A Better Turnaround Strategy: EdWeek. Listening to teachers? In Delaware? #RTTT @GovernorMarkell #netDE #thisweekinedPosted: October 31, 2011
As Americans, we want our nation’s children to experience success. The failure of some schools to reach our most challenged students, coupled with our frustration over the slow pace of change, creates a sense of urgency. Hence, it is understandable that individuals and organizations try to intervene in extraordinary ways to overcome obstacles to academic success.
The U.S. Department of Education’s four “turnaround” models represent the latest of these bold responses. Clearly, it is a dramatic act to close a school; to release most of the faculty and recruit other teachers; to relinquish the school to an external organization promising better results; to offer financial incentives for raising test scores; or to bring in new leadership charged with generating the desired results. Occasionally, these measures have a short-term impact. For students struggling in the wake left by poverty and structural racism, there are no quick fixes, however. While high-profile solutions may create a sense of relief that action is under way, they have not produced turnarounds that are effective in the long term. They may even undermine more effective and sustainable practices.
There is a better strategy.
The way to turn schools around and transform the education of at-risk students is to invest in the professional ability of the faculty, making its members a mission-driven, skilled force for change. This strategy necessitates a reorganization built around faculty collaboration, intensive and embedded professional development, and personalized instruction. Working from this premise, the Jefferson County, Ky., public school system, which includes the city of Louisville, designed and implemented a fifth model that was fully operational by the 2010-2011 school year—a model not set forth by the Education Department, yet funded through a federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant.
We labeled this approach the “Investment Model” because it invests in the creation of a professionalized teaching culture and represents a conceptual shift in what teaching and learning are all about. It is built on the belief that teaching is a collaborative rather than an individual practice, and that teachers take collective ownership of student learning. If a student doesn’t grasp the concept, adults accept responsibility for not having taught it well enough. They make the time to reteach it until each student reaches competency in key academic standards. The district calls this approach Project Proficiency.
The model has three core elements.
• The first is the district’s investment in providing substantial, consistent time for teacher collaboration. In the Investment Model sites, teachers collaboratively develop learning tasks that are designed to be accessible to all students and to reveal the range of student understanding. They observe one another, analyze student work, and formulate ways to respond to gaps in student understanding through feedback and design of new learning experiences. Teachers of the same course or grade meet regularly to focus on common challenges and solutions. Facilitated by teacher leaders and highly skilled coaches, teachers maintain a nondefensive focus on hard questions and challenging classroom issues while increasing their content and pedagogical knowledge. The result is shared responsibility for increased effectiveness and student success.
• The second element is an emphasis on formative assessment that prepares teachers to diagnose students’ conceptual understanding of content matter and to provide feedback that advances learning. As a result, teachers adjust instruction to better reach students, and simultaneously connect with their students and personalize instruction. This personalization builds students’ confidence in their own capabilities, sustains them in tackling more-challenging material, and motivates them to set higher goals.
• The third element is effective and flexible use of the school schedule to provide time for personalized student support and stronger connections with adults and peers. The Jefferson County high schools applying the Investment Model implement a five-block, trimester schedule. This schedule gives teachers 70-minute periods in which to actively engage students in learning, enables students to concentrate on only five subjects at a time, and reduces the student-to-teacher ratio. It also allows for remediation and acceleration so that students move forward at an appropriate pace and receive timely support. Classes are coordinated so that teachers can regroup students to address particular concepts. Weekly advisory periods, titled College Access Time, support students’ social development, career interests, and preparation for college or postsecondary education and further personalize the school’s culture.
The Investment Model is based on these four research findings:
• Teachers are most effective when they have significant, consistent, regularly scheduled time for professional collaboration with colleagues, focused on the assessment of instructional practices, the analysis of student work, the individualization of instruction, and the provision of just-in-time feedback to students about how to advance their learning.
• Students are academically successful when school schedules optimize time for in-depth, engaging, and challenging learning experiences while accommodating both remediation and acceleration.
• Students are most likely to graduate and be college- and career-ready when they have positive, personal connections with adults and the school, and they are engaged in their own learning.
• Schools with concentrations of high-needs learners are more likely to attract and retain effective teachers when there is a culture of collaboration, professional growth, effective leadership, and student support.
