The subtitle of an article by Jennifer Brown in the Denver Post is, “Colorado ‘turnaround’ schools received $50 million since 2010 but many have not improved.” “Among the 29 schools in Colorado that have one year remaining on their ‘accountability clock’ before the state school board could move to shut them down or turn them into charters, most have not made significant progress, and some have gotten worse.” The analysis of student achievement data for schools receiving federal “…School Improvement Grant funds (and) found little correlation between money and academic gains.”
A spokesperson for the non-profit Bellwether Education Partners commented, “If you funnel a lot of money to the same dysfunctional districts that have been running the dysfunctional schools, these are the results you should expect…What’s mystifying to me is that people thought the school improvement grant program was going to get dramatically different results from the dozens of other similar efforts at school turnaround in the past.” That statement reminded me of the saying that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
The article is filled with statistics and examples, and it was obviously researched quite well. I wish there had been more about why school performances are so universally abysmal. There is one example of a new principal at a school “…where 90 percent of the kids are minorities and almost everyone is eligible for free or reduced lunch…” She realized she had to change the culture of gangs, drugs, and fighting. She used grant money to hire two additional assistant principals. They were told to learn the student’s names, greet them in the morning with fist bumps and high fives, and celebrate with them when they demonstrated good performance. The school had a 24 point improvement in math proficiency. Maybe other schools should try making the kids happy to be coming to school and acknowledging when they do well on a test. Refusing to allow gangs, drugs, and fighting would seem to be a good idea also.