Turnarounds without trauma

It’s possible to do school turnarounds without trauma, editorializes the New York Times. Two years ago, Charlotte-Mecklenburg decided “to put the best principals in the most troubled schools — and give them the autonomy they need to succeed.”

Under the Strategic Staffing Initiative, principals who have improved student performance at their current school are given bonuses and allowed to recruit new leadership teams in exchange for moving to chronically low-performing schools.

Once at the new schools, the principals are permitted to remove as many as five teachers if they consider them to be hostile to reform. These turnaround schools are also given high priority when their new leadership teams request technology, staffing or new programs.

Test scores rose significantly by the end of the first year at the seven pilot schools; discipline problems decreased. (Here’s a link to an Aspen Institute study.) The program has been expanded to 20 schools.

It wasn’t necessary to fire entire staffs, the Times notes. But principals did have the power to get rid of teachers they didn’t want and hire new ones.

NPR asks: Is tenure necessary?

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  1. Diana Senechal says:

    Teachers could be “hostile to reform” for sound reasons–that is, if the reforms are misguided or shoddily implemented. One could be “hostile to reform” in the name of good education.

    Well, someone might say, in that case the teacher should just seek another school with a more compatible culture.

    But given how reforms come and go, why should a teacher be fired for not supporting a reform that might be gone in another few years?

    And why are principals given the right to fire teachers for their opinions?

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Be good to know what “hostile to reform” means.
    If the school is in bad straits, one would think that, as a matter of probability, any change would be for the better. Not all of them, of course, but that would be the way to bet.
    And since the principals in question are “the best”, it would follow they know their reforms, among other things.

  3. Why shouldn’t principals have the power to fire teachers? Certainly the effectiveness of the public education system isn’t served by saddling principals with whatever teachers fate and the seniority system blows their way and education is the purpose of the public education system, is it not?

  4. Oh, and it’s only *five* teachers that the principal can send packing.

    If the principal wants to collect that performance bonus then there’s a price tag attached to each teacher and price to be paid by the principal for being anything but careful and judicious in which five that’s going to be.

    And among those who remain? A lot of incentive for the principal to make them as effective as possible and not much with which to threaten them.

  5. Most “reforms” are merely changes –rarely for the better. Few superintendents and principals really know how to improve education. So they settle for the APPEARANCE of improvement. Rearranging the deck chairs is their metier. In our district our clueless, bandwagon-following supe mandates that teachers start using Data Director multiple-choice scan tests to “identify the standards that children are failing to learn and thereby guide instruction.” Sounds great doesn’t it? In reality, it’s a horrendously time-consuming business and it does not tell me anything I don’t already know. I give essay tests, which are much, much more useful for both the students and me. They give me a crystal clear picture of what the student understands. Yet I’m being told to revert to a worse system because it’s part of a package of bogus “reforms” that will burnish the superintendent’s reputation. I’m being told to exchange educationally-excellent essay tests –the kind used in high-performing European and Asian countries, as well as AP courses –for mulitiple-choice exams that can be scanned into a computer so the supe can print out charts and graphs. General public, understand this: most ed leaders are frauds.

  6. SuperSub says:

    A strong experienced captain will result in an orderly ship that works well.
    A strong experienced principal will result in an orderly school that works well.

    The “reform” that the principals are allowed to effect could be nothing more than increased standards or enforcement of discipline policies.
    As long as administrators bear responsibility for any decisions they make, I’m all for their input into my classroom. I am not the end-all be-all of teaching and neither is any teacher whether they are a 30 year veteran or a TFA all-star.

    I fully support any policy that returns more autonomy and responsibility to the building level.