Arne Duncan's $3 billion "turnaround" School Improvement Grant has worked well -- for consultants, that is. As for improving schools? Not so well.
Alyson Klein writes in Edweek:
The federal program providing billions of dollars to help states and districts close or remake some of their worst-performing schools remains a work in progress after two years, with more than 1,200 turnaround efforts under way but still no definitive verdict on its effectiveness.To get their one-time hit of SIG money, schools were forced to fire their principals and at least half of their teachers arbitrarily, in violation of collective-bargaining agreements. Districts were then pushed to turn schools over to private management consultants. The net result -- after nearly a decade of SIG, first, Bush's version under NCLB, and now after 2 years of Duncan's Race To The Top "turnaround" version -- no significant gains in measurable learning outcomes.
According to Klein:
Some schools and districts spent millions of dollars on outside experts and consultants. Others went through the politically ticklish process of replacing teachers and principals, while combating community skepticism and meeting the demands of district and state overseers.Klein's article spotlights one SIG consulting group, the New York City-based Global Partnership Schools, headed by by Rudy Crew, a former head of the New York City and Miami school systems, and Manuel Rivera, a former superintendent of the Rochester, N.Y., schools. (Crew left the company last fall.) The company operates SIG schools in Baltimore; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Pueblo, Colo.
In Pueblo, for example, where GPS has a $7.4 million contract, student performance slipped further at five of the six schools the company operates, The Denver Post reported. At the GPS-operated school in Baltimore, Garrison Middle School, nearly every indicator of quality has dropped since GPS took over in 2010, The Baltimore Sun found.So far the SIG has been a godsend to dozens of private consulting and turnaround companies like GPS who have elbowed their way up to the Race To The Top feeding trough. But it's more an indictment of Arne Duncan's failed top-down version of reform.