Education council touts school turnarounds
Urban schools are using federal school improvement grants for an unprecedented number of turnarounds, an educational organization says.
The Council of Great City Schools held a joint news conference Friday with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to showcase the results they've seen from more than $3.5-billion in grant funding authorized in 2009 for the nation's lowest-achieving schools, known as the "bottom five percent."
Hillsborough County was a minor participant in the school improvement grant program.
School improvement grants aren't new. But the program was expanded under the Obama administration, with the requirement that states and school districts use the money for intervention. This intervention could take a variety of forms: replacing the principal and half the staff, replacing the principal and making instructional reforms, closing the school and reopening it as a charter school, or closing the school and relocating the students.
More than half the schools went for the first model, called a turnaround. "We have seen an enormous number of schools undergoing the turnaround strategy," said Mike Casserly, the council's executive director. "Cities are using these strategies at twice the rate of the nation. It's very clear that what we are seeing is a promising trend."
Duncan agreed the results are remarkable. "This is a fantastic amount of movement in a short amount of time," he said. And it's all the more impressive, given the resistance these measures can encounter in local communities. "This work is tough," he said. "It's hard. There's nothing easy about it," he said. "But it's the most important work in education in this country."