2010 Superintendents of the Year Call on “Coach” Duncan to Promote Turnaround Successes

2010 Superintendents of the Year Call on “Coach” Duncan to Promote Turnaround SuccessesOn Friday, December 10th, Secretary Arne Duncan sat down for a candid conversation with the American Association of School Superintendents’ (AASA) 2010 Superintendents of the Year. This group of 29 leaders invited the Secretary to cap their three-day forum on what works and what doesn’t work in school turnaround implementation.

The superintendents, led by the 2010 Superintendent of the Year Betty Morgan of Washington County Schools, Md., and Superintendent Patricia Jo Phillips of North St. Paul, Minn., delivered impassioned pleas to the Secretary to improve public opinion of our nation’s public schools. Phillips asked Duncan to lead the charge by getting the word out on the “turnaround stories galore” that exist but aren’t reported in the media. The Secretary wholeheartedly agreed that there are a number of positive turnaround stories out there, but added that getting media attention on them has been tough.

Since President Obama took office, Congress has appropriated more than $4 billion to help turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools. The Secretary has set a national goal to turn around 5,000 schools in five years. In the first year, 44 states so far have reported they are supporting turnarounds in 730 schools. Through the commitment of superintendents, principals, and teachers, the country is well on the way toward meeting that goal.

The conversation with leading superintendents touched on other key issues. The superintendents shared examples of what they feel is an uphill battle of continuing to do more with less, financially. Secretary Duncan agreed was only going to get tougher, as he said in a November speech at the American Enterprise Institute, “The New Normal“.

The superintendents discussed two key areas where they could be helpful to the Department. The first includes providing input to the ongoing conversation on the appropriate parameters for measuring growth as the Congress looks to reauthorize ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) next year. Carmel Martin, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, pointed out that their input into the dialogue could help set some real definitions for measuring growth, but that collaboration within their states is key, as further definition and delineation for growth, and improvement will likely filter down to the state level.

The second included the superintendents’ comments and experiences regarding tenure reform. Several superintendents emphasized their work with progressive local union leaders whose members are asking for these needed changes, though there has been little coverage in the media of local examples where real collaboration is happening.

The conversation ended on the high note provided by Betty Morgan, who noted that we are indeed getting somewhere in terms of reducing the dropout rate and making significant in-roads on dropout recovery. The Secretary responded with the good news that half of the country’s turnaround schools are in fact high schools, and that this not only bodes well for reducing the dropout rate, but also increasing graduation rates as well as the number of students leaving high school both college- and career-ready.

Around the beginning of the year, this group of accomplished superintendents will release a white paper on school turnarounds. As the Department again begins the push for reauthorization, their suggestions will indeed be something to look for.

Karen Stratman-Krusemark, Office of Communication and Outreach

Ms. Stratman-Krusemark taught high school English in Texas before joining the Department of Education.

‘No Excuses’ Defines Success at Springfield, Illinois, Schools

Assistant Secretary of Education Peter Cunningham greets Jason Curry, a 1st grade teacher at Iles Elementary School.

Assistant Secretary of Education Peter Cunningham greets Jason Curry, a 1st grade teacher at Iles Elementary School.
Photo by Dave Heinzel, Springfield Public Schools

“We don’t use poverty as an excuse for low achievement.”

That strong message from Springfield School District 186 Superintendent Walter Milton, Jr. resonated throughout a day-long visit that Peter Cunningham, ED’s assistant secretary for communications and outreach, made to the central Illinois district Nov. 29.

Like many urban areas throughout the nation, Springfield—the state capital—has a proud history and a diverse community with a strong will to prepare both their children and their city for successful futures. Springfield recognizes that a high-quality education is vital to achieving both goals. The school district serves more than 14,000 students, with nearly 66 percent of them eligible for free or reduced-rate lunches.

Cunningham learned firsthand about the district’s focus on readying students to meet 21st century challenges through a whirlwind itinerary of activities that ranged from a Blue Ribbon School celebration to a planning meeting for turning around a struggling high school. He spoke with district students, parents and educators about local progress and plans, and their ideas on national education reform.

“This isn’t easy. There are no ‘one size fits all’ answers,” Cunningham told a group of teachers, administrators and parents at Lanphier High School, identified by Illinois as eligible for a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG). “Solutions need to come from the local level.”

