***4/24/2011 Priority Flashback*** News Journal Editorial and Cartoon by Rob Tornoe #RTTT

Deeply flawed
reform plan will
hurt students

Written by


12:21 AM, Apr. 23, 2011|

In January 2010, the Christina School
Board of Education voted 5-2 to
support the state of Delaware in the pursuit
of $100 million in federal dollars to
accomplish several tasks: improve
teacher/leader effectiveness, recruitment
and retention; deploy world-class data
systems; link teacher performance to
student testing data; and deploy one of
four discrete strategies for turning around
the lowest-performing schools.

Delaware unfortunately has experience with
low-performing schools, and the Christina
School District has carried the equally
unfortunate burden of running some of
these schools. Delaware has received the
well-intentioned (albeit heretofore
ineffective) assistance of the state’s single-
minded business community and the
misspent money of venture
who have invaded Delaware’s educational
landscape, from Eli Broad to William
Budinger and his Rodel foundation and
Vision 2015 effort that has landed two
schools into the newly defined Partnership
Zone, also known as the PZ.

The PZ is the creation of a special
designation in the Delaware code of
regulations that gives unilateral authority to
the state Secretary of Education, an
unelected position, to name schools that
are persistently underachieving, according
to the unique metric of standardized test
scores of our students.

The four models allowed to “fix” schools
come from this experimental wasteland
and include closure, a self-explanatory
strategy; restart, a model that calls for the
closing of a school, farming out the
operation to a charter or educational
management organization and reopening
it; turnaround, which requires the summary
dismissal of every adult in the building and
strictly prohibits the rehiring of leadership
or any more than 50 percent of the
educators; and transformation, which
entails replacing the principal and taking
steps to increase teacher and school leader
effectiveness, comprehensive instructional
reform strategies, increase learning time
and create community-oriented schools,
and provide operational flexibility.

On Oct. 5, the Christina School District
Board of Education voted unanimously to
support the transformation model. I
believed it to be the least distasteful
strategy of these four choices not
supported by research. Most important, it
did not call for the summary dismissal of
staff, which meant it was likely to be the
least disruptive.

Many of you may be thinking: but Glasgow
and Stubbs are failing — they need some
sort of massive disruption to break free of
the inertia that has allowed them to
perform so poorly. Educational reformers r
efer to this as the “status quo”: when bad
schools are allowed to make only
incremental changes that beget no real
results, the cycle of poor performance
repeats and persists.

This is a false label. The status quo is
actually a series of poorly conceived
strategies, often arising from the
, that fail to recognize the value
of educators, parents and communities.
Most important, they fail to focus on the
real constituents, our students. This status
quo has been with us as a nation in earnest
since the watershed report in 1983: “A
Nation at Risk.” Since then, an overly
healthy and robust sector of educational
consultants has dominated the “quick fix”
reform strategies than have “assisted” in
the nearly 30-year accelerated decline of
education in our country. Our current
version of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act, No Child Left Behind,
continues a legacy of labeling schools,
communities and children as failures with
accountabilities that actually exacerbate
rather than ameliorate the problems. Now,
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
has decided that America, with its firmly
embedded competitive culture, should
indeed compete for money, creating by
default a series of winners and losers. I
don’t believe any child should lose, and this
idea strongly drives my feelings about Race
to the Top and what we are doing to
Glasgow High School and Stubbs right now.

Our union, administration and board
entered into a Memorandum of
Understanding in support of the PZ plan,
approved by the DOE, to guide us through
transformation. In this plan and MOU, a
process of interviewing was designed and
agreed to by all parties for the selection of
educators to remain at our two PZ schools.
In retrospect, as a critic of the
transformation plan, I wish I had more
forcefully addressed the issue of
interviewing, but I didn’t, and the board
supported the cooperation of our
administration and union on the issue and
the MOU.

Then the process evolved, and it is
apparent to me that the rules for teacher
selection in both the plan and the MOU
were simply not followed. Most notably,
there is a requirement that the campus
principal be present for the interviews as a
participant, which was violated at the
Glasgow process.

From what has been described by affected
teachers and administration, it appears we
have centered on the sole metric of a high-
stakes interview process that was not
executed with fidelity to either governing
instrument, the MOU or the PZ plan. It
raises the question: what else in the plan is
arbitrary? Instructional models? Extended
day? Extended time? Annual yearly
progress goals?

Schools are not businesses; they are
bedrock institutions of a democratic
republic. They are a source, when run well,
of equity, excellence and opportunity for all
children who enter their portals.

We need better thinking from Dover right
now. I am more uninterested in federal

than ever because of the chaos those
dollars are bringing to my administrators in
the way of painful planning sessions; my
teachers, as they add no resources into the
actual classrooms; and most importantly
my students, as those dollars ride
sidesaddle with the destabilizing policies I
have spent the last 10 minutes bashing.

In closing, I would like to ask that Gov. Jack
Markell and Dr. Lillian Lowery strongly
consider the testimony offered by real
stakeholders and to please do so
understanding, as chiefexecutive and
state secretary, that you work for us, all of
us, not the other way around. We are not
your employees — we are your
constituents, and we are asking for your
public service on behalf of the one, often
voiceless stakeholder block that matters:
our students. The issue at hand is local. We
are the governing body of the Christina
School District, and so we will decide what
happens in our district. If you wish to assert
your regulatory authority to effect a full-
state takeover of CSD, that is your
prerogative, and you are free to pursue it,
but I would suggest with a fair degree of
confidence that our stakeholders, whom we
will listen to, will advise us to fight for our
schools and for local control.

Related Links
  • It’s time for Christina to honor the
    commitment to improving
  • Christina board’s action a betrayal of pledge
  • Christina School District

One thought on “***4/24/2011 Priority Flashback*** News Journal Editorial and Cartoon by Rob Tornoe #RTTT

  1. Chuck Cory

    Mr. Young and Board members,

    You should not and are not forced to participate in the RTTT program.
    Either get on board with the various processes and try your best to make this program a success…or bow out and do your best to prove that you can solve the issues yourselves. Then let the voters decide if you did the district and the students any favors.

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