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Why the state rejected plans for one Buffalo school

When the state approved six out of Buffalo's seven school improvement plans recently, it also rejected one: the plan to hire Canisius College, in partnership with Fordham University, to run Waterfront Elementary.

At the time, though, state Education Department officials did not offer any details whatsoever on their rejection of the Waterfront plan.

The plan, in a nutshell, called for data-driven instruction to establish high academic expectations for all students.

The plan included making families and students in grades five to eight aware of high school and college options; setting educational goals; and accessing financial aid and scholarships to realize them. (Here's the full plan, if you're interested in the details.)

Why did the state reject it?

State Ed spokesman Tom Dunn recently offered this explanation when I asked:

The Educational Partner Organization (EPO), Canisius College, did not propose a Restart plan that provided SED with confidence that the EPO had the capacity to ensure dramatic student gains at the school. Specifically, the plan lacked detail regarding important implementation activities and the EPOs strategy for accomplishing them.  

It was unclear what the type and intensity of the intervention by Canisius would involve; and at the same time, the type and intensity of Fordham's involvement was judged to be inadequate to support the plan proposed.

When the EPO (educational partnership organization) option was rolled out for turning around low-performing schools, there was much talk about getting local colleges and universities involved in the efforts.

So far, that hasn't worked out too well.

Canisius wasn't the first local college to submit a proposal to run one of the low-performing schools -- and be rejected.

Last year, Buffalo State College submitted a plan to turn around Lafayette High School. After much deliberation, the School Board endorsed the plan and sent it into State Ed -- which rejected the plan, saying, among other things, that the district didn't have enough of an infrastructure in place to support EPOs.

And a few months later, when the district got another chance on the Lafayette plan, Buffalo State submitted a proposal again, but the School Board selected a plan from Johns Hopkins University instead.

- Mary Pasciak

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