De Blasio to Borrow From CompStat Model for Struggling Schools ‘War Room’

Mayor Bill de Blasio, with Superintendent and Renewal Schools Aimee Horowitz at Richmond Hill High School today. (Photo: Jillian Jorgensen/New York Observer)

Mayor Bill de Blasio, with Superintendent and Renewal Schools Aimee Horowitz at Richmond Hill High School today. (Photo: Jillian Jorgensen/New York Observer)

When it comes to holding principals accountable in his effort to turn around struggling city schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to take a page out of the police playbook.

The Department of Education is building its own version of the NYPD’s revolutionary CompStat program—which introduced the use of statistics to daily policing and requires police leaders to explain their strategies to superiors in weekly meetings.

“We’re going to hold every one of the principals to the same kind of standards that our precinct commanders are held to via CompStat,” Mr. de Blasio said today at Richmond Hill High School.

The idea originated with Aimee Horowitz, the city’s new executive superintendent for “renewal schools,” the name Mr. de Blasio has given to the city’s 94 lowest-performing schools. She attended an NYPD CompStat meeting this morning to learn some strategies for she’s been calling her “war room.”

“Today was a chance for me to observe the CompStat process and have brief conversations with some of the people who run the meeting, along with two other people from the DOE so we can continue to put together our war room,” she said.

Mr. de Blasio rolled out his plan for turning around the “renewal schools” last year—and this is the second press conference he’s had on his education plan in two weeks. It comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he wants to take receivership of the city’s failing schools—a move the mayor vehemently opposes. Mr. de Blasio has said he’ll be held accountable for schools, and that if they don’t improve within three years, he’ll close them—something he criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg for doing, arguing the process happened too hastily.

Today, Mr. de Blasio said the CompStat model would allow Ms. Horowitz to ensure the schools plan is moving forward by grilling educators on the strategies they are using the same way police leaders grill precinct commanders.

“They will get the same kind of forceful questioning, and they’ll also get the support to succeed. But we’re going to make this a very urgent effort, and Aimee will have the ability to track each and every one of the schools, the ability to call in the school leaders on a rotating basis as is done at CompStat, question them, find out what they need, push them harder, make sure they’re doing their job, and if she doesn’t see what she likes, just as at the NYPD, there’s a whole host of actions that can be taken to improve the situation and to address the leadership dynamics,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Ms. Horowitz actually held her first “war room” meeting yesterday, she said, with five superintendents and higher-ups from the Department of Education. Next time, she said, they’ll meet with smaller groups to achieved “more in-depth analysis.”

“I went to CompStat today to see what we can learn from that very successful process, and see people ask the difficult questions. And I’m not afraid to ask the difficult questions,” Ms. Horowitz said.

The mayor said he’s asked Chief of Patrol James O’Neill and Deputy Commissioner Dermot Shea, who run the CompStat meetings, to provide guidance to Ms. Horowitz. Mr. de Blasio used the example of how NYPD brass might delve into a rash of burglaries.

“They put the leadership of the precinct through their paces and they’re looking for, in each case, who’s on the ball, who’s got the right plan, who’s following through fully, or are there things where there’s areas of weakness that have to be addressed, or new practices that have to be brought to bear. That’s already what Aimee was instinctively starting to do with the superintendents and with principals, but we’e gonna systemize it,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter group that has loudly criticized Mr. de Blasio’s “renewal schools” plan, blasted out a statement knocking the use of a police tactic in education.

“Our schools are not our streets. Mayor de Blasio’s approach for fixing New York’s failing schools by using a crime reporting tool is wrongheaded. The real crime is the Mayor’s neglect of our failing schools crisis,” Joe Herrera, a parent organizer with the group, said.

Families for Excellent Schools has been more supportive of Mr. Cuomo’s plan for education reform, which includes tying teacher tenure to test scores and beefing up already unpopular teacher evaluations, in addition to the plan for taking over struggling schools. Teachers’ unions, meanwhile, have slammed Mr. Cuomo’s proposal, and some Assembly Democrats from the city who are historically loyal to them have balked at the plans. A Quinnipiac University poll yesterday showed little enthusiasm from voters, who said they trusted the unions more than the governor and gave Mr. Cuomo such bad marks on education that it dragged down his approval rating to 50 percent.

Mr. de Blasio has been a vocal critic of the state receivership portion of the plan since he testified on the state budget in Albany last month. Today, he said he’d also made those thoughts known to new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, and again argued that state receivership was unnecessary in a city with mayoral control over schools.

“The question is, how do you actually allow mayoral control of schools to work? If you put schools under state control, well, I’m sorry, with all due respect to Albany, I believe we know a lot more about what we need to do for our children than bureaucrats in Albany do. I think the notion of a group of bureaucrats 150 miles away trying to determine the fate of our children sounds like a formula for a disaster,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Let’s take the tools we have and apply them.”

De Blasio to Borrow From CompStat Model for Struggling Schools ‘War Room’