Tag Archives: persistent underperformers

What to do with ‘persistently underperforming’ schools?

Tomorrow night, the Board will hold a Committee of the Whole (meaning, essentially, a policy discussion with no action items) to discuss the Superintendent’s plans for our 10 schools labeled “persistently underperforming” by the state.
This list was created as part of the state’s efforts to qualify for Race to the Top. It designates five percent of the state’s schools as failing, and prescribes one of four turnaround models for districts to take. There’s no choice in the matter, though it’s unclear under state law when these actions would have to be taken. If, however, a district wants to apply for Federal funds to help implement one of the turnaround models, it must submit a plan in the next few weeks — and begin the work within six months.
I am not crazy about any of the turnaround models. They assume that school leaders are so stupid that d’oh! We never thought of replacing principals! We never thought of reconstitution (which we tried in this district and which failed, miserably)! Charter schools! Wow! (Even though charter schools have as mixed a record as traditional public schools — no miracles here.) School closure! (How does closing a school affect the achievement of its former students, exactly?) Disliking the so-called “turnaround” models doesn’t mean endorsing the status quo; none of these models have any serious research behind them to prove their efficacy – the record is mixed at best. These prescriptions are essentially an effort by the Department of Education (and our state Legislature, which went even beyond the Federal requirements to qualify for Race to the Top) to throw a bunch of ideas at the wall and see what sticks, damn the unintended consequences.

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Recap: Whose side are you on? And when is the meeting?

Tonight’s regularly-scheduled Board meeting was a particularly contentious one, thanks to the current state of our contract negotiations and the ongoing uncertainty at schools the state has now designated as persistently underperforming. We must have had at least 70 speakers for public comment, even after President Kim limited the amount of time each group had to speak.

First up: a group of parents and community members who wanted to express their bewilderment and outrage at the state’s decision to name their schools–George Washington Carver Elementary and Willie Brown Elementary–to the  persistently underperforming list and subjecting these schools to sanctions. The families are worried that the district will opt to close these schools, and distrustful of assurances that there is no plan to close them (even though the state and the Federal government say that closure is one of the options we must consider). Superintendent Garcia tonight reiterated those assurances, but did suggest that there is a future possibility that we might temporarily close Willie Brown in order to build a better facility.

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