White House: Restructure failing schools, close them or restart them.

From the US DOE: Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced draft requirements for $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement grants to turn around the nation’s lowest performing schools.

“If we are to put an end to stubborn cycles of poverty and social failure, and put our country on track for long-term economic prosperity, we must address the needs of children who have long been ignored and marginalized in chronically low-achieving schools,” said Duncan. “States and school districts have an opportunity to put unprecedented resources toward reforms that would increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and improve teacher quality for all students, and particularly for children who most need good teaching in order to catch up.”

The Obama administration’s strategy includes: identifying and serving the lowest-achieving
Title I schools in each state; supporting only the most rigorous interventions that hold the promise of producing rapid improvements in student achievement and school culture; providing sufficient resources over several years to implement those interventions; and measuring progress in achieving results.

“The large investment in school improvement funds made possible by the Recovery Act presents a historic opportunity to attack education’s most intractable challenge — turning around or closing down chronically low-achieving schools,” Duncan said. “Our goal is to turn around the 5,000 lowest-performing schools over the next five years, as part of our overall strategy for dramatically reducing the drop-out rate, improving high school graduation rates and increasing the number of students who graduate prepared for success in college and the workplace.”

The secretary would require states to identify three tiers of schools:

*       Tier I – The lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in a state, or the five lowest-performing Title I schools, whichever number is greater.

*       Tier II – Equally low-achieving secondary schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds.  The secretary proposes targeting some of these extremely low-achieving high schools and their feeder middle schools.  There are close to 2,000 high schools in this country in which graduation is at best a 50/50 proposition.  U.S. Department of Education data indicates that fewer than half of these schools currently receive Title I Part A funds.  If the provisions proposed become final, school districts would not be required to include Tier II schools in proposals.  However, including Tier II schools would enhance a school district’s likelihood for funding because states would be required to give priority to districts that commit to serve both Tier I and Tier II schools.

*       Tier III – The remaining Title I schools in improvement, corrective action or restructuring that are not Tier I schools in the state.

In its application to the state, each school district would be required to demonstrate its commitment to raising student achievement by implementing, in each Tier I and Tier II school, one of the following rigorous interventions. To ensure districts are choosing a variety of strategies, any district with nine or more schools in school improvement will not be allowed to use any single strategy in more than half of its schools.

*       Turnaround Model – This would include among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the school’s staff, adopting a new governance structure and implementing a new or revised instructional program.

*       Restart Model – School districts would close failing schools and reopen them under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization or an educational management organization selected through a rigorous review process.  A restart school would be required to admit, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend.

*       School Closure – The district would close a failing school and enroll the students who attended that school in other high-achieving schools in the district.

*       Transformational Model – Districts would address four specific areas: 1) developing teacher and school leader effectiveness, which includes replacing the principal who led the school prior to commencement of the transformational model, 2) implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies, 3) extending learning and teacher planning time and creating community-oriented schools, and 4) providing operating flexibility and sustained support.

To ensure districts are choosing a variety of strategies, any district with nine or more schools in school improvement will not be allowed to use any single strategy in more than half of its schools.

It’s a reform plan, but is it a good one?

32 comments Add your comment

V for Vendetta

August 26th, 2009
12:13 pm

In light of the hysteria surrounding healthcare reform, I fear that the cesspool that is public education is rapidly deepening. This article, and the insipid quotes from Arne Duncan, further support my instincts. In fact, the entirety of Duncan’s egalitarian and socialistic viewpoint can be summed up by the article’s initial quote:

“If we are to put an end to stubborn cycles of poverty and social failure, and put our country on track for long-term economic prosperity, we must address the needs of children who have long been ignored and marginalized in chronically low-achieving schools,”

I find it interesting that she equates long-term prosperity with focusing on the lowest-performing students. I, for one, would tend to think that the way out of an economic crisis would be to focus on the best and the brightest–i.e., the students who are equipped to deal with reality qua reality. But, as is normally the case with socialism and collectivism, Duncan advocates massive spending and reform to fix the problem, even going so far as to brazenly say that the students from a low-performing school could be transfered into a succesful one. Whta goes unsaid is: at whose expense?

