The State Role in Turnaround … and Broader Reform

Rob Manwaring over at EdSector has been saying a lot of important things about turnaround.  Check out his new report on school “Restructuring,” which uses the lens of a middle school in the midst of a change process to look at the various policy obstacles inherent in  school change more broadly.

His most recent take on the subject – over at Quick/Ed – looks at the state role in turnaround.  It’s a nice overview of the policy decisions states must make on this issue.  It’s also illustrative of a broader coalescence that’s happening in education reform.  Partly driven by Race to the Top, but more specifically the four assurances therein, states are increasingly realigning their functions to match national priorities.  One of the pleasant repercussions of this is that I’m seeing a lot more authentic collaboration between states.  States are eager to learn from one another, adopt new ways of doing things, and participate in communities of practice.  While this was always possible to do, I think the federal approach to a few critical issues – turnaround, standards, assessment, educator effectiveness – has created a focusing event and an entry point for conversations.  It’s not that sexy, but I think it will ultimately be very powerful for practice.  It’s also good for disrupting the compliance-driven culture that pervades many state agencies.  States’ peers are being rewarded for shaking things up, and it’s important for others to learn how to replicate that behavior in a constructive way.

Also, As I’ve said before, I know not everyone favors a larger national/federal role in public education, but I do.  So, I think this is a good thing, so long as the focus is on the right topics, which I think they are.  If the upside of NCLB* was formalizing a culture of accountability for student outcomes, I hope that this round of reform – eventual reauthorization of ESEA included – gets us focused on the correct outcomes AND the tools necessary to arrive at those outcomes.
*I do think there were substantial downsides.

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