Malcolm X Elementary illustrates issues with Race to the Top

Under the Federal government’s Race to the Top guidelines, states must pledge to implement one of several models to turn around their lowest-performing schools if they accept a Race to the Top grant. Essentially, those models give us the following options:

  • Close the school;
  • Convert the school to a charter;
  • Replace school staff and/or the school principal.

And there’s the rub. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about one of our lowest-performing and most troubled schools, Malcolm X Elementary, and profiled its new principal, Imani Cooley. Ms. Cooley jumped at the chance to lead Malcolm X this year, and by all accounts, she is an experienced and caring administrator. If San Francisco Unified is awarded a Race to the Top grant, her school could receive additional support, but we could also be required to replace her. That’s one of my problems with the school reform models in the policy: they don’t acknowledge that perhaps local school districts have been thoughtful in their hiring practices, and have put in place educators like Ms. Cooley to lead their most troubled schools.

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4 responses to “Malcolm X Elementary illustrates issues with Race to the Top

  1. That’s a valid point, but it’s not MY interpretation that the article debunked the notion — Jill Tucker went out of her way to debunk it. She pointed out that those families could, in general, easily get their kids into the SFUSD school of their choice, and that they fought hard to keep the school open when SFUSD proposed closing it a few years ago.

    That does raise an interesting issue regarding the whole notion of the “parent trigger.” The families who are now at Malcolm X HAVE voted with their feet — they have chosen not to exercise other options, which they clearly do have. Having made that choice, they’re not likely to sign petitions demanding that the school be closed or charterized.

  2. “The article also debunked the notion (popular with those utterly out of touch with the real world, like the Chronicle’s editorial writers and much of our political leadership) that parents at struggling schools like Malcolm X are eager to get their kids out, or have the school shut down.”

    So why’s it only got 120 kids enrolled, then? Name me another SFUSD elementary that has only one class per grade. The parents are voting with their feet.

  3. Didn’t Malcolm X have a huge jump in API this year?

  4. The article also debunked the notion (popular with those utterly out of touch with the real world, like the Chronicle’s editorial writers and much of our political leadership) that parents at struggling schools like Malcolm X are eager to get their kids out, or have the school shut down.

    In fact, as the article emphasizes, the parents at Malcolm X pretty much have their pick of SFUSD schools if they wanted to transfer their kids; and when SFUSD DID make plans to shut the school down a few years ago, the parents protested fiercely and successfully.