Assistant Secretary Peter Cunningham congratulates Lindsay School's teachers, students, and parents during a Blue Ribbon School celebration.

Assistant Secretary Peter Cunningham congratulates Lindsay School's teachers, students, and parents during a Blue Ribbon School celebration.
Photo by Dave Heinzel, Springfield Public Schools

While the dialogue at Lanphier was sobering, it was also hopeful. The group discussed strategies to improve, to include an extended school day, a new curriculum to make subject matter relevant to students and developing a system where kids at risk may be identified early and provided resources to succeed. According to Sara Vincent, the district’s director of communications, implementation of some of those elements has already begun, and has produced small but positive results, to include better attendance and a decline in suspensions.

The assistant secretary and other ED officials frequently visit schools around the nation, and often bring reports of promising best practices and insights, as well as concerns, back to Washington. The takeaways from the visit were invaluable, voluminous and varied.

At Vachel Lindsay School, a neighborhood elementary school serving a 45 percent low-income population, Principal Wendy Boatman cited the school’s dedicated outreach to the parents of disadvantaged children as key to its improvement in state assessment scores, which earned it recognition as one of 314 Blue Ribbon Schools throughout the United States for 2010. After discussions with Boatman and some of the award-winning school’s other administrators and teachers, Cunningham said he was impressed with the clear “culture of trust” among them.

Superintendent Walter Milton, Jr. hugs an Iles Elementary student.

Superintendent Walter Milton, Jr. hugs an Iles Elementary student.
Photo by Dave Heinzel, Springfield Public Schools

“From day one, the clear message to students is that they are going to college,” said Chris Colgren, principal of Capital College Preparatory Academy, a new school opened this fall that will ultimately serve students in grades 6-12. CCPA, open to all Springfield students through a lottery, uses best practices from schools throughout the U.S. that have generated strong achievement among high-poverty populations, including gender-specific classrooms and an extended day schedule, as well as the pervasive college-bound attitude.

All students are provided their own laptops at Lincoln Magnet School, a technology-focused school open to all Springfield middle-schoolers through a lottery. More than 96 percent of students met or exceeded state standards for 2010 at Lincoln, where the tech theme goes far beyond the equipment. Teachers use strategies aimed at best connecting with a generation that has grown up with computers, texting and video games as routine elements of daily life. For example, one student showed Cunningham how her English teacher asked her and classmates to create “Wordles “—computerized “word clouds” that can demonstrate understanding in a quick and fun way that capitalizes on pupils’ visual acuity and communications style.

During a small group discussion, teachers said they were gratified to learn from Cunningham about the focus on flexibility, innovation, growth-testing and “carrots, not sticks” in the Obama Administration’s blueprint to re-write the No Child Left Behind education law. In the coming year Congress may act to reauthorize the law, which is formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“There’s got to be a way to get accountability that lets us breathe,” one educator said. “The message that we’d like to hear from the President and Secretary Duncan is ‘We’re going to support teachers, and not punish them for not meeting unrealistic expectations.'”

Julie Ewart
Office of Communications and Outreach

Julie Ewart is a senior public affairs specialist for Region V (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) and a proud mom of three public school students.

Duncan, Van Roekel and Hite Discuss Strategies to Turn Around Low-Performing Schools

It’s not OK for only 15% of students to be reading on grade level or 17% testing proficient in math…  It’s not always about doing what is popular, it’s about doing what matters to help young people succeed….
Dr. William Hite, Superintendent, Prince George’s County Public Schools

Duncan, Van Roekel and Hite Discuss Strategies to Turn Around Low-Performing SchoolsRelationships, collaboration and change were on the docket as Secretary Arne Duncan joined National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, Prince George’s County Superintendent of Schools William Hite, local leaders and union officials, distinguished educators and parents at G. James Gholson Middle School in Landover, Maryland, for a school visit and roundtable discussion on effective strategies for turning around low performing schools.  Gholson is one of four schools in the county that are implementing a turnaround model supported by School Improvement Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

Following an observation in Joe Webb’s 7th grade science class, Duncan, Van Roekel and Hite convened a roundtable discussion with the community members and educators invested in the critical work of turning around the persistently low achieving school.  The two newly installed co-principals -— Ebony Cross and Lacey Robinson -— attested to the need for robust parent and community support for the efforts currently being undertaken to improve academic achievement at the school.  Matthew McCrea, a 7th grade math teacher and one of 14 educators kept on Gholson’s faculty from the previous academic year, talked about the importance of innovation and flexibility to implement the changes needed to succeed in an underperforming school.  Lew Robinson, executive director for the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association, talked about the turnaround model as difficult but important work that must be done on behalf of children. 

