In June 2014 the UFT-DOE-CSA contract was ratified with the addition of a new program to reform NYC public schools. PROSE, which stands for Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools of Excellence, allows traditional public schools to break from some traditional restrictions set by the city and state in order to bring forth innovative school improvement strategies.
The PROSE program supports flexibility to change teacher hiring and evaluation practices, length of school day and year, class size, professional development options, grievance processes, and encourages collaboration with other schools. There is a large support network that PROSE schools can utilize to chart and develop their progress, learn about best practices and their implementation options. There are sample planning sessions and webinars offered for administration and teachers, and detailed instructions on how to become a PROSE school.
There were 62 schools chosen for this pilot program last year. Schools that wished to participate submitted letters of intent, and then applications which were reviewed by the DOE and UFT. Those with successful applications had to get 65 percent of their UFT staff to approve of the school-wide change. According to the DOE, schools had to meet three requirements:
1. Have a proven record of collaboration within the school community.
2. Commitment to pursuing innovative ideas with the full support of the SLT and the school community.
3. Have the potential to make a strong impact on student learning through the implementation of a creative and bold plan of action.
Each school’s application outlines new innovations they would like to add, their reasoning behind each addition, any contractual changes they would like to make to Chancellor’s Regulations, and methods for measuring the success of their own unique program.
These changes have been implemented slowly over the course of the 2014-2015 school year, although not all aspects of a school’s application are approved for implementation. Each action needs to be approved by a PROSE panel consisting of DOE and UFT representatives. Schools are accepted by PROSE for a five year stint, allowing for time to plan and adjust, making it clear that this is an ongoing process.
This spring an additional 64 schools have been approved for the PROSE program, making a total of 126 participating schools. As the first cohort completes the inaugural year of PROSE, Chancellor Carmen Fariña says they will measure its success by looking at test scores and teacher attrition. Both the Chancellor and Mayor de Blasio are pleased with the program’s expansion in the 2015-2016 school year.
PROSE has strong support from the Mayor and the United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. This might be perplexing to education reform enthusiasts; the PROSE program is a similar version of the charter school model, transposed onto the framework of a traditional public school. Mulgrew and, at times, Mayor de Blasio, have expressed opposition to charter schools.