Questions remain as to impact, cost of plan
“It is unacceptable that in every state in the nation, there are schools that persistently fail to provide children with a quality education,” U.S Senator Kay Hagan said Monday, May 2 when announcing plans to introduce new legislation focused on turning around low performing schools.
Hagan was joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Rep. David Price at the Durham Performance Learning Center when announcing the proposed School Turnaround And Rewards
Act which Hagan said would target the bottom 5 percent of schools in each state to implement an intervention model that will ensure significant changes to the structure and operation of the school.
Hagan’s plan is for the STAR Act to be included as part of the reauthorization of the often criticized No Child Left Behind legislation.
The Act would create a state grant program in which school districts can compete for funds to implement one of four intensive intervention models at the state’s bottom five percent of schools.
“In every state in the nation, there are schools that have persistently failed to provide students with a quality education,” Hagan said, “Under NCLB, incremental reforms in these schools have not succeeded in turning them around. In fact, under current law, states and districts frequently choose the least intensive option for reform, resulting in very little significant improvement in student performance. “
As a potential addition to No Child Left Behind, the STAR Act would cost an estimated $600 million for the school turnaround portion, $300 million for rewards to schools that make significant progress in closing their achievement gaps. States would have to compete for federal funding to design programs that would reward schools and districts that have successfully reached their targets on increasing performance for all students.
Hagan said that just as children learn in different ways, different tactics may be better suited to help one low performing school over another. While the text of the STAR Act has not been released yet, there are four intervention models proposed which address this fact.
The transformation model entails replacing the principal, strengthening staffing, implementing a research-based instructional program, providing extended learning time, and implementing a new governance structure.
The turnaround model would include the same mandates as the transformation model while also directing the school to rehire no more than 50 percent of the staff.
The restart model would allow the school to be converted or closed and reopen the school under the management of a charter operator, charter management organization, or education management organization.
The last resort model is the school closure model which would mandate the school to be closed and the attending students to be enrolled in higher-performing public schools within the district.
It is unclear how oversight of the grants will be carried out, or what time frame schools have to reach mandated benchmarks.
More than 2,000 high schools in the country, commonly known as “dropout factories,” fail to graduate over 40 percent of entering freshmen, and 1,800 of the most persistently low-performing American elementary and middle schools averaged below 40 percent proficiency in math and reading.
“It is unacceptable that in every state in the nation, there are schools that persistently fail to provide children with a quality education,” said Hagan, “bold and aggressive actions are necessary to turn around failing schools … and change the status quo.”