Jefferson County has 10 high schools identified as persistently low-achieving, or PLA. Paradoxically, it also has five of the highest-performing high schools in the state. These bifurcated outcomes are not due to variation in will, knowledge, or skill among teachers and administrators, but to differences in students’ economic backgrounds. To turn around its socioeconomically challenged PLA schools, the district implemented the Investment Model in each of them. In addition, because the model held such promise, it was also implemented in many of the other comprehensive high schools.
The initial results of the Investment Model have been positive in terms of improved student performance on state tests, reduced retentions and dropouts, and increased graduation rates. In addition, the model has promoted stability among the faculty, who receive support and assistance to be successful.
Results on the 2011 state assessments are especially revealing. Overall, compared with the 2010 results, the 21 comprehensive high schools increased the percentage of students scoring at the proficient and distinguished levels from 40 percent to 54 percent in math and from 62 percent to 70 percent in reading, putting the district above the state average in both areas. Even more remarkable, all 10 of the PLA high schools increased their percentages of proficient and distinguished students in both math (with gains of 10 percentage points to 30 percentage points) and reading (with gains of 2 percentage points to 28 percentage points). In addition, the percentage of students scoring in the novice, or lowest, category was also significantly reduced. These results are striking improvements over prior years.
The Investment Model enables schools to enhance the stability and professional capacity of staff members and the academic performance and active engagement of students. Although not a quick fix, it presents a feasible and sustainable way to turn around student performance and school culture at persistently low-achieving schools. Indeed, the Investment Model can support improved student performance at any school. The quality and stability of a faculty are essential to student performance. This model is a way to ensure that teachers work together as professionals, inspired by the opportunity to transform the lives of children, and supported by a culture of collaboration and collegiality. The department’s official support for the Investment Model as a fifth turnaround option would provide a positive opportunity to create lasting improvement in our most challenged schools.
Marion Brady Schools FL Legislators. I know a few DE legislators that could use some advice, a Governor too. #netDE #thisweekinedPosted: October 29, 2011
REPRODUCED from http://www.marionbrady.com/Op-Eds.asp
Just change FL to DE and FCAT to DCAS…..
1. Your education policies are shaping minds, lives and Florida’s future, and it’s clear that
you don’t really know what you’re doing.
The script you’re following – the one written by the Business Roundtable – is appallingly simplistic. Educating – discerning the images of reality in kids’ heads and convincing them there are better ones they’d do well to accept – is inherently the most complex of all intellectual challenges, and you are treating it as if it’s a simple matter of distributing information. The Business Roundtable’s approach to education reform isn’t a product of teaching experience, of consultation with experienced teachers, or of research. It’s a reactionary product of ideology and the conventional wisdom.
2. You’re misdiagnosing the causes of poor performance.
Your stump speeches, campaign brochures and legislative proposals make it clear that you think the main problem with Florida’s schools is a lack of rigor. You imply that Florida’s educators aren’t doing their best, that they’re lazy or dumb or both, and that the situation calls for tough love, raised performance bars, more demanding courses, stiffer standards, and harsher penalties for failure. Your version of rigor has kids and teachers working longer and harder doing what has brought education to crisis. Wrong diagnosis, so wrong cure.
3. You’re assuming that the blame for unacceptable performance lies with people – primarily teachers and kids.
The late Edward Deming, one of the world’s foremost authorities on quality, believed that poor institutional and organizational performance almost always meant there was a SYSTEM problem. And system problems there certainly are. Lots of them. The curriculum you want to lock even more rigidly in place with national standards and tests was put in place in 1893, and accommodates the present knowledge explosion about as well as mule trains would accommodate today’s freight transport needs. That 19th-century relic is at odds with kids’ nature. It ignores the brain’s need for order and organization. It makes no provision for new fields of knowledge. It relies almost exclusively on learner short-term memory. It treats art, music, play and other intellect-enhancing activities as expendable frills. Its overemphasis on reading to the neglect of all other ways of learning is cranking out hundreds of thousands of kids who hate to read. That barely begins a list of Florida’s unaddressed education problems, all of which No Child Left Behind exacerbated, and the Race to the Top is on course to make worse.
4. Hundreds of studies have established beyond any doubt that the single greatest cause of the so-called “achievement gap” is poverty.
Florida has more than its share, but you don’t want to talk about it. If the subject comes up, it’s met with an attempt to change the subject to the evils of tenure or unions or some other red herring, conveniently ignoring the fact that some of the best-scoring states aren’t concerned with those matters while some of the worst use draconian measures to attack them.