Duncan mentions “social failure,” a very deadly combination of words when used in the hands of a collectivist. Duncan is asserting that we, the producers, are somehow responsible for these second-handers and moochers, and that we owe it to them to raise them up and make them prosperous. Our success becomes our transgression; their failure becomes their right to that which they have not earned. If my words fall on deaf ears, then you are already marching down the path to socialism and couldn’t be happier. However, if you feel as I do, then reject ALL forms of socialism–not just the ones you see on the news.

Find common sense where you can. Here’s a good starting place. John Galt in 2012!


Dunwoody Mom

August 26th, 2009
12:19 pm

I do not see any parental responsibility requirements. Unless the parents/guardians buy in – it won’t work.


August 26th, 2009
12:34 pm

Dunwoody Mom – In most Title 1 schools you will find the poor with all the problems the poor face, drugs, shelter, food, clothing. It is not surprising they are not involved in their childrens education. The educational system needs to do their best with the time they have with these kids.


August 26th, 2009
1:25 pm

Can our schools succeed with lack of parental involvement? There are programs like the Harlem project that has had some successes but Reality has a point, unless ‘we’ can cure some of the societal challenges some of our citizens are experiencing, it will be tough to come up with successful strategies that can be replicated.

We have some teachers performing herculean tasks in some of our most challenging schools in the country. They should be commended for that. I believe it will take significant infusions of cash to really make a difference. Either that or provide stable employment opportunities for parents of the Title 1 students.

Seen it all

August 26th, 2009
1:41 pm

The Duncan DOE plan is absolute garbage. The premise for improving “failing” schools is based primarily on “transitional models” and converting the schools into charter schools. WE HAVE ALREADY TRIED “TRANSITIONAL MODELS”!!! They DIDN’T work!!!! Why? Because the “transitional models” are nothing but the “reform models” school systems already tried ad nauseum. Everybody in the process does nothing but go through the hoops required by the “reform model”. Want an example? Think about America’s Choice or Learning Focused Schools.

Charter schools will not make a difference either. The only difference is that private companies will the chance to get their hands on some more federal and state education money. Do these private companies really care about whether or not the children actually learn, achieve, and grow?? Of course not and neither did the public school principals and teachers who worked in the schools before the sellout.

Joy in Teaching

August 26th, 2009
2:26 pm

I think it is more of the same garbage.

Schools have been tossing money with both hands at the low achievers for years while basically ignoring the average kids and the gifted. And guess what? The low achievers are STILL low achievers while the average kids and the gifted kids are largely left to their own devices.

With a little bit of extra attention, there are many average children who would blossom and there is no telling what the gifted could accomplish given the opportunities.

At the risk of sounding cold hearted, I think that it is time that schools start to nurture those who have the desire and cability of being educated. The rest of the world focuses on those students and they have the test scores to prove it.

Why can’t we?

[...] Atlanta J. Constitution: “From the US DOE: Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced draft requirements for $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement grants to turn around the nation’s lowest performing schools.” [...]


August 26th, 2009
3:00 pm

Whats wrong with giving everyone an opportunity to learn? Gifted, average, or not. So much as possible, we need to give all an opportunity to learn. It we need to feed the poor kids to help them focus – so be it , if we need to provide after school homework programs, OK. Teaching is a difficult job, it you can no longer help the less than average, maybe you should not be teaching any longer. Everyone has their limits, bring in the new.

good grief

August 26th, 2009
3:32 pm

I am happy that they are trying soemthing new, but what we need to do is start over.

We should benchmark with the countries that do the best. (South Korea, Japan, and Denmark) We should forget everything we know about our school system and build a model that utilizes what those countries do. Their students are consistently at the top in all categories.

We should stop having proms, pep rallys, 180 day school years, clubs, and ect… We should concentrate on academics year round. Let the private sector fill the role of sports and dances.


August 26th, 2009
3:39 pm

I don’t see anything about the school boards or administrations that allowed the schools to get this bad to start with. Many schools have their hands tied by their central office. Yes, I know that school boards are elected.

