Friday, August 28, 2009

Title I funding: comments are open

Secretary Duncan's announcement of the Title I federal improvement grants means that the comment period on those guidelines is now open.

Heads up, people: this is money, this is targeted at Worcester, and if it plays out the way Duncan's looking at, it will dramatically change things!

The money, $546 million in the fiscal year 2009 appropriation and an additional $3 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will go to states that receive Title I funds, who in turn will offer subgrants to local districts that apply and meet requirements stated.
The states need to divide their Title I-eligible schools into three categories:
  • 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.

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

You'll note that the Worcester schools that need improvement are either Tier I or Tier III schools; all Worcester schools that are eligible receive Title I funds, and so we have no Tier II schools in the city.

Ah, but what does one have to commit to in order to get the funds? Schools have to commit to one of four models for change:
  • Turnaround Model or what I'm calling the "Duncan model" if you remember the high rate of firing he's been proud of in running Chicago– This would include among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the school's staff (that means firing them), 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. aka: turn them into charters

  • 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. close them

  • 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. Note that this starts with the "fire the principal" model, then changes the curriculum. "Operational flexibility" tends to mean moving away from having it be a district-run school and moving away from unionization.
You'll note first that this follow the "lots of stick, little carrot" model. I am, really, glad that this administration is taking seriously the idea that schools need to have enough money and use it effectively in order to do right by their students.
This is punitive, however.
The notion that somehow a principal is completely responsible for the failure of a schools is insane. Coming in and firing half the teachers could be considered a "shakeup" or it could just be disruptive. The ongoing push to charterize (is that a word?) education misunderstands the weaknesses of charter schools ('though at least here they have to admit any student who formerly was there; will they, however, have to keep them? Charter schools have been known to push out students who need special services.). And closing failing schools doesn't really solve the problem.
Comments are open!


Neil and Joan said...

Worcester does have several Title I eligible schools that do not receive funds. They are at the middle and high school levels. Don't know who gave you this misinformation.

Neil and Joan said...

Not sure who gave you the info on WPS Title I schools but it is incorrect. Not all Title I eligible schools receive funds. WPS only funds TItle I at the elementary level. There are several middle and secondary schools which are eligible for Title I but do not receive funds.