“Turning around our worst performing schools is difficult for everyone,” Secretary Duncan said.  “But it is critical that we show the courage to do the right thing by kids.”

Since opening its doors in 2002, Gholson has consistently failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress and was required by law to restructure.  With support from ED’s School Improvement Grant program, Gholson initiated a number of changes for the 2010-11 school year, including a new leadership team; an influx of new teachers and faculty members; increased learning time for instruction in core academic subjects; a new Parent University to boost parent involvement; and innovations to encourage academic achievement through the use of Scholar Dollars and gender-specific core content classes. 

Gholson is also participating in NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, a program launched by the National Education Association that highlights innovation and success in America’s struggling schools.  The campaign supports strategies to transform schools and emphasizes collaboration by all community stakeholders.

The turnaround process at Gholson is funded through a portion of the $3.5 billion made available to states through the School Improvement Grant program from money set aside in the 2009 budget and the Recovery Act.  An additional $545,633,000 was appropriated in 2010 and will be awarded to states to fund additional schools in the 2011-12 school year. ED has also requested an additional $900 million for the program in the 2011 budget. 

Learn more about the School Improvement Grant program

See photos of the visit and roundtable at Gholson. 

Todd May
Office of Communications and Outreach

School Improvement Grants at Work in Miami-Dade

It’s not every day I get a first-hand look at the transformation that’s taking place in our schools as dedicated school and district leaders undertake the difficult work of turning around the lowest performing schools around the country. But last week, I had the pleasure of visiting three Miami-Dade County Public Schools high schools that have begun this effort. It was a wonderful opportunity to see our School Improvement Grants (SIG) at work on the ground, and I’m excited to share with others some of the great work that is being done by the teams in Miami-Dade County.

Under our redesigned SIG program, the U.S. Department of Education has committed roughly $4 billion to help turn around the nation’s 5,000 lowest performing public schools over the next five years. Schools receive these funds in exchange for a commitment to dramatically change the culture and learning environment to make a difference for students.

In Miami-Dade County, the district created the Education Transformation Office (ETO) to support their 19 persistently low achieving schools, dubbed the “Rising 19.” The ETO offers these schools intensive, individualized support on areas ranging from operations, to curriculum and instruction, to professional development, to family engagement. As Miami-Dade’s Assistant Superintendent Nikolai Vitti explained to me the overall district plan for school turnarounds, led by Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, I saw a clear theory of action emerge – one that’s above all focused around improving teaching and learning in the classroom.

But what does this model, and this district plan, actually look like in schools?

To find out, I spent some time observing classrooms, visiting common planning time sessions, and talking with school leadership at Miami Edison, Miami Southridge, and Miami Jackson Senior High Schools. Despite the fact that each high school has its own distinct personality, and its own set of challenges, I saw several common themes run through all of the schools’ turnaround efforts:

  1. A culture shift in the school to emphasize respect and high expectations for all.
    In 2009-10, Miami Edison brought in a new principal, who in turn recruited a strong new administrative leadership team. The team focused on changing the culture of the school to ensure that students of Miami Edison felt respected and supported. The team created small academies for the school, each with its own “crest” to develop school pride.  The staff also decided to reinstitute small high school milestones – some of which students hadn’t had for almost 10 years – like the homecoming dance and a school yearbook to boost student morale.

    The drive to turn around the school, however, isn’t just shouldered by the principal, or the leadership team – it’s a true team effort that includes all staff members.  As part of his new team, the principal, Dr. Pablo Ortiz, recruited a new custodian to the school, who was dedicated to keeping the school well maintained to reflect the learning that was happening in the school.  The custodian is now training other custodial staff at different schools!

  2. A focus on building professional learning communities.
    Another common theme I saw in the three schools was the intense focus on professional development and support for teachers. The ETO customizes professional development for its teachers based on school and student needs. Both the leadership and the teachers themselves are using the teacher evaluation system to home in on areas for improvement, then providing direct support to teachers. This support is constant throughout the year, as Assistant Superintendent Vitti conducts classroom walkthroughs with principals on a regular basis.

