For struggling schools, transformation is key
Collaboration, innovation crucial to school improvement
WASHINGTON - April 13, 2010 -
Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee heard testimony today on how to best improve low-performing schools. The discussion focused on turnaround models, which are central to President Obama’s three core education policies: Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants and his blueprint for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Under these three programs, individual schools or districts can qualify for federal funds if they choose one of four models to improve their schools: closure, restart, turnaround or transformation. These are the same models established under No Child Left Behind, and of the four, only the transformation model has the promise of sustainable results that can benefit all children.
“We have an extraordinary opportunity here to do what’s right for students and re-establish the original promise of ESEA,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association. “Across the nation, we have seen incredible results when educators and communities work together to transform their schools. Instead of investing in methods that haven’t produced results for students, we should be injecting our limited resources into evidence-based reforms to achieve the best results for students.”
In Denver, Colo., for example, teachers and parents have teamed up to build The Math and Science Leadership Academy, a teacher-led public school. There, teachers have the freedom to try new methods, and they work together to evaluate each others’ performance. As a result, parents are more involved and students are more engaged.
In Hamilton County, Tenn., established networks of principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, lead math teachers and lead literacy teachers work together to share best practices, strategies and interventions, with the goal of closing achievement gaps. They also reach out to students and parents to help teachers better understand what is working in the classroom.
Under the program, called “Middle Schools for a New Society,” the achievement gap in Hamilton County’s middle schools has narrowed from 24 percent to 14 percent in language arts, and from 23 percent to 15 in percent in math.
“We do not have to close schools, fire all the teachers in a school, or turn a school into a charter school to make it better. For millions of students who attend schools in rural communities, these three models aren’t an option, and studies have shown that these methods just aren’t working,” said Van Roekel. “There is a better way. Successful and innovative models of public education—that involve partnerships among governments, parents, community organizations, education unions, businesses and foundations—are already happening around the country. For long-term, sustainable school transformation, shared responsibility and collaboration are essential.”
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.
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