State identifies chronically underperforming schools

* Updated to reflect that the state later deleted Burton and Thurgood Marshall High Schools from the list after the district requeste a re-examination of its data.

Today the California Department of Education released its list of 187 “chronically-underperforming” schools — an action required under legislation enacted this winter to help the state qualify for Race to the Top funds (yeah, we know how that turned out).  Twelve Ten schools in San Francisco appear on the state’s preliminary list, which will have to be formally adopted by the State Board of Education at a meeting later this week. The 12 10 schools are:

  • Brown, Jr., (Willie L.) Elementary
  • Bryant Elementary
  • Cesar Chavez Elementary
  • Everett Middle
  • George Washington Carver Elementary
  • Horace Mann Middle
  • John Muir Elementary
  • Paul Revere Elementary
  • John O’Connell Alternative High
  • Mission High
  • Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High
  • Thurgood Marshall High

Under state law, the district will be required to implement one of these four school intervention models  at each of the 12 10 schools by the beginning of the next school year:

  • Turnaround Model: Undertake a series of major school improvement actions, including but not limited to, replacing the principal and rehiring no more than 50 percent of the school’s staff; adopting a new governance structure; and implementing an instructional program that is research-based and vertically aligned from one grade to the next, as well as aligned with California’s adopted content standards.
  • Restart Model: Convert the school to a charter. A restart model school must enroll, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend the school.
  • School Closure Model: Close the school and enroll the students in other higher-achieving schools in the district.
  • Transformation Model: Implement a series of required school improvement strategies, including replacing the principal who led the school prior to implementation of the transformation model, and increasing instructional time.

No word yet from the Superintendent on which model(s) he might recommend for these schools.

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18 responses to “State identifies chronically underperforming schools

  1. BernalMom, I think there are many of us who don’t believe Paul Revere deserves a place on that list. We had a staff briefing last night that indicated we are still looking at all of our options, which could include not applying for the School Improvement Grant (this would give us more time to comply with the state law requiring us to take one of the four options I outlined in my post). Board members on the Rules Committee (Commissioners Wynns, Mendoza and myself) agreed that we want to push back more on the CDE for the detailed methodology they used to determine which schools appeared on the list. For one thing, charters were just eliminated entirely, regardless of whether their poor performance would otherwise have justified appearing on the list. That doesn’t seem quite fair, no?

    Anyway, there were many parents from Paul Revere present at last night’s committee meeting and it is evident that the school has a strong community and great energy. I think you made a wise choice in choosing Revere — I have said many times that if I lived in Bernal it would absolutely be one of my top choices for my kids.

  2. I put Paul Revere on because of the principal. What a shame to see it on that list! What good can come from this, a charter?

  3. “At the end of the day, though reconstitution does not deliver the results that many claim in terms of 180 degree turnaround, it does produce modest improvements, which in the face of years of poor performance and apathetic staff, simply needs to be tweaked and better executed to be a better reform instrument.”

    Well, it looks like charters are neutral-to-modest in terms of improvement, reconstitution is modest in terms of improvement.

    Maybe its time to mature out of the “let’s fix education” ideas peddled by policy entrepreneurs and think more about the slow grind of improving teaching technique and measuring results over an extended period of time rather than silver bullet solutions. It seems like our education policy has ADHD at times.

    I can’t imagine budget crises every 5-8 years exactly help in terms of the stability needed for evolutionary progress, though. A lot of dedicated, hardworking teachers all over the state are going to get screwed over in the next few months, thanks to the governator and our ridiculous supermajority requirement for the state budget.

  4. Fiveyearteacher

    Actually Rachel, I’ve worked in Bay Area public school districts (suburbs) as a secondary teacher and would venture to guess that about 25% of teachers I have worked with either lack the work ethic, intelligence, adaptability, or “withitness” (described here – http://wik.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/Withitness) to be a truly effective teacher – somebody we attribute all the great characteristics that are commonly referenced whenever the general public thinks about their best or favorite teacher. Perhaps I had high expectations (I was fed up with the lack of urgency / passion to change the status quo / saw the constraints of a non-progressive district beholden to school boards and teacher unions with special interests and ill-informed priorities and returned to graduate school despite perfect evaluations and fantastic test scores), but it was evident these teachers simply didn’t care enough. At the end of the day, though reconstitution does not deliver the results that many claim in terms of 180 degree turnaround, it does produce modest improvements, which in the face of years of poor performance and apathetic staff, simply needs to be tweaked and better executed to be a better reform instrument. If teachers at these failing schools are great, they can re-apply for their jobs and be a part of the solution, rather than complain about how they are being blamed.