    Teachers do lesson studies, where they work together to plan, then teach, then watch others teach, then provide feedback to each other. This way, each teacher continues to learn from one another. Professional collaboration time is built into the school day.  At Miami Southridge, a plan is underway to improve teacher attendance. All of this work underscores a philosophy that I strongly believe in: teaching is a craft, and excellence requires hard work, discipline, and constant learning.

  3. Intensive support to ensure students graduate from high school.
    All three schools offered extensive programs to make sure that every single student was on track to graduate from high school. Incoming freshmen are required to take a “freshman experience” course, where they are matched with adults, or “trust counselors,” who support their transition into high school and develop comprehensive plans to ensure that they have enough credits to graduate.
    Schools also offer Saturday programs and credit recovery programs to help students who are currently behind. Miami Edison, for example, had a simple fix to increase the number of students taking credit recovery courses. Realizing that students couldn’t get to the adult school for these courses due to transportation issues, the school staff moved the adult school instructors right to Miami Edison’s campus – a simple solution with great benefits to their students.

The schools are obviously in the early stages of their transformation efforts, but I was so encouraged to see the progress they were making, and impressed with the initial improvement made by all the schools.  This is not to say that these schools don’t have a long way to go – they still face many challenges, including their need for improvement in reading. But as indicated by the movement in their leading indicators, these schools are on the right track.

I was also impressed by the Miami-Dade district’s approach to school turnarounds. For the leaders of the ETO, it’s not about “checking the box” to make sure that the different SIG models are being implemented. Instead, the district and school leaders have created a plan that incorporates the SIG models within broader reform efforts centered on improving teaching and learning. I look forward to keeping in touch with Superintendent Carvalho, Assistant Superintendent Vitti, and the various school leaders to learn more about their schools’ progress and success stories, and sharing them with the wider community of educators around the country.

Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana
Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

Community and Interfaith Service Helping Turn Around Our Lowest-Performing Schools

White House Convening on Community Organizations and Low-Performing Schools

Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, speaks at the September 20, 2010 meeting on the role of community organizations in turning around low-performing schools.

This post is re-published from Whitehouse.gov.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service are providing unprecedented support to states and communities to help turn around the nation’s chronically low-performing schools. We frequently talk with faith, national, and community service leaders who are eager to assist these school turnaround efforts, but many of them don’t know where to start.

This is why the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships teamed up with the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service to host a landmark White House Convening on the Role of Community-Based Organizations in Turning Around Low-Performing Schools. On September 20 we brought together a select group of national education, nonprofit, and faith leaders from across the country who are committed to the idea that we all play critical roles in turning around our nation’s lowest-performing schools. Joshua Dubois, Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, launched the conversation by acknowledging expertise of the audience and letting them know this is the start to a working relationship between the agencies in support of the Administration’s goals.

The conversation was robust and thoughtful. “There is so much to learn about how to successfully and consistently turn around chronically under-performing schools. What we already know, however, is that we can do more to bring the right resources to the right schools, and that schools and systems lack the capacity to do this work alone. Community-based organizations have a huge role to play in both building local capacity and creating public support for reform.” said Justin Cohen, President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight.

Participants discussed how to strengthen partnerships between school districts, schools, and community-based organizations. The group also identified promising ways that community and interfaith service initiatives can help transform schools through academics, youth development, social and health supports, and family engagement.

Zeenat Rahman from Interfaith Youth Core talked about how interfaith service can not only benefit schools but strengthen communities. “Faith communities have immensely high levels of social capital, and are an important resource to tap,” said Rahman, “Interfaith partnerships bridge and multiply this social capital.”

Eric Schwarz from Citizen Schools, Lucy Friedman from TASC, Dan Cardinali from Communities In Schools, and Lester Strong from Experience Corps discussed the way that national and community service brings much needed talent and leadership to schools, while boosting academic achievement. Several speakers outlined concrete steps to improve the coordination of supports in schools and to anchor those supports in research-based strategies. Elevating the paradigm of national, community, and interfaith service is the platform to transform our schools into centers of excellence for all of our children.

We’ll soon be sharing the results of the convening with schools systems, community, and faith organizations across the country. This meeting was just the beginning of this critical conversation, and we are excited to transfer this discussion into actions that will help transform low-performing schools.

