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.