  5. Very much appreciate your reply!

    I do not at all think that “teachers are the problem” but just like any organization, not all employees are going to be good, great or even competent. You say that we’ve (roughly) terminated 0.2% of the staff per year for poor performance. I am hard pressed to think of other 6,000-employee organizations where 99.8% of the employees are doing a bang-up job.

    Nearly 10% of our schools have just been named amongst the worst in the state. You can’t just say ‘Hooray things are changing for the better!’ without actually changing anything.

  6. Mitchel – I have been on the board since January 2009 and in that time have seen probably a dozen (give or take) who have been asked to find other employment (out of 6,000 plus teachers & paraprofessionals employed in our schools). Those numbers more than square with my seven-plus years as a parent in the public schools — i.e., very few that I think should actually be working in a different career. Your presumption that teachers are the problem in our public schools is simply not borne out in my experiences as either a parent OR a policymaker. Please spend a year or so in our schools before being so quick to judge or prescribe — based on what you have posted here on my blog I perceive it is unlikely that you have any firsthand or otherwise relevant knowledge about SFUSD. You seem to think you know far more than you actually do.

  7. Mitchel, some of these schools, like Paul Revere, *already* went through a restructuring process in recent years.

    Screwing over the new staff and principal because they had the courage to go into a failing school and try to turn it around, when it takes at least three years for change to show results, is frickin’ asinine.

  8. Ok, so how many teachers were terminated in the past 12 months for poor performance? Not re-assigned so we could just cover up the problem, but actually terminated?

    I would buy your argument that ‘it takes a scalpel’ if the BOE actually used it.

  9. The principal at Burton is fabulous and inspirational and he too has only been in place a few years. Trying to undo years of misguided decisionmaking at a site takes more than just a year or two. A school not yet achieving at the desired level is rarely if ever the fault of a relatively new Principal.

  10. “At some point there needs to be a line that says ‘you are not a quality employee and you are no longer employed here.’ The BOE’s refusal to admit to this fact of life is what compounds many of our problems.”

    I think the BOE is happy to say that to employees who fail to perform. There may be examples at those schools of such employees, but NO data shows us that summarily dismissing the leadership/staff of an underperforming school is the best or most effective approach. It’s like taking a sledgehammer to a problem that requires a scalpel.

  11. Revere being on that list seems unfair, given the recent change in principal, who’s just getting traction. It would be a shame to punish that principal for the sins of his predecessors.

  12. Paul Revere? Cruel, and stupid. That principal is fabulous.

  13. Katy– We would never fire teachers just because they are at the worst schools in the state. Surely, it must be some other issue. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing and act surprised when we get the same results.

    Rachel– How do we keep pretending that there is no such thing as a low quality teacher or principal? At some point there needs to be a line that says ‘you are not a quality employee and you are no longer employed here.’ The BOE refusal’s to admit to this fact of life is what compounds many of our problems.

  14. These are all good questions, and I haven’t heard yet from the Superintendent how he recommends we proceed. I think it would be highly unlikely that he would recommend (or that the Board would support) firing all the staff at any of these schools. But I’m not sure what all the options truly are.

  15. In the cases where they will replace the staff, or close the schools, doesn’t the district have to pink-slip the employees by March 15th? So how do you know who to pink slip or not? Do you just pink-slip every teacher and principal at each one of these schools?

  16. There’s an explanation of the preliminary criteria here, but a detailed explanation hasn’t yet been posted.

  17. What are the criteria? The schools listed aren’t the ones at the bottom of the list, ranked by achievement, so they must have been ranked some other way.

  18. Gee, this is distressing to see the four options. I know several of the principals at some of these schools and know that they are making progress – is it necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater? These schools don’t change overnight.
    Some principals have been there just a couple of years and are just now getting traction.