Friday, April 27, 2012

The PPSD's Declining Turnaround Capacity

Elena Silva:

One of the biggest success stories of ELT (Extended Learning Time) is, not surprisingly, in Massachusetts. Matthew J. Kuss Middle School in Fall River has transformed itself from the first in the state to be declared “chronically underperforming” in 2004 to a school that is not even eligible for SIG funds today. Since adopting an added-time schedule in 2006, Kuss gives all its students 30 percent more time in school (including on Saturdays) and provides additional development time for teachers, almost all of whom have increased their work hours: instructors now have nine individual planning periods, a grade-level meeting, and at least one curriculum meeting each week.

While the regular day’s curriculum is dictated by the district, Kuss Principal Nancy Mullen explains, the ELT curriculum is decided by the teachers “so it’s aligned with standards but also meets the real needs of our students and gets delivered in a much more engaging and project-based way.” Mullen says more time isn’t the only reason for the school’s success, but it’s a big one. Significantly, this kind of time carries a big price: teacher salaries at Kuss increased by 25 percent. Without state funding for ELT, Mullen isn’t sure how she would fund those increases; the budget is now about $800,000 annually for teachers and other staff costs alone. But she says she would try.

This Ed Sector report on the limits of extended learning time as a turnaround strategy is pretty good. It also contains a few references to Providence.

The one that jumped out to me is a little oblique: Nancy Mullen was the principal of the PPSD's Mount Pleasant High School when I did my student teaching there at the turn of the century. She was a well regarded principal, in fact my mentor teacher had followed her there from Mullen's previous post as a middle school principal.

At that time, Mount Pleasant was generally regarded as the best big neighborhood high school. After Mullen moved on, to launch the Hope High turnaround, Mount Pleasant began its long slide.

Now, of course, Hope has almost completed a full up and down turnaround cycle, and Mullen is in Fall River.

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