The Plans Are In… But the Jury is Still Out
Last Monday, schools participating in Delaware’s Partnership Zone Initiative submitted plans to the Delaware Department of Education outlining their vision for turning around their individual campuses. As stipulated in Delaware regulations, the DOE has five days to review each plan and either accept as is or send back to the schools with specific feedback. It is expected that all schools will be getting feedback, and they will have 30 days (until December 22, 2010) draft a more rigorous plan that meets the Secretary’s requirements.
What can we expect out of these plans that are different from every other school improvement plan? As we heard from Christina Superintendent Marcia Lyles and School Turnaround Officer Noreen LaSorsa at the Vision 2015 “Racing to Deliver” conference, we expect that they won’t all be the same–some schools have picked transformation, some turnaround. And we expect they incorporate greater involvement from the school community, which we are already seeing, for example with Christina’s meetings and survey and the site visits Innovative Schools is organizing.
In addition, the PZ process gives schools more resources ($700,000 per school per year), more time to plan (implementation fall 2011), and more support from DOE (ongoing diagnostic and progress monitoring) and other technical assistance partners.
And what do we hope to see in the content of the plans—or in the feedback provided by DOE? Previous posts have addressed each of the areas required by regulation. We also hope for coherence, with one Lead Partner and clear responsibilities and accountabilities of each partner and the district office. And there should be a clear plan to ensure staff are committed to the new direction or intervention model, such as an Election to Work agreement. Strong instructional leaders must be identified. And clear plans about how the 15% additional extended learning time will be used and how communities and families will be engaged “beyond the bake sale.”
Through Race to the Top and SIG, we have significant resources and momentum to turnaround these persistently low-performing schools. While it would be easy to revert back to these old practices and ways, regardless of the clear consequences present today, we believe it’s time to chart a new course for the First State. We believe that Secretary Lowery should seize this moment and hold firm on Delaware’s commitments. If a school’s plan does not meet these high standards, we hope clear guidance will be provided to send a powerful signal to all schools – one that states all our state’s children deserve access to an excellent education and we can’t continue with business as usual.
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