Excerpt from the Houston Chronicle article by Shelby Webb:
Four years after Houston ISD pulled the plug on a controversial campus improvement program that replaced dozens of principals and teachers, new Superintendent Richard Carranza announced his own turnaround plan that targets 32 schools across Houston.
"I know this can work, and I think that it's different from perhaps what was done in the past," Carranza said. "Research shows this kind of an approach has been successful in other urban districts."
Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, said it's rare for successful turnaround programs to target so many schools at once and to be forced by the district, rather than the actual campus.
"Nationally, what we're seeing in more and more districts is that the school really has to own the solution and buy into it and have plans that are really customized to that school," Lake said. "If this is a one-size-fits-all solution for all the schools, I would have my doubts about whether it'll be successful."
HISD plans to increase professional development and teacher training at the 32 schools, as well as lengthen work days. Stipends will be paid for teachers' extra time.
Part of each day will be dedicated to teacher collaboration, and instructional coaches will sit in on classes to offer pointers to teachers trying to get students up to grade level.
Lake said attracting and keeping the best teachers at such low-performing schools is a surefire path to improvement, but says additional money may not do the trick.
"They want the opportunity to create their dream school that will take kids who would otherwise be in low-paying jobs or drop-out and get those kids to college so they can become entrepreneurs and leaders of the future," Lake said. "Usually, real autonomy and real trust in their ability to solve problems is what they're after. And being told by the central office every thing they're supposed to do probably won't attract many of them."
It often takes years and Herculean efforts to see concrete improvements bloom from such turnaround plans, but Carranza is confident that mimicking his successes in San Francisco will lead to promising results in Houston.
"Overall, turnaround is one of the hardest things for school districts to do," Lake said. "If you look at the results of national school improvement grants, it's been pretty disappointing with some exceptions, including (Carranza's past efforts in) San Francisco."