Teachers and Turnaround

There are roughly a billion human capital/resources issues that come with any aggressive turnaround effort. This piece does a nice job of capturing the variety. I’ll reinforce the point I make in there about specialists. It’s not just reading specialists or math specialists, but management and school culture specialists as well.

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2 Responses to Teachers and Turnaround

  1. Good sense may be popping up all over. You’re right about the need for specialists, and presumably that specialization includes a variety of specialized interventions for students, as opposed to dumping more on the plates of ever-extended educators. Its good that Arlene Ackerman was restrained in her quote, but she often seems to first start with an anti-teacher angle, as she did with criticizing the district’s failed turnarounds in 2002.

    A better starting place would have been Philly’s special investigator’s report after the two teachers suffered broken necks. The rampant violence and disorder and the district’s timidity in enforcing discipline would provide a better explanation why reforms have failed.

    And over at National Journal, Gayle Andrews wrote: “Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, led by Robert Balfanz, used longitudinal methods to follow almost 13,000 Philadelphia students from 1996-2004, from the time when those students were 6th graders to one year past when they would have graduated if they had graduated on time. The research uncovered four critical predictive indicators that can identify sixth graders likely to drop out: (1) failing math; (2) failing English/language arts; (3) attending school less than 80% of the time; (4) receiving a poor final behavior grade in one class. Course failure was a better predictor of drop out than test scores. The four flags combined were 34 times more likely to predict graduation than student race.

    A common response to students who struggle in the sixth grade is to wait and hope they grow out of it or to characterize the difficulty as temporary as students adjust to a new school, more challenging curriculum, or less personalized attention. But the Johns Hopkins research demonstrates that these 6th graders don’t recover from these early struggles. Instead, they drop out. Intervention in the middle grades is both productive and absolutely essential.”

    If we invested more in alternative schools so we had the power to make decisions in the best interests of students, we human beings would make more bad decisions, as we also made good decisions. But would we be 34 times more likely to make the wrong choices, as we are when we play Hamlet and hope kids grow out of their behavior.

    Until we invest more in alternative schools, we have no options for helping these kids except for hoping they pull though. But that means that we adults don’t have to make hard choices. When adults duck the tough choices its bad for kids, but its the easiest path for bureaucracies.

  2. Pingback: Specialists « Meeting the Turnaround Challenge

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