Autonomy for failing schools

Instead of taking over persistently failing schools, Massachusetts will give autonomy. The Boston Globe reports:

Over the next two years, Boston will try to transform English High.

Enrollment at the nation’s oldest public high school will be cut from 1,200 students to 800. The school day will be expanded by about an hour. And the stakes will rise: Struggling teachers could be transferred to another school, and truants could find a school official knocking on their door.

The state hasn’t had much success with interventions it’s imposed on failing schools, so it decided to give English High and three other schools a chance to engineer their own turnarounds. The four will be “pilot schools,” created in Boston to compete with charter schools.

Pilot schools, like charters, have more freedom than traditional public schools. They can set longer school days, choose their staffs, and determine how they spend their budgets, but are overseen by the school system.

Apparently, the pilot schools won’t get new principals or teachers. A teachers’ union leader quoted in the story is very negative about the English High plan. That doesn’t bode well, but perhaps the threat of eventual state takeover will concentrate minds on change.

About Joanne


  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    Maybe I’m just being dim here, but in what sense does transferring bad teachers from one school to another help matters? Obviously it helps the school that kicks out the bad teacher, but then equally obviously, it hurts the school that has to accept the underperformer, so it seems to me that it’s a wash.

  2. Well color me stunned.

    Putting “R.I.P.” after the school’s name. Now that would a startling departure from past behavior. Let’s see if it catches on or if it ever happens.

  3. Cardinal Fang, you’re right. Schools shuffle underperforming and misbehaving students around (in LA they call them “opportunity transfers” aka OT) and this seems to lead, illogically enough, to the idea that teachers and even administrators just need new surroundings in order to prosper (we also have OT teachers and administrators in our district). If a teacher is doing an inferior job he shouldn’t be doing it anywhere.

    Anyone making such “reassignment” decisions should first imagine that his or her child is going to be in the classroom of that teacher.

  4. wayne martin says:

    The article claims that Massachusetts had intervened in a couple of failed schools, but suggests that the State had failed to improve the situation. The article didn’t provide any insight as to why the State’s methods have failed, unfortunately.

    However, given that the local methods have failed, and the State’s methods have failed .. it’s not clear how anyone could believe that public education could succeed in those schools.

    > Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers
    > Union, said teachers voted in favor of the pilot school
    > mainly because it was better than state intervention.

    > here isn’t a shred of evidence that making people
    > work longer hours without any rights and forcing
    > students to go on extended day . . . will be a positive
    > experience,” Stutman said yesterday.

    Well, what a surprise that the Teachers Union is skeptical about changing the model.

    And what is “work longer hours without any rights” mean? Most people in the US work 2,000 hours a year without worrying about “rights”. This Union guy, interviewed in the context of failing schools, can only worry about “teacher rights” that might be associated with working more than 186 days a year (not certain how many hours that is, since most schools don’t require eight hours on site for their teaching staff).

    If the State really wanted to try a radical experiment, it would intervene and create a situation where the Teachers Union would not be invited to the party.