Thursday, February 18, 2010

If Only there were Local Examples of Sustained Successful Turnarounds

This is pretty weak tea:

dave brown: Regarding the proposed "turnaround" (fire all; rehire <=50%) in Central Falls... 1) Can you offer/discuss examples of similar schools where this response to "chronic failure" was implemented successfully? 2) Are there mechanisms to ensure that teachers are rehired on the basis of competence instead of seniority? 3) Do you have reason to believe that there are sufficient numbers of teachers with greater competence than those not rehired who will be willing to work in this school -- without resorting to incentives that might disrupt staffing at other RI schools?

Deborah Gist: 1. More information about both these examples can be found on the U.S. Department of Education's website.

Deborah Gist: a) In 2006, Locke High School was among the lowest performing schools in Los Angeles. Just 5% of Locke's graduating students went on to 4-year colleges. With the support of the community, a non-profit organization called Green Dot implemented a school turnaround model focused on making sure students achieve academically and are ready for college and careers when they graduate from high school. As part of the turnaround, only 40 of the school's 120 teachers remained in the school. Principals can be hired and fired at will, and principals have more control over the staffing in their schools as well. In the first year, Locke showed modest gains in test scores, but tested significantly more students (38 percent more than the previous year, indicating more students were staying in school throughout the year), reduced truancy and dropout rates, and improved the safety of the school setting. Additionally, nearly 20 percent more students graduated, and large percentages of those continued onto college.

Deborah Gist: b) An organization called the Chicago Academy for Urban School Leadership opened its first turnaround school in 2006 at the Sherman School of Excellence. The transition took place in the summer, so the student body remained the same and students did not have to temporarily move to other schools. Since then, Sherman has produced steady gains in student achievement. Another Illinois turnaround school was the Harvard School of Excellence. Before the turnaround in 2007, Harvard ranked in the bottom five out of more than 3,000 Illinois elementary schools. Harvard has since produced steady gains in student achievement.

Locke? "Modest gains in test scores? Chicago? "Steady gains?" That's the best you can do?

Clearly, Ms. Gist is a more accomplished politician than me, but I'd suggest a punchier, locally grounded answer like this:

What school has the highest reading and writing scores among Providence open enrollment high schools? Feinstein -- staff fired and "turned around" 2001. What school has the second highest reading scores and third highest writing scores? Hope Arts, part of the Hope turnaround, 2005. Third highest in reading scores and second highest in writing? E-Cubed, started with a core staff of veterans of the Feinstein turnaround.

Highest in math? Hope Arts. Second? Hope IT. Third? Feinstein.

We've done it, in Providence, in Rhode Island, we've sustained it, we've replicated it, it works.

Of course, the downside to that argument from her point of view is that she's ordered the closing of one of those schools and tacitly approves of the dismantling of the structural, governance and curricular reforms of the other two.

1 comment:

Claus von Zastrow said...

I should add that there are examples of turnaround schools where staff and even principals remained. I could cite quite a few. Everyone who speaks about Chicago turnaround goes to the same set of charters. Strategic Learning Initiatives has worked with low-performing schools to create equally dramatic gains, but you wouldn't know it from the media.