Mara Vanderslice is the Deputy Director at The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Secretary Duncan Visits Charlotte, North Carolina

Secretary Duncan visited Sterling Elementary School in Pineville, NC, where he visited classes, talked with students and teachers, and participated in a discussion on turning around low-performing schools.

Secretary Duncan visited Sterling Elementary School in Pineville, NC, where he visited classes, talked with students and teachers, and participated in a discussion on turning around low-performing schools.

Secretary Duncan delivered keynote remarks at the 2010 Fall Conference for Community Foundations in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 15. The conference, “Powering Communities,” was designed to foster a national dialogue about how the philanthropic sector and community foundations can most effectively advance the public good through grants, strategic planning, leadership development, technology and best practices.

After the conference, Secretary Duncan joined Governor Bev Perdue and State Board Chairman Bill Harrison for a visit to Sterling Elementary School in Pineville, where they visited classes, talked with students and teachers, and participated in a discussion on turning around low-performing schools.

See photos.

Illuminating Positive Change: Rural Transformation at West Carter Middle School

Illuminating positive change: Rural Transformation at West Carter Middle SchoolTurning around a low-performing school is difficult work. It can present particular challenges in rural communities located far from resources and social support structures. However, this work is possible with strong leadership and by building upon the strengths of a small school that serves as the center of its community, as is illustrated by the West Carter Middle School success story.

Located in Olive Hill, KY, within the Appalachian coal mountain region, West Carter Middle School serves fewer than 500 students, more than two-thirds of whom are eligible for free and reduced-priced meals. Before 2005, student achievement was stagnant and persistently low in math and reading.

However, under new leadership, West Carter underwent a transformation. Principal Sherry Horsley, an assistant principal at West Carter for four years, set a new direction for students and staff. She increased community and staff collaboration, increased learning time for students, and established a vision for the future.

Students now plan and prepare for success in college or a career. The faculty is now collaborating more.  Teachers are using data and technology to target student needs.  Parents have been encouraged by the results.

West Carter now ranks among the top 15 percent of middle schools in Kentucky and was honored as a “School to Watch” by the Kentucky Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform this year.

Voices from Turnaround Schools

This week, the Department of Education released new videos featuring the personal testimonies of teachers, principals, parents and students explaining what it’s like to turn around low-performing schools. Called “Voices of Reform,” the videos look at schools in three cities that each underwent a different turnaround approach.

A variety of individuals talk about what happened as their schools went from struggling to high-achieving. The challenges and hard work as well as the joy that are part of many turnaround schools’ experience are reflected in the interview subjects’ own words, such as these from a first grade teacher at Mobile’s George C. Hall Elementary School: “The students have a sense of pride about themselves now. They have pride about not only the school but the community from which they come.”

Forest Grove High School, Forest Grove, Oregon

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

Pickett Middle School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

George C. Hall Elementary School, Mobile, Alabama

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

To view the complete Turnaround video playlist, click here.

Support for Turning Around Low-Performing Schools

States have begun receiving School Improvement Grants (SIG) funding to turn around their persistently lowest achieving schools. The funds are part of the $3.5 billion available to states this spring from the 2009 budget and the Recovery Act.

See press releases on states for which funding has been announced and videos of turnaround schools.

See the list of states, as well as state applications, which include states’ lists of persistently lowest achieving schools, as defined by each state.

To learn more about School Improvement Grants, please read on.

What’s Possible: Turning Around America’s Lowest-Achieving Schools

“Because we know that about 12% of America’s schools produce 50% of America’s dropouts, we’re going to focus on helping states and school districts turn around their 5,000 lowest-performing schools in the next five years,” President Obama said this week.

Turning around the nation’s 5,000 lowest-performing schools, Secretary Duncan has said, is “part of our overall strategy for dramatically reducing the drop-out rate, improving high school graduation rates and increasing the number of students who graduate prepared for success in college and the workplace.”

The Obama administration is making an historic commitment to support state and local education leaders in turning around the nation’s lowest-achieving schools.

