Partnership Zone Initiative – Our Take
On Tuesday, the Delaware Department of Education announced that four schools were chosen to join the state’s innovative Partnership Zone Initiative (PZI). This initiative represents an unprecedented opportunity, backed by both financial and technical resources, for all community stakeholders to come together and help transform persistently low-performing schools into thriving campuses with extraordinary student learning.
After the announcement, there is obviously some concern and uncertainty about being in the PZI. Howard and Glasgow High Schools are in the Vision Network, so we know that there are a lot of strong teachers and administrators doing great things in those schools.
However, when we look at the numbers of students prepared for life after high school, we have to step back and acknowledge three things:
- We need to change course, what we are doing isn’t working for enough of the students in those buildings;
- The “light touch” school improvement strategies we’ve employed for the past seven years — $50,000 federal investments in strategies that didn’t make a dent in performance — have not worked; and
- While the path forward will not be easy, there are plenty of schools around the country that provide excellent examples that this can work.
The next step is the design process among the school district(s) and the one charter school in the PZI will be to work with their teachers, parents and other private sector stakeholders. During this time period (through November 14th), all stakeholders should have the opportunity to offer their voice. Through Race to the Top and School Improvement Grant funds, community members will be provided unparalleled resources — $200,000 for planning and up to $700,000 per year for implementation — to change their schools in powerful ways.
The key will be to make sure that this is a fair and open process, but I believe there is a quiet majority of parents and community leaders across this state that are thinking, “Finally, we’re going to do what’s right on behalf of these kids.” Now the onus is on the adults in the system to not let them down.