School turnaround failure
Monday, June 25, 2012
Yesterday’s front-page Boston Globe story
on English High School
is a cautionary tale of what takes place under the broad banner of “school turnaround,” and of how ill-conceived reform efforts probably set back attempts to build support for school change models that actually stand some chance of moving the student-achievement needle.
Boston’s English High has a storied history, but its glory days lie far in the past. In recent years, it has been one of the city’s most troubled high schools, plagued by abysmal student achievement levels and high drop-out rates. To tackle the challenge of turning the school around, the school department tapped a 33-year-old principal with exactly one year under his belt running a school, and handed him the sweeping powers over staffing and curriculum that came with English High being one of Boston’s 11 state-designated underperforming schools.
As the story illustrates, Sito Narcisse
proceeded to upend almost everything at English High -- except for its lousy achievement scores and graduation rate. He got rid of three-quarters of the school’s teachers and administrators -- they were either broomed out or quit. He instituted -- and then abandoned -- a school uniform policy. He pushed single-gender classrooms into school, though he did so with no training for teachers on the challenges that would bring.
Now, after three years, with only slight improvements in MCAS scores, a graduation rate that has fallen further, and a devastating report from a state review team that said students were regularly seen texting, talking, and napping in classes during a January visit, Narcisse is leaving. He is taking an administrative job in the Montgomery County, Maryland, school system.
“We were the NBT school — the Next Big Thing school,” one staff member told the Globe.
“Whatever the buzz was, that’s where you found us — same-sex classes, uniforms, ninth grade academy, curriculum initiatives. But there was no input from anyone — no research, no training, no evaluating, and therefore no effective implementation. It was change without progress.”
The most striking thing about the Globe
account was the absence of any mention of a clear instructional approach designed to boost student achievement. As Pioneer Institute’s Jim Stergios writes
on his Boston.com education blog, things like school uniforms or single-gender classrooms might be perfectly reasonable components of a school turnaround strategy, but they need to be part of some bigger plan that tackles the core mission of teaching and learning. Brockton High School
stands as one of the best examples of what can be achieved
when there is clarity, purpose, and a pedagogical foundation for an effort to drive improved academic outcomes. And Brockton drove huge gains in student achievement without any added authority to get rid of teachers or any of the other strategies English used, which only look like gimmicky fads when implemented so poorly.
Boston school Superintendent Carol Johnson has named an assistant superintendent as the new headmaster at English High, and says the new principal will report directly to her, not to a deputy superintendent. But absent a clear plan for academic gains, changing the line of reporting authority seems like just another empty reform move that misses the point. --MICHAEL JONAS BEACON HILL
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After weeks of fighting the city’s school department to get the names of all school employees before debating the department’s budget, the Fall River City Council
was finally given the list and then. . . did nothing with it
A battle is brewing in Hingham,
where megadeveloper AvalonBay has filed a Chapter 40B proposal
for a 177-unit housing development in the tony town.
The head of the Chelsea Housing Authority is suing
the agency, saying he is facing harassment from the authority’s board, which wants to renegotiate terms of the five-year contract he signed in the wake of the resignation of disgraced former housing chief Michael McLaughlin.Middleborough
prepares for a blue-streak demonstration
against its new anti-profanity fine. NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON
US Rep. Stephen Lynch
says on Keller@Large
that if the Supreme Court
knocks down the health care reform law, he’d like to see a state-run public option
The Beat the Press
panel debates whether Sen. Scott Brown
’s gaffe (now make that gaffes, plural) about secret meetings with kings and queens
is election year silliness or a valid issue
on par with Elizabeth Warren
heritage that has legs. Former state rep Anthony Verga
of Gloucester, a Democrat, endorses Brown, the Gloucester Times reports.
The Weekly Standard
says Mitt Romney
’s risk-averse campaign strategy that involves focusing on the economy and little else comes with plenty of risk
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The state’s cranberry industry
is going all out
to fight the inclusion of sweetened cranberry juice in a proposed federal ban on sugary drinks in school cafeterias.
Some locales are having a tough time making 40B targets
, the West Bridgewater-based coffee importer and roaster, is picking a fight with gargantuan Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
over the industry’s split on expanding the definition of “fair trade” from small farmers to now include large plantations.
A federal judge moves
to tamp out the smartphone patent wars
The Catholic hierarchy
around the country is gearing up for a “Fortnight for Freedom,”
a two-week effort the bishops hope will put the spotlight on what they claim is an erosion of religious freedom. Liberal faithful say it is a partisan campaign designed to boost Republican
In response to changing requirements at the state’s universities, Metro West schools
are ahead of the pack when it comes to beefing up
the math and science courses that high schools students need to take.HEALTH CARE
A New Hampshire law bans health care exchanges
, the Concord Monitor reports.Saint Anne’s in Fall River,
a Steward hospital, is closing its cardiac rehabilitation program, the Herald News reports
Boston ranks among the healthiest metro areas
in the country, Reuters reports
).The Berkshire Eagle makes the case
for decoupling health insurance
Fewer people are appealing automobile insurance surcharges
, even though the odds of winning on appeal are good, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting reports
(via Lowell Sun
In a ranking of cities by car thefts
, Boston ranks 195th, behind Springfield, Time reports.
US Rep. Michael Capuano says
in a Somerville Journal
op-ed that supporters of the Green Line extension to Somerville
need to be prepared for a phased project, since the MBTA’s financing plan for the project is built on several shaky blocks, including a vehicle mileage tax and state funding for the line’s annual operation.ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT
A new study of the effects of global warming
says sea levels
are increasing three to four times faster in Boston and other East Coast locations than the global average. MEDIA Boston.com
is getting into radio
, hiring many of those laid off by WFNX.
An online poll
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