Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bryan Hassel Responds on School Turnarounds

And here’s a response from researcher Bryan Hassel:

SIG: A Disappointing But Completely Predictable Reaction From Smarick

As usual, Andy is half-right on this stuff.  He’s half right b/c of course far too many SIG schools have followed the pattern set in past waves of this work, under names like Restructuring.  They pursued incremental changes like providing more PD for their teachers, bringing in new curricular programs, and the like, none of which is very likely to lead to transformative change in a dysfunctional school.  Far too few SIG schools have brought in carefully selected leaders or organizations with the capacity to lead turnarounds, and given them room to do what’s needed.

Andy is also right that we shouldn’t be surprised by this, since the political deck is stacked in most school districts against doing something more fundamental.  In theory states could use SIG to tip the balance, and some have more than others, but in most places that won’t tip enough.

But Andy’s only half right because of his conclusion that therefore we should stop trying to fix failing schools and put all our eggs in the basket of new school creation.  This has never made sense to me for 2 reasons.  First, there’s no evidence that new school creation is demonstrably better as an overall strategy than turnarounds.  Andy, if we divided charter schools into three groups, those that were “double digits” better than comparable district schools, those that were single digits better and those that were worse, where would the proportions fall?  Would they look a lot better than the SIG numbers?  If so, show me.

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