5. To educational problems, you’re bringing an ideologue’s blind faith in Milton Friedman’s opinion that privatization, charters, vouchers, merit pay and other free-market strategies can cure all educational ills.
Maybe because he was an economist, Friedman believed that what motivates stock brokers also motivates teachers, but that’s simply not the case. Merit pay and other market schemes won’t make a dime’s worth of improvement in the only thing that counts: what goes on in kids’ heads. What they do is undermine the cooperation, trust, sharing of expertise and other “family” characteristics essential to school quality. There’s a reason market gimmicks are counterproductive in schools. They’re based on flawed ideas about human nature.
6. You’ve put all of Florida’s performance evaluation eggs in the FCAT basket.
It should concern you that the only thing machine-scored tests can measure with precision is a kid’s short-term memory. How useful is an education if it doesn’t help learners learn to think better – infer, hypothesize, generalize, relate, synthesize, value, and so on? The FCAT yields not a fraction of what a teacher who has worked with a kid for even a few weeks knows about her or
his potential and problems. The test is anti-educational and a criminal waste of a great deal of time and money, robbing Florida’s best and worst students of attention as schools pour resources into attempts to nudge the test scores of the “marginal middle” kids above a politically established pass-fail line.
If you’re serious about education reform, you could learn from Finland, the highest-scoring nation in the world. The Finns moved from the middle of the pack to leader of the world by following a simple reform strategy: True believers in education, they tax. Then they hire the cream of the academic crop. Next, they train them well. And finally, they trust and respect them enough to leave them alone.
Marion Brady is a retired high school teacher, college professor and district-level administrator, and the author of textbooks, professional books, and journal articles. He is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post newspaper as a guest blogger. His website is www.MarionBrady.com.
A bunch a vapid, self serving adults it seems…..
My Comments in RED
The educators in the Delaware Leadership Project are called aspiring school leaders. They work an entire school year helping to lead a school in a position that’s similar in scope to being an assistant principal. The hands-on training is compared to a residency-type setting that medical doctors complete before they practice. That might be a key to finding the best leaders for high-needs schools, Ruszkowski said.
“When we think about that, that’s potentially a best practice,” he said, adding the department will study the results. (Proof positive we are just engaging in an experiment, nothing more..and with our tax dollars and kids……)
The program is being modeled after the New York City Leadership Academy’s Aspiring Principal Program, which has improved student performance at low-performing schools, according to an independent study from the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University (study here: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/uploads/003/852/APP.pdf funded by Eli and Edythe Broad…just another example of research being passed off as independent when it really is being financed by the same business leaders that claim its results matter…..) Delaware created its own program, better-suited for this state’s needs, but kept that model in mind.
Funding for the first year of the program comes from the state Department of Education; the private sector (ahh, the WSFS led saviors of public education!), including the Rodel Foundation; and districts. The leadership project is now recruiting for the second group of aspiring school leaders. The program is run by Innovative Schools ( a prominent vendor named in the RTTT grant application….), a Wilmington non-profit (legal definition only here, does not connote a desire not to win contract $$) that aims to aid the public school system (and its bottom line, vis-a-vis employees and programs to shepherd). In addition to spending a year in a school, participants also take part in a professional-development process.
“These people, more than anything, have to have a fire in their belly to help these kids,” said Deborah L. Doordan, Innovative Schools’ executive director.
More than a shadow
At Central Middle School, Fambro works closely with Guido and other administrators, but she isn’t just a shadow. She makes independent decisions and acts, just like when she hopped on the intercom to help shepherd students to the bus on a hectic Friday afternoon. She has taken the lead on a project to create a parent center at the school. And she’s active in other areas, including teacher observations.
On a recent day, Fambro, Guido and a teacher sat at three student desks pushed together so they were facing one another. They were there to talk about a recent observation. Math teacher Jerod Phillips was eager to learn, and the principals praised him for many positives they saw in his classroom. But Phillips knew he was not perfect.
“I’m my own worst critic,” Phillips said.
“You did a great job,” Guido responded.
“I just want to get better,” Phillips said.
“If you are open to critics, that’s the only way to get better,” Fambro said.
This isn’t about excellence, it’s about money, I notice that the article fails to mention that DE alredy has removed one candidate from the program……how convenient for publicity (advertisement for second cadre in article)…just listen to the October SBOE meeting to hear Ruszkowski detail the departure….