A policy brief on school turnarounds published this week — authored by Tina Trujillo of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education and Michelle Renée of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University — sharply criticizes a federal approach to improving public education that’s based on principles of competition and accountability.
It notes that School Improvement Grants, a program designed to “turn around” 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-scoring schools, including a number in the Bay Area, offers only short-term financial support.
I’d love to hear from employees and families at Oakland’s four School Improvement Grant participants — Roots International, United for Success, Alliance, and Elmhurst Community Prep — about the report, and the SIG program, itself.
Here’s one excerpt:
The SIG program’s reforms require massive administrative and teacher replacement, particularly under the “turnaround option.” In the public debate about the SIG program, reforms such as this have been described as new and innovative. In reality, the nation has significant experience with these models, particularly over the past 40 years. Generations of research show that the SIG reforms are based on faulty evidence, unwarranted claims and they ignore contradictory evidence.
The paper goes on to draw a contrast what some in the education world describe as a “market-based” view of public schooling and what the authors consider to be its broader purpose:
Fundamentally, the SIG policy is an extension of the NCLB market-based approach to education, not a change in direction. The policy assumes that schools behave in the same way as private corporations are envisioned to behave when it relies on competition, monitoring, and rigid accountability.
In this way the SIG policy is at odds with a democratic approach to public education, which treats schooling as a public good. Democratic purposes of schooling are far broader than profit-based, market-driven ones. The democratic approach creates opportunities for local communities to publicly deliberate and self-govern. Its goal is to provide all students with equitable opportunities to learn, participate in society, and further social change
Some of the approaches embraced by the authors include:
- a greater emphasis on teaching and learning, rather than on structural changes, such as staff replacement (one of the big lessons learned from Oakland’s small schools movement, especially at the high school level, though teachers at some of those schools again had to apply for their jobs this year);
- including multiple measures of effectiveness, not just test scores; and
- offering support for students and families, especially for those who live in poverty, as OUSD is trying to do with its community schools model.
Where do you stand? Does this take on school turnarounds resonate with your experience?