and extended day programming

o School schedule

o Instructional support for providing services to ELL and Special Education students

o Interventions

o New teacher mentoring

Resource management

o Additional discretionary funding of $150,000 a school, on average

o Additional newly unrestricted funding of about $100,000 a school

o Increased transaction limit on procurement (up to $5,000 from $2,500)

o The ability to buy services from vendors not contracted with the City up to $25,000

Staffing management

o The ability to select and evaluate network support team leader

o The ability to evaluate network support team members

Administrative exemptions

o Many DOE reporting requirements

o Attending DOE meetings or events

o Petitioning Empowerment Schools CEO for waivers from some Chancellor’s regulations


o The ability to network with up to 20 schools with common educational focus


o The ability to choose their network support team leader

o The ability to elect to reward members of this team with cash bonuses

What are the schools accountable for?

Achievement: They are held accountable for results. They are held accountable with grades

based on whether they meet their targets. They are also assessed with Quality Reviews.

Empowerment Schools that receive a grade of “C” for fewer than three years will have been deed

to have met their responsibilities.

Safety: Schools are accountable for providing a safe and secure learning environment

Enrollment: Schools are responsible for enrolling students consistent with DOE policies (taking

children with all learning needs, including special education students and English language


Fiscal Integrity: Schools must demonstrate fiscal integrity

Rules, Laws, Regulations: Schools must comply with all laws, regulations, and policies

What are some of the rewards and consequences?

Schools that receive an A on their progress reports and a +(well developed) or (proficient) on their

quality reviews will be eligible for rewards and recognitions, including extra funding. Schools that receive

a grade of D or F on their progress report or a grade of C in three consecutive years are subject to

consequences (interventions, leadership changes, school closure).

How long is the term of the agreement?

This is a four-year agreement.

What are the risks to principals who sign?

In the worst circumstances, where schools do not evidence either progress or capacity to make progress

over time, leadership changes will be made; and ultimately, schools may be closed.

Is the new performance agreement different from the one that existed in the autonomy zone pilot


Yes. The Empowerment School performance agreement is a value-added school assessment, evaluating

schools on the basis of both their own past performance and the performance of a like-populated cohort

of schools.

Can principals back out if they decide that being an Empowerment School is not for them?

The terms of the performance agreement can be amended annually. Principals who wish to opt out can

petition the CEO of Empowerment Schools between July 1 and July 15 each year.

If a principal leaves the school does the principal’s decision to sign and become and

Empowerment School still hold when there is a new school leader?

Yes, unless the new principal chooses to opt out.

What’s the structure of the support system?

In general, schools are at the top of the new Empowerment School hierarchy and all organizational

structures exist to service schools. Each group of 20 schools has a small network support team. Also

serving all empowerment schools is an integrated service center, which administers operations,

suspension support, special education, legal issues, compliance, and the market.

How will the teams of schools be determined? By geography? By school level?

Schools will be able to choose their own networks. Networks need not be based on location, but they

could be. Principals could unite because they have similar thoughts about education or because they

cater to certain populations or age levels of students.

Where will the Empowerment School offices, in particular the offices of each team, be located?

Offices will be located throughout the City.

If regions no longer have oversight over these schools, who or what is supervising these


These schools will be supported by the Empowerment Schools network support teams. The CEO of

Empowerment Schools and the Department of Education's Chief Accountability Officer will also help

ensure that the schools are complying with rules and regulations, meeting their performance targets, and

receiving the support they require.


How will the DOE finance Empowerment Schools?

About $50 million will be cut from the regional budgets. This amount is consistent with the cost of

supporting the Empowerment Schools if they remained in the regions. Additionally, about $30 million will

be cut from central budgets. Some of this money will flow into a new, leaner “bureaucracy” to support

Empowerment Schools. The majority of these freed-up resources will go to Empowerment Schools

themselves, to support school programming. The additional money in Empowerment School budgets will

represent the value and cost of what these schools used to receive regionally or centrally. These dollars

were spent on behalf of the schools. Now they will be spent by the schools on the services that the

schools need most to support their students.

Where is the money going?

About $49 million is going to empowerment schools, about $15 million is going to accountability and

leadership development, and about $16 million is going to form the Empowerment School support


How many people will lose jobs in the regional bureaucracy to free up resources?

About 350 overall. Most of the money saved will be sent to schools, where it will be spent on student

programming and the educators who interact directly with children.

How much extra budgetary discretion will Empowerment School principals receive?

Empowerment Schools will receive varying amounts of additional money, depending on the size of their

student bodies. Schools will receive a base of $75,000 in new discretionary funding, plus extra money

depending on the number of students. An average Empowerment School will receive an additional

$150,000 in new discretionary funding and will have access to an additional $100,000 in newly

unrestricted funds, which were previously tied to specific programs and positions.