I don’t know that Charter is the way to go. Why would some big corporation care about what our kids are learning when they have a bottom line to worry about. Would we see more testing from Charters to justify their fees?

Earl of Ft. Liquordale

August 26th, 2009
3:43 pm

Hey folks: It ain’t the failing schools; it’s the failing students. These same students will be sent to newer and brighter schools — and they will continue to have no motivation to learn and will continue to disrupt the learning processes of the students who do want to learn. It doesn’t it matter how much money that Washington, D. C. nor how much the State of Georgia throw at the problem, the problem will still be there. Isn’t this what Dr. John Trotter of MACE has been saying for years — and even said it again on this blog this week? Yes, John and Joy are right. Tough truth to swallow, though. Not all kids will be scholars nor do all kids want to be scholars nor does society need all kids to become scholars. Heck, who’s gonna work on the Mrs.’s van and my car?

Some Sense

August 26th, 2009
3:48 pm

Let’s be honest…Every Obama “improvement plan” has become a fiasco to the point that he’s even losing ground with his hardest core constituency. What makes anyone feel that this “plan” will be any different?

Get it straight

August 26th, 2009
4:16 pm

It’s time for everybody to face the reality that just as there will always be poor people, there will always be dumb people. It’s a huge waste of money to try to turn them into scholars when they couldn’t care less. Find out what they are interested in, train them, and send them to a job, not college.


August 26th, 2009
4:20 pm

Georgians have to be the most cynical people on the planet. I have never in my entire life lived in a place where the poor are so hated and discounted.

Truth Seeker

August 26th, 2009
4:24 pm

Great….lets throw more money that we do not have at already underperforming schools. For the most part the failing schools are in minority neighborhoods, low income neighborhoods and areas that are themselves failing. Mostly the reason the schools are failing is because the students don’t care if they get an education or not. For the most part the reason the students are possesing that attitude is because the parents have no input with their kids, do not support the schools in any way and simply don’t care as long as they can get their Bud and crack and weed and smokes and hookers…..go yea…..lets spent another 4 Billion on another plan that is doomed to fail from the beginning.

good grief

August 26th, 2009
4:26 pm

In Germany, there are two tracts. Children are identified early on as to whether they are scholarly or not. Those who are are nurtured that direction. The other children are taught in an environment that teaches skills and physical discipline.

I like that idea, although I am sure that in the country those with money would take advantage of the system and those without would have no voice.

Nobody reads long posts

August 26th, 2009
4:36 pm

Breakfast of Champions–Maybe if the gov’t takes those kids out of their homes, and puts them in homes with achievers, and takes the achievers’ kids and places them with the underachievers’ parents IT CAN ALL BE MORE FAIR. Yeah, that’s the answer.

Real American Progress

August 26th, 2009
5:02 pm

In what dream do you folks feel that those who excel are not getting adequate attention and opportunity? There is zero evidence, not that you care about facts or evidence, to support that claim that the high achievers and wealthy are not taken care of in the United States. In fact the evidence clearly shows that the wealthy and well connected continue to benefit more and more, while the middle and lower class folks benefit less and less. Why is it that those in society who have won, are winning and will win in the future cry and complain the most. You are a disgusting breed and should be ashamed of yourselves.


August 26th, 2009
5:18 pm

“Education is usually discussed in terms of the money spent on it, the teaching methods used, class sizes or the way the whole system is organized. Students are discussed largely as passive recipients of good or bad education. But education is not something that can be given to anybody. It is something that students either acquire or fail to acquire. Personal responsibility may be ignored or downplayed in this “non-judgmental” age, but it remains a major factor nevertheless.”
From Thomas Sowell
This is the essence of the educational problem and throwing more money at the problem is not the issue, having people earn and thereby appreciate the opportunity they are presented is the only way improvements can occur. “Nature law daniel-san not mine”


August 26th, 2009
5:31 pm

Its almost impossible for a “low achiever” child to acquire education without parental support. Yes, we need to spend on money on the children at risk – due to their lack of parental support. No matter how you slice it they need extra help. This costs money. The gifted child with money does need the extra support.


