PROSE (Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence) was negotiated into the 2014 teachers’ contract by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the New York City Department of Education (DOE) as a way for schools that had a history of collaborative management and innovation to have more freedom to achieve their goals. The idea came from union leaders seeing that teachers had creative ideas in their schools, but teacher teams needed an opportunity to share those within and across schools and more space to experiment with new ideas.
To meet these goals, the PROSE program allows schools to apply for specific modifications and flexibilities within the collective bargaining agreement and district regulations. Modifications and flexibilities are approved relative to each school’s individual needs as identified by their teacher team and principal. Each approved school has its own unique agreement that the PROSE panel negotiated with multiple bodies (union, district, or state) depending on what the teacher team decided to pursue. The PROSE panel is also responsible for considering school's applications, supporting PROSE schools in their collaborative shared governance, and helping teachers implement their innovative teaching and learning ideas for the benefit of student success. It is made up of 50% UFT, 25% DOE, and 25% Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA, the administrators’ union).
Any public school in NYC is eligible to apply to be a PROSE school if the principal and union chair at the site agree to put in a PROSE application for their school. During the application process the school teaching team must provide evidence of their collaborative shared leadership, learning program innovations, as well as the impact of these innovations on student learning. The PROSE panel then considers applications, and (if appropriate) approves the team's opportunity to advance specific innovations, and the team's areas of autonomy.
Once schools' applications have been approved, and terms have been clarified and negotiated by the PROSE panel, teacher teams vote using a three part ballot. On the first part of the ballot the teacher team must vote to officially become a PROSE school, with at least 65% in favor. On the second part of the ballot teachers vote on the specific areas of innovation/autonomy they wish to seek, for example teacher evaluation. There is also a third section on the ballot where schools can write down ideas that weren’t able to be formalized, but which they would like to secure autonomy in. These are areas the PROSE team is still working on, for example autonomy over measures of student learning in teacher evaluation.
When a 65% or above vote occurs, PROSE schools are approved for five year terms to work on their specific innovations. During the five year term the schools are allowed to re-vote yearly to add more innovations/areas of autonomy. If any teachers do not wish to stay at the site after a PROSE approval vote, they are able to transfer to another school without penalty.
There are currently over 160 PROSE schools, about 8% of the total public schools in New York City. While all of these schools are collaborative, not all are teacher-powered to the extent that the teacher teams design, implement, and make final decisions in specific areas. Many of the schools that are teacher-powered have used the PROSE ballots to formalize their shared leadership arrangements at their schools sites and secure formal autonomy that will carry over through leadership changes as the site.