Reader Christine Langhoff sent the following information about some “turnaround” schools in Massachusetts. Having won “Race to the Top” funding, the state has taken Arne Duncan’s advice to fire everybody and start over, which seems to be his deep thinking on how to improve schools, not through collaboration and steady work, but through fear tactics.


She writes:


The state of Massachusetts has recently taken over two Boston elementary schools. Each has been “turned around” (I think of it as churned) several times. This has included mass staff dismissals and new staff have been hand picked by new administration, yet the schools have remained as Level 4 schools. That the schools have populations of about 88% poverty, 40% English language learners and 20% SPED kids will surprise no readers of Diane’s blog. (Remember too, some number of these kids have hit a triple, i.e. they are members of all three groups: poor special needs kids who are learning English – is there a VAM algorithm for that?)


Under the state takeover, our state commissioner, Mitchell Chester (national chairman of PARCC) has unilaterally given both schools over to charter management organizations (Bluepoint and UP Academy) to run. The first move that has been made at the Dever School has been to kill the dual-language program. That no one with a linguistic background has been included in the decision is obvious; Chester seems to believe that instruction in languages holds back language development. (See: )


The second move has been to force teachers to work an extra 700 hours over the school year for a stipend which comes to $2.75 an hour. So who is going to staff the schools? Professional status teachers have been churned out. Other professional status BTU members are unlikely to volunteer for 700 extra hours at virtually no compensation. I’m at a loss to understand how education for some of our most needy kids is going to be improved.


Here’s a link to the state plan for the Dever. If you go to page 6, there’s a chart (which I could not paste here) with proficiency scores for ELA. They are unsurprising, given the school’s population. Actually, that 16% of 8 year old kids in such challenging circumstances score so well in a test in a language that is not their first is a testament to their teachers’ efforts and professional training.