More Turnaround News

In case you missed it, several big stories in turnaround this week:

Pink Slips

Reports from NYC on the 3,500 pink slips handed out to staff in 24 turnaround schools this week.  Clearly this will be a painful transition for all, but how can you turn around a consistently failing school unless the school leader has the right to handpick his or her team? As we’ve said before, creating the conditions for dramatic change is a no-brainer first step. Research from NC and elsewhere shows that schools willing to take this approach have more success than those that continue tinkering around the edges.

Senate Committee Adds 5th SIG Option

More developments on the budget front – Ed Week’s Alyson Klein on the case again, reporting that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a fifth turnaround option. Districts could use SIG funds for proven “whole school reform” models like Success for All—programs that have at least as much evidence as those that qualified for a “validation” grant through the i3 program. Read all about it here.

A few big takeaways for us here.

  1. It matters less if there are 4 approved models or 5 or 55.  What matters is if districts are tackling the big issues: establishing the autonomous conditions that school leaders need, building expert capacity to do this hard work, and grouping low-performing schools into mini-district clusters. Clustering has two beneficial effects: it breaks up central office and provides students with seamless pathways from k through high school.
  2. Anything that holds programs accountable for demonstrable results is good. The federal, state, and local governments have allowed too many “turnaround light” programs to take the SIG money and run.
  3. This addition acknowledges that states and districts need some guidance. Too many solutions are either light touch or have little research basis. Getting the right balance between federal guidance and local initiative remains at the center of the evolving federal role.