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.