Future of Schools

Report: Colorado needs more, better turnaround leaders

Finding principals to successfully lead turnaround efforts in Colorado schools is proving difficult, according to a report issued this week by the Donnell-Kay Foundation.

The report suggests that the state’s districts, Department of Education and lawmakers should make policy changes such as: revamping district hiring and support practices; providing annual reports on how many turnaround leaders the state needs; and funding partnerships with organizations that can provide training to leaders to ensure Colorado’s lowest-performing schools have the kind of leadership needed to improve.

More than a dozen districts and nearly 200 schools are classified “turnaround” or “priority improvement” by the state’s annual assessment, or performance framework. Those districts and schools have five years to manifest drastic improvement in student proficiency and other factors or face state intervention. The “accountability clock,” as it is often referred to, is about to run out on some.

Some of the reports key findings include:

  • Principals are not developing the required skill set needed for turnaround during their preparation programs.
  • Principals in turnaround schools do not have access to professional development support.
  • Principals are rarely offered incentives for their performance at turnaround schools.

There are, however, promising trends the report cited:

  • A growing body of research is identifying the kind of skills turnaround leaders need.
  • More training facilities, dedicated to developing turnaround leaders, are popping up across the nation.
  • A better understanding of the kind of climate and relationship schools need to develop, in partnership with its district or charter authorizer, is crystallizing.

The report, second in a series on school leadership opportunities in the Centennial State published by the Foundation, is based on a 2012 survey of 56 superintendents and charter management organizations.

(Disclosure: The Donnell-Kay Foundation is a funder of Chalkbeat Colorado.)

It's Friday. Just show a video.

How a push to save some of Indiana’s oldest trees taught this class about the power of speaking out

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Students working at the School for Community Learning, a progressive Indianapolis private school that depends on vouchers.

Alayna Pierce was one of seven teachers who participated in story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media and the Indianapolis Public Library on Sept. 5. Every teacher shared stories about their challenges and triumphs in Circle City classrooms.

Pierce’s story is a letter she wrote to her second and third grade students at the School for Community Learning, a private school in Indianapolis. In it, she recounts how they came together as a class and as a community to save some of the state’s oldest trees.

Check out the video below to hear Pierce’s story.

You can find more stories from educators, students and parents here.

Charter appeals

Siding with local district, Tennessee State Board denies two Memphis charter appeals

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
B. Fielding Rolston, chairman of Tennessee State Board of Education

Tennessee’s education policymaking body is switching course this year to side with the state’s largest school district in denying two charter school applicants.

On Friday, the nine-member Tennessee State Board of Education unanimously rejected the appeals of two charters that sought to open all-girls schools in Memphis next fall. The charter applicants will now have to wait until next year and reapply with Shelby County Schools, which had rejected their applications this year, if they so choose.

The decision on Friday stands in contrast to the state board’s dramatic overruling of the local board last year that resulted in the first charter school authorization by the panel in Memphis. That essentially added another state-run district in the city, and the State Board of Education joins just one other state in the nation to also operate as a school district.

The board acted in accordance this year with recommendation from Sara Morrison, the executive director of the State Board of Education, in the denial of appeals by The Academy All Girls Charter School and Rich ED Academy of Leaders.

The vote comes a month after the Shelby County Schools board turned down their applications,  along with nine others. After a charter applicant is denied by the local school district, they can appeal to the State Board of Education and be re-reviewed by a six person committee.

Morrison told board members that both charter applicants failed to meet requirements in their plans for school finances (Her analysis specified that one of the schools relied too heavily on philanthropic donations).

She added that the applications did not fully meet standards in the other two categories measured: operations and academics.

Board members accepted her recommendations on Friday without questions.