Turning around failing schools – close and replace them!

Speed Gibson’s article on the failure of turning around failing schools is a good read – and so are the comments by his readers. Can you turn around a school with only incremental changes, or do you use the nuclear option (close it and replace it)?

Indeed, can you name a public school or school district that, once it fell back, later bounced back?  I can’t, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.  Here’s his solution:

Fortunately, findings from two generations of school improvement efforts, lessons from similar work in other industries, and a budding practice among reform-minded superintendents are pointing to a promising alternative. When conscientiously applied strategies fail to drastically improve America’s lowest-performing schools, we need to close them.

Done right, not only will this strategy help the students assigned to these failing schools, it will also have a cascading effect on other policies and practices, ultimately helping to bring about healthy systems of urban public schools.

He’s not saying don’t try incremental improvement at a “failing” school.  But if it doesn’t work, and work well, that school must be closed, i.e., replaced.  While he acknowledges the difficulty of getting this past the unions and the bureaucracy, I don’t think he acknowledges it enough.

Imagine an administration taking bold steps like closing and replacing failed schools without bureaucrat/union interference or allowing a charter school in the district. It’s easy if you try. District 279 United looks like a great group BTW. We suggested a similar idea (forming an online discussion group for parents, residents and 281 admin)  to new Boardmember Mark Bomchill. Maybe we join 281 CARE, Give2attain, Community Solutions, DJ Brynteson and Speed Gibson and start “281 United”? We’re probably too radioactive to be invited but we’re cool if you run with our idea.

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