Turnaround Champions

Last week, Dr. Tanya R. Green was honored at the White House as a Champion of Change for her leadership in what has long been one of Baltimore’s lowest-performing and most dangerous schools. Two years ago, Baltimore City brought in a Lead Partner to manage Calverton Elementary-Middle School.  While the school remained part of the district, that Lead Partner, Friendship Public Charter Schools, worked in partnership with Dr. Green to make the necessary changes to begin turning around the school. This is a wonderful example of a Lead Partner and school leadership working hand-in-hand to benefit children. As Dr. Green puts it:

“This partnership model of turnaround was evident to everyone who came in to evaluate our progress, including the district, state, the U.S. Department of Education, and independent evaluators. Baltimore City, Friendship, and Calverton’s school-based leadership work collectively toward one goal: providing all students with a world class education. As a result of this hard work and partnership, Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton met all of the state targets for reading, mathematics, and attendance in 2012. The school was also the recipient of the Race to the Top STAR (Strategies Targeting Achievement and Retention) Award, an incentive award for improving school climate outcomes.

“While quite a feat for a school that was not long ago designated one of the state’s most dangerous and lowest performing, I am most proud that the accomplishments were made without changing the student demographics and population. The school still has a special education population that exceeds 30 percent, including a program for students with emotional disturbance and students with autism. The school has over 90 percent of its students receiving free and/or reduced meals. In addition, the school continues to accept all students regardless of high-risk behaviors or academic performance.”

There are plenty of naysayers in the education arena when it comes to school turnaround. One popular critique is that turnaround schools improve their outcomes by changing the populations they serve. But while the student population of Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton remains the same, the changes in the quality of the school are very real. For more on how Dr. Green and her team did it, the Baltimore Sun wrote a piece on the changes made at the school level.

-Chris Maher wrote this piece and is vice-president of field engagements at Mass Insight