August 26th, 2009
5:37 pm

How ironic that ‘Reality’ seems to be the one having the most problems with reality. The quality of life for all of us, rich, poor, gifted and moronic is largely dependent on the actions of the top 10%. They are the doctors, lawyers, lawmakers, business leaders, etc. that impact our lives the most. They’re the ones that might cure cancer or fix the current economic problems. Throwing money at the shallow end of the gene pool sounds noble, but it’s really just a waste of money because money and government plans can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shiite.

Faithful One

August 26th, 2009
6:00 pm

To Good Grief

Interesting comment concerning Japan, Denmark and Korea. I’ve lived in two of the three and what those country have in comon is a culture that honors parents, authority figure. etc… The kids are 100 times more obedient and respectful than most of our Tier I students. We must have greater parent and community involvement to achieve the desired impact. Contrary to what many think, 90 percent of students will achieve with parental guidance and/or adult encouragement rooted in love.


You should consider getting involved as a member of the school board or some other office that has responsibility for our schools. I think you “get it”.


August 26th, 2009
7:12 pm

We–at least some of us–are not talking about the “poor,” the “low achiever,” or any other nice way of dressing this up. We, or at least I, would merely like to see the violent and disruptive removed from schools our average and even “dumb” kids attend, so they can at least get an education without being bullied to the point they commit suicide, among other pathologies.
If that is a disgusting thought to some of you, take those “underserved” kids into your own homes.

V for Vendetta

August 26th, 2009
8:49 pm

Reality, I’m assuming you meant to type “the Gifted child with money does [not] need the extra support.” And why not? Should he be denied the extra support simply because of his intelligence and socioeconomic upbringing? Does his success give under-performing students a claim on his resources? “From each according to his ability to each according to his need” eh?

It seems as though our two resident “Reality”s need a dose of just that. In the real world, a company doesn’t care what level classes you took in high school. They have no quota to meet in terms of college prep, honors, or gifted students. All a company cares about is value–i.e., the ability to perform a given task or responsibility better than anyone else. Once a student leaves high school, there are no more academic levels. There is only one level: LIFE. Those who are not equipped to deal with reality–i.e., LIFE–will ultimately fail, ending up impoverished and destitute. This is not the fault of those who were born into money or even those who were born into the middle class. (Being academically self-aware is not tied directly to wealth per se; it is as much a function of a middle class upbringing as it is a aristocratic one.) Likewise, the failure of the impoverished is not equivalent to a blank check for the resources of the producers. Perhaps, if there were no more values handed out without strings attached, those WITHOUT would work a lot harder to become those WITH. When something is given to a person free of charge, it immediately loses its inherent value. We have seen this in public education. It’s shocking that we continue to tolerate it.


August 26th, 2009
8:50 pm

…yes, a “disgusting breed” indeed.

Although I don’t agree with the spirit behind Allen’s comments, as a long-time educator, I have seen too much energy spent on disruptive students at the expense of those who have the potential to learn and succeed. And yes, that group of those with the potential to succeed does include poor, underserved, low-income, at-risk, etc…

Our hands are tied in schools when it comes to dealing with students who take away from a teacher’s ability to teach – mostly due to idiot parents who have been given too much power by district leaders and school boards. As a parent myself, I don’t ever expect anyone to allow MY child to disrupt the education of others. If my child ever got to that point, then I would fully advocate her being removed from the regular school setting and placed somewhere that could appropriately manage her behaviors.

We would all see a big change in how well schools do with educating our students if they were allowed to separate chronically disruptive and dangerous students. This, in addition to cutting out all the BS that has infiltrated the education process under the guise of accountability would greatly decrease the amount of additional money being “thrown” at public schools.


August 26th, 2009
8:53 pm

Up there in Atlanta, if you look at the schools with the highest SAT scores and those with the lowest, do you see a difference?

