“We know what to do about the nation’s struggling urban schools. But for the most part, we’re choosing not to do it.” So argues Richard Whitmire on RealClearEducation.
Tennessee created the Achievement School District to turn around its lowest-performing schools. “Some schools got fresh starts, others got absorbed by charters,” Whitmire writes.
Michigan has formed a special district for low-performing schools and Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arkansas “are moving that way,” he writes.
. . . The nation’s most dramatic schools turnaround example is found in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina offered educators a rare start-over opportunity. Today, nearly all New Orleans students attend charter schools, and each fresh study of the results show students moving in the right direction.
Denver, Washington, D.C. and other cities are working with “top-performing charter schools” to leverage change, writes Whitmire.
In Memphis, California-based Aspire Public Schools has taken over a failing school, Hanley Elementary, and all its students in a black neighborhood called Orange Mound.
Scores were low in the first year, but the second year saw “big increases in math proficiency and respectable increases in literacy skills,” writes Whitmire.
“In the first year, you really need to focus on changing the culture and leading indicators such as attendance, suspension and student attrition,” Aspire’s Allison Leslie said. “In the second year, there should be increases in proficiency and exceptional growth. By year three you should see great gains in proficiency and continue to see high growth scores.”
Chartering Turnaround, a new report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Center on School Turnaround, looks at how three charter management organizations restarted and improved low-achieving public schools. According to the report, “the autonomy to hire, retain and reward staff; the ability to adjust the length of school year, academic program and curriculum; and, the option to develop tailored approaches for finances and facilities” are the most critical factors.