Goldilocks and the Four Turnaround Models

(I promise, if you stick with me, the title will make sense …)

Sam Dillon is on a tear lately, turning in a third major story on the federal school improvement grant (SIG) efforts.  I think I can summarize this one in one sentence: when the federal government decides to inject $3.5BB into a fragmented set of systems, in order to solve a deeply complex set of problems, the results will be variable, and we may not be able to declare victory after several months.

At the risk of being too glib, I find it somewhat ironic that the meta-turnaround story a few months back was that states/districts were being asked to do too much too soon, and the story here is “too slow!”  It’s not surprising, though.  The actual work of turning around a school is incredibly difficult, while the SIG program adds to that work the complexity of executing a new set of federal regulations (USED), applying for the grant (SEAs), and disbursing funds to districts.  Hmmm … what other new federal program shares these characteristics??*

On the merits, I find myself agreeing with Andy R on this one.  I care far more about the outcomes of these efforts than the speed with which funds are disbursed. And while I might seem like a broken record on this topic, the national discussion about turnaround has been almost completely devoid of talk of results for children.  That’s bad and has to change.

But getting back to the title of this post (see, I promised), if we knew how to turn around chronically failing schools at scale, we’d be doing it already.  Because we don’t, we’re bound to see a Goldilocks effect in the implementation: some attempts at turnaround will be too hot, others too cold, and some just right.  We can learn a lot from all three conditions.

*Yes, I’m suggesting you all begin a countdown for an onslaught of “RtTT Implementation Too Slow” stories.

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One Response to Goldilocks and the Four Turnaround Models

  1. John Young says:

    More like the reformers are setting themselves up with a plethora of excuses for why it won’t work at all. So your lead strategy is “not enough time”?

    How about: “what do you expect, none of this is peer reviewed or based on established social science or credible evidence in the least, so it’s really just a big crap shoot anyway?”

    This would be more accurate, make reformers more human than their current status of being firebombing radicals who have clearly set on acheiving their own private ambitions at the expense of children and their communities, and allow the rest of the education world to attack reform efforts in a real way. Now the reformers are too busy claiming every victory while at the same time setting us all up for it’s eventual failure. Shamelss. Just like Arne’s Chicago, pure shameless.

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