Partnership Zone Initiative – Where We Can Lead

September 7th, 2010

Category: News

There has been a lot of discussion about how a school chooses to redesign itself – from restart, to turn around and transformation.  For me, the what is more important than the how.  The process for how is certainly important, but if we focus on what makes the most sense for the students, here are a handful of elements that I believe will be important for these schools to include:

  • No Excuses Attitude: The plans should articulate unambiguous strategies for all students to be on track to complete college-level (not remedial) work when they complete high school.  Today, far too many students don’t make it to college and too many of those that do need to take remedial courses.
  • Top Talent:  District and union leadership should demonstrate a clear commitment—in the form of labor agreement modifications—to ensure flexibility to hire and compensate a highly effective principal and teaching corps committed to the school’s vision.  Today, this basic building block of an effective organization too often does not exist.
  • Freedom to Act: Principals and their teams must have the flexibility to hire, select instructional programs, use their funding, and design school time in ways that best meet the needs of their students.  Today they do not.
  • More Time:  Students in high-needs schools are often several grade levels behind and need more time—that is targeted and used effectively—for academics and enrichment. Schools must plan for considerably more time for students in the school day and/or year.  Today, the average, low-income ninth grader is upwards of three grade levels behind his suburban peers.
  • Meaningful Community Engagement: To sustain these efforts, parents and nonprofit and private sector leaders must make clear and tangible commitments to the school’s success and in turn, they need to be a true part of the decision-making process. Too often today, schools do not go “beyond the bake sale” for meaningful engagement with the community and the community is not holding up its end of the bargain.

We need to get this right.

These children only have one shot at school and these schools—along with the six selected next year–will be the most visible opportunity for change in the governor’s larger reform agenda.

Delaware is now seen as a national leader in education reform; this is our chance to prove that we can deliver as the First State in education reform.  


Paul Herdman