Turning around the bottom 1%

The Obama administration will fund efforts to “turn around” 5,000 failing schools over the next five years, says Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Duncan said that might mean firing an entire staff and bringing in a new one, replacing a principal or turning a school over to a charter school operator.

. . . “If we turn around just the bottom 1 percent, the bottom thousand schools per year for the next five years, we could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” Duncan said.

States would decide how to spend the turnaround money, which could be as much as $4.5 billion.

Don’t waste billions of dollars trying to do the impossible, writes Andy Smarick on Flypaper.  Turnarounds rarely work.  What’s necessary is the ruthlessness to close failing schools and open new schools.

Do you plan to invest billions of dollars to try to invent a reliable, scalable strategy for fixing long-broken schools? Or are we going to humbly accept the clear lesson from 40 years of turnaround efforts in education (and even longer in the private sector), and recognize that closures and new starts are the way to go?

So far, the department’s turnaround ideas include both traditional fix-it activities and closing and reopening schools, Smarick points out.

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