Friday, March 19, 2010

Thompson: Six recommendations for a kinder, smarter, better turnaround strategy

John Thompson talking sense:

1Repudiate collective punishment of educators, with written guarantees that also meet the legitmate needs of turnaround specialists and others to improve teacher quality.

2. Stop the scapegoating. Reducing the percentage of stigmatized schools from 1/3rd to 5% gives no relief to urban systems where failing schools are disproportionately located.

3. Remember that you can’t just shoot urban teachers and principals, as suburban schools get relief. Otherwise, how can "reformers" stop rhe outmigration of educators to less challenging systems that would inevitable under his ESEA?

4. See principals as the canary in the coal mine, who would be the real sacrificial lambs in the proposed ESEA. How do you recruit talented school leaders when they will lose their jobs if they do not increase performance for all students, with no loopholes, when so few have succeeded even with the assistance of NCLB’s tricks and exclusions?

5.  The Grand Bargain. to prevent teachers from being condemned as ineffective just because they work at an ineffective school..

6. Walk a mile in the school boards’ shoes. This should be the easiest rule for the former C.E.O. of the Chicago schools. Were the administration's ESEA to be adopted, urban districts would be required to balance the following.

Here's a not at all hypothetical situation. Let's say there is a high school at the end of my street, newly built on a plot near the city line next to a now mostly vacant strip mall (and when that Hollywood Video dies its inevitable death, it may be completely vacant). Now, this school has an incredibly well-respected, relatively new principal, who successfully started one small school before being saddled with forming another new school, this one awkwardly sized (600 kids) with a random bunch of overflow students and teachers displaced from the rest of the district. This is about the toughest assignment you can draw, and their numbers are, as you might expect, inconsistent at best.

My guess is they dodged being named as one of the "lowest 5%" simply due to the fact that the school hasn't been in existence long enough to build up enough consecutive years of not meeting AYP and other longitudinal numbers necessary to generate the score (I think this played a surprisingly large role in the scoring process in RI, considering the number of new/reconstituted high schools in Providence).

So anyway, it is highly unlikely that this school will escape being in the lowest 5% over, say, the next three years, particularly since standardization within the district offers few angles or opportunities to outperform similiar schools (through innovative curriculum, for example) and whatever schools are currently at their level or below will be disappearing every year. There is a strong undertow.

So, you're the district administration, what do you do with this principal? Leave him where he is until he's labeled the principal of a failing school and you're required by law to remove him? Move him now to a higher performing school to save his career? Maybe put him in charge of a new turnaround school, although that would look kind of weird.

If you're the principal, what do you do? Hang around and wait for the inevitable shaming in Providence? Or seek greener pastures?

1 comment:

Claus von Zastrow said...

Where will the future leaders and teachers come from as these schools continue to be stigmatized? I'm not arguing that we should pretend struggling schools aren't struggling--and we shouldn't pretend to be satisfied when lots of kids fail on standardized tests (however lousy those tests may be.)

But how many teachers who really want to make a long term commitment to the profession or to a particular school will take a chance on a struggling school if they worry about carrying the stigma of failure, especially if they get fired from the school in a future turnaround effort?

This might be easier on TFA recruits, since most are young, many don't remain teachers for years and years, and many wear the TFA status as a badge of honor. (Unlike many, I tend to admire TFA teachers, but I don't think they can supply all the long-term needs of our struggling schools.)