The U.S. Department of Education is providing $4 billion for this effort. To qualify for this funding under the Title I School Improvement Grant program, states must identify their lowest-performing schools in economically challenged communities and transform those schools using one of the four following intervention models:

  • Turnaround model: Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the staff, and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendars/time and budgeting) to fully implement a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student outcomes.
  • Restart model: Convert a school or close and reopen it under a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
  • School closure: Close a school and enroll the students who attended that school in other schools in the district that are higher achieving.
  • Transformation model: Implement each of the following strategies: (1) replace the principal and take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; (2) institute comprehensive instructional reforms; (3) increase learning time and create community-oriented schools; and (4) provide operational flexibility and sustained support.

As Secretary Duncan has said repeatedly, this is difficult work—he took it on as CEO of Chicago’s public schools. No matter which model is used, turning around a chronically low-performing school requires hard work from our best teachers and school leaders.

State and local leaders around the country have taken on the challenge, with encouraging results.

Learn about the Title I School Improvement Grant Program and how the communities of Mobile, Alabama; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Chattanooga, Tennessee were successful in implementing turnaround, restart and transformation models to revitalize and transform their lowest performing schools.

En Español

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

In Chicago, Harvard School of Excellence, operated by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), is an example of the turnaround model. Before 2007, it ranked among the 10 worst elementary schools in all of Illinois. Now, three years later, it has key components of the turnaround model: a new principal; highly trained and effective teachers; a curriculum based on high expectations and frequent assessments; and a culture of intellectual curiosity and personal respect.

In just two years, the number of Harvard students meeting or exceeding state testing standards has increased 25%. And AUSL is applying its turnaround model to more struggling schools in Chicago.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

Johnson Public School in Chicago is another turnaround story. In 2008, only 40% of Johnson’s students met state standards in reading, math and science. There were gangs in the school and violence in the halls. Expectations were low. Many students were not succeeding.

The following year, AUSL took over the leadership of the school. Expectations and conditions in the school changed. The impact in a short time is clear.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

In Los Angeles, Locke Senior High School took the restart path, bringing in Green Dot Schools, a charter operator. Locke’s teachers work under a union contract.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

David Terry
Office of Communications and Outreach

A Promise Kept, A School Renewed: Locke High School’s Turn Around

In 2006, Locke Senior High School was among the lowest performing schools in Los Angeles. Plagued by gang activities and low expectations for students, Locke was sending just 5% of its graduating students to 4-year colleges and universities.

That’s where the California-based nonprofit Green Dot came in. With the support of the community, Green Dot has implemented a school turnaround model focused on making sure students achieve academically and are ready for college and careers when they graduate from high school.

The change is visible throughout the school. Now, students are showing up for school on time. Class attendance has risen above 90 percent. Test scores have increased.

As a result of the model—and lots of hard work by teachers, students, and the community—the school is a far cry from what it used to be.

As Secretary Duncan has said, “Our communities need to be courageous in their desire to implement change. Only then will we be able to turnaround our nation’s failing schools.”

Watch the video of Locke’s story.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

States can apply for Student Improvement Grants (SIG), which serves to support implementation of the fundamental changes needed to turn around some of the nation’s lowest-achieving schools. Learn more here:

Kansas City Community Stakeholders Meeting on Turnaround Schools

Participants at the Kansas City Stakeholders meeting

On Monday, January 11, Alberto Retana, U.S. Department of Education’s Director of Community Outreach hosted a meeting on turnaround schools in the Kansas City Regional Office.  The Obama administration recently announced that $3.5 billion in stimulus dollars has been earmarked to support school turnaround plans, and Retana and Zollie Stevenson, Director of Student Achievement and School Accountability, came to Kansas City on Monday to meet with community leaders, school board members, parents, teachers, faith-based organizations and union representatives to discuss what needs to be done to pave the way for change.

“This is a chance to do away with the past and start a new era of cooperation,” said Retana, after meeting with about 75 people from Missouri and Kansas.  “The Department of Education wants these plans to be a community-driven process.  Missouri is currently taking a hard look at its lowest performing schools to make tough decisions about where to invest millions of dollars that will be available to them this spring,” he said.

“This government is being more specific in what it will allow in turnaround plans.  The Obama administration has set a target of turning around 1,000 schools a year through ‘robust efforts’ that get ‘dramatic’ results,” Stevenson stated.

Missouri and Kansas are eligible for $77 million and $39 million, respectively.  States will be required to identify their lowest performing schools and transform them with one of four intervention models.

The Department plans to hold similar meetings in cities across the country in the next few months.

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