When it Works, Part 2 of 2

Bet you thought I would leave the Part 2 dangling forever …

Linda Perlstein wrote a great piece last week about a trip we took together to Anacostia HS in southeast DC.  We also visited in 2008, before the massive intervention, a trip that she wrote about here.  I have a longstanding personal relationship with that school, so it was really exciting to see how much has changed since I first walked in the front door years ago.  Linda, though, captures more eloquently than I can the importance of seeing both the “before” and the “after” of turnaround:

“… today I saw a major [miracle]. I toured Anacostia High School again, a year after the D.C. school system turned it over to outside management, which replaced most of the staff and has begun to build an entirely new culture … Yes, I saw two contraband cellphones. I saw two teachers clearly in over their heads, and some obnoxious sassing. But you know what else I saw? Hallways populated not by idle teenagers but by an awful lot of men in suits. Lots of teaching, and some of what looked to me like learning … even the briefest of visits would show you that something important in that building has already been turned around. If you are a reporter in a district with schools on the block for turnaround, you’d better get in there fast before anything changes—so that you will be able to explain compellingly what happens when things do.”

This point is so important, because most folks have no idea just how dysfunctional chronically troubled schools are.  To put this in terms of a popular education policy trope, it’s the difference between a point-in-time measure and a growth measure.  This is also part of the reason that turnaround is such a scary thing to take on; even potential successes look messy for a minute.

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