Since none of these schools have achieved the test scores that are so emphasized by the rheeformers, I’ve been thinking about how these examples could help us to redefine what’s meant by a turnaround school. In doing so, we might learn that there are a lot more schools that deserve the title than the few that are praised in the media.
One thing that all the schools seem to have in common is that there has been an improvement in what I’d call ‘school culture.’ In other words, kids are getting excited about learning and about being in a place where that might be able to happen. To me, this is an important first step in turning around a school, so I’m glad that they’ve seemed to do that. Now, if a lot of that improvement in school culture was created by kicking out a third of their students, well, that doesn’t seem like a very American way of doing it.
If they want to call these schools turnarounds, which they may very well be, we have to redefine the term to not have anything about instantly escalating test scores and even inflated ‘graduation rates.’
Here are some things, off the top of my head, I’d look for:
Low teacher turnover.
Improvement in getting parents to ‘back to school’ night.
Kids participating in after school clubs.
Minimal focus on the drudgery of test prep, and more engaging curriculum.
Please comment on this post and add some more things that should be present in a school that is in process of being turned around …
Also, I’d be interested in what might be a reasonable time table for getting from ‘improved school culture’ to ‘higher test scores,’ or if something like that even needs to be part of the equation.