Gwinnett Parent

August 26th, 2009
9:06 pm

Let’s face it,most of the kids in the low achieving schools do not have the desire to learn. It would be nice to have some of my tax money sent back to my daughter’s school. However, since we have high parental involvement and fewer kids with free lunch we have to suffer with larger class sizes and fewer resources. One of my neighbors did a permissive transfer to a Title I school, because there are more resources for her kids and a better opportunities. My daughter’s teacher did not even have EXPO markers or erasers for her white board. Her class has 21 students. How the teacher is going to cater to so many educational levels is a real mystery. However, I did notice a teacher with a specialist degree tutoring children 1:1 in reading last year. So not all is lost. Just have to wonder how much money is being spent on the slow reader which receives individual attention from a tenured advanced degreed teacher while my daughter that is reading 2 grade levels ahead of the class has to sit bored.


August 26th, 2009
11:08 pm

I wonder why students come to school when, for example today, I asked two young men at my school whom I don’t know to pull their pants up and was cussed out by them just before they ran off of campus to avoid a consequence. Oh well, I guess the zeros that they received for their last period class is punishment enough, right? Where is the respect?


August 27th, 2009
9:21 am

My “spirit” is simply this: my/my kids’ rights end where your/your kids’ rights begin. I do not agree with the implicit and explicit comments I’ve seen arguing income, or (and this IS the disgusting part) race/ethnicity are causally related to academic achievment (nor for that matter do I think GA’s means of measure academic achievement, the CRCT, has any scientific validity, but that is a matter for another thread).

I said this better in a response that just got eaten but the short version of my “spirit” you actually state pretty well: “too much energy spent on disruptive students at the expense of those who have the potential to learn and succeed” except I’d call it the desire to learn and succeed.

We are all responsible for ourselves/our own children and while we have responsibility to do all we can for the less fortunate among us we and they have no right to expect others and their children to suffer if we/they are irresponsible. That’s the way this dyed in the wool Yankee liberal was raised–my “spirit” if you like.


August 27th, 2009
3:03 pm

Come on…
Another billion dollars to spend? The American Government is bankrupt! Where is this money coming from? DEBT… and lots of it! It is borrowing from China, Japan, mass of other nations. And as America’s multi-TRILLION national debt is about to equal 90% of the nation’s Gross National product by the end of 2009 (and is estimated to equal or even exceed it by the end of 2010), all America’s Government can think of is: “Buy! Buy! Buy! Spend! Spend! Spend!”?
Has it ever heard of “living within your means”? It should just remove the frills and pay its bills, tighten up its belt and get back to the basics: its three branches of government, its military, and its ministry of foreign affairs. All money that is not going to them must be diverted to paying back its debt. Nations won’t lend to America forever. Will YOU keep lending someone who keeps borrowing and borrowing from you and never paying you back? It is only a matter of time.
A wise man once said that a borrower is the slave of the lender.
This happens not only to people, but to nations as well.
What will America do when the nations all finally line up at her door demanding their money?


August 27th, 2009
7:57 pm

Allen, thank you for that clarification. I do better understand your viewpoint.

I still have a problem with this concept of the “desire” to learn that many children are said not to have. How do you gain a desire to learn when most around you don’t demonstrate educational or economic achievement? How can we fault a child for the low motivation, laziness, unconcern, (or whatever you want to call it) of the parent?

It’s almost like saying the child of a rapist is destined to become a rapist. Just because a parent doesn’t demonstrate a desire to learn, it doesn’t mean that a child can’t find that desire – through opportunity and intesest provided by OTHER adults outside the family environment.

If there’s a chance to build that “desire” to learn in a child, should we not take it? Wouldn’t building this desire in a child by showing them academic opportunity and success increase the chances of them becoming a productive member of society? Isn’t that what you want – for them to work, pay taxes, and stay out of trouble like most of us do. Wouldn’t they then be much more likely to pass on a desire for learning and success to their children WITHOUT the need for public funding and intervention in the school? Do you’ll see where I’m going with this? We’ve got to break the cycle at some point…


August 28th, 2009
11:58 am

You ask “If there’s a chance to build that “desire” to learn in a child, should we not take it?”
Of course we should.
Should we take–or maybe a better word here is “seize” that chance at the expense of other kids?
No. There has to be a way to help the former kids without taking awy from the latter kids. I’m not claiming to have the answer, but the solution to problem A is not to create problem B, which is what happens when we mainstream.