Openings in the windy city!

The Office of School Turnaround at Chicago Public Schools is currently hiring a Director of Curriculum & Instruction and a school principal. See our website for the position descriptions and more information about how to apply.


New Publication: Creating Internal Lead Partners

Our newest publication, “Creating Internal Lead Partners for Turnaround,” examines the role and and structures of Internal Lead Partners (ILPs) in district turnaround strategies.  

Internal Lead Partners or ILP-like strategies have been launched in a few districts and states, but the concept is still new. Although we are bullish on the work of external Lead Partners, as a recent report from Education Sector points out, scaling up school management organizations can be expensive and challenging. SEAs and LEAs with the commitment and capacity could consider this internal complement to the external Lead Partner.

Establishing an ILP alongside external Lead Partners establishes a portfolio strategy that has the potential to impact a greater number of students and schools. The internal Lead Partner also creates opportunities for districts to scale up best practices that are adopted or designed with the district in the Partnership Zones.

Stay tuned for our upcoming publications on state policy for turnaround and MOUs/Partnership Agreements.

From the Field: State Updates

School Takeover is Key to Mich. Education Reform
The Associated Press
Dec. 28, 2009

“The most dramatic change in state education law will start with the listing of the state’s lowest-achieving schools by Sept. 1… The list will include roughly 170 schools… Each school on the list will be placed under the supervision of a yet-to-be-hired state school reform officer… He or she would act much like a superintendent and school board, making decisions related to both academics and finances.”

Miss. Superintendent: Give Board Consolidation Authority
The Associated Press
Dec. 29, 2009
“Tom Burnham, who will take over for his second stint as superintendent of education in January, says lawmakers should considering allowing the state Board of Education to consolidate districts that it takes over and to establish charter schools in those districts… Burnham said he is making the recommendation because ‘in my mind you don’t give it (the school system) back to the people who allowed it to fail to begin with.’ With consolidation or charter schools, he said, ‘You are creating a new governing structure.'”

Principals as CEOs

A new U.S. News podcast series, Leadership for the Next Decade, recently featured Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan as the special guest. Duncan discusses how troubled some of our schools are and that principals need the same skills as CEOs to turn those schools around and run them efficiently and effectively. Listen to the podcast here. Acknowledging that some principals require a different set of skills than is taught in most traditional leadership programs is the first step, actually training principals through alternative programs (see profiles of this type of program) and supporting them in the most challenging schools is where the real work must happen.

District Leaders Make Moves

District leaders in both Detroit and Boston are receiving national attention for their approaches in transforming chronically low-performing schools. Last night, Boston Superintendent Carol Johnson unveiled her plan to restructure 14 of the city’s lowest performing schools. The schools will either receive massive overhauls or be closed. A few of the schools were ordered to close last year, but were given an extra year to improve after public outcry against the closures.  

Detroit’s been in the turnaround spotlight for few years now, as a large portion of the district’s schools (and the majority of the district’s high schools) are in need of dramatic change. Barbara Byrd-Bennett responded to the challenge and continues to fight the battles in the district.  As Byrd-Bennet continues negotiations with the Detroit Federation of Teachers, education reformers across the country will be watching to see what comes out the other side.

Leaders vs. Laggards

The Center for American Progress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Enterprise Institute recently joined forces and released Leaders and Laggards: A state-by-state report card on educational innovation. The report analyzes a variety of indicators from school management and finance systems, to HR practices (hiring, evaluation, performance pay, removal of ineffective teachers), the use of data, and the environment for state reform. The report doesn’t focus on under-performing schools, but our experience has shown that barriers, inefficiencies, or restrictions at the state and district levels are magnified in those persistently chronically under-performing schools.

Several places implementing a variety of reform efforts and piloting innovative programs are highlighted, but it’s clear that the majority of districts and states continue to work under restrictive policies and archaic practices. The report’s methodology, and the use of (and exclusion of other) indicators, has resulted in a bit of noise from various stakeholders. But, even with these cautions, the report forces us to ask the right questions.

We have the research and the data to show that many policies and practices aren’t showing results, and we have the Race to the Top and the Innovation Fund competitive grant programs to spur innovative growth — now the question is: will education leaders take the steps and gather the political courage to make the changes that are so urgently needed?

For more information, read EdWeek’s analysis of the report.

Three States Looking for a Few Good Partners

Illinois, Massachusetts, and Virginia all released Requests for Proposals/Responses (RFPs and RFRs) for turnaround partners over the last two weeks. While the purpose  and role of the partners is slight different for each state (as are the timelines for response), it is clear that the demand for partners who specialize in school turnaround (and are willing to exchange increased authority over conditions for accountability of results) is growing. The big question is, where’s the supply of partners who are ready to take on this work?

Check the links below for more information on each states RFP/RFR.

  • The Illinois RFP was released in mid-October by the Illinois State Board of Education. ISBE is establishing a list of pre-qualified Lead and Supporting Partners to work in the “Illinois Partnership Zone” — the State’s effort to establish  human capital/school intervention partnerships with a limited number of school districts throughout the State. 
  • In Massachusetts, the RFR can be accessed through the state procurement system, document #10APAJP1. Specific information about the types of partners and partnerships can be found here.
  • The Virginia RFP  process is being run by the Virginia Department of Education. VA is seeking proposals from qualified sources to serve as Lead Turnaround Partners (LTP) on an as needed basis, to develop and implement academic programs for one or more of the core discipline areas of math, science, social studies and language arts for students in persistently low-achieving public schools.