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Michigan Turnaround District Leader Starts Listening Tour

John Covington, appointed this summer to be the head of a statewide turnaround district in Michigan, has embarked on a series of forums designed to gather input on the Education Achievement Authority, the Detroit Free Press reports:

The head of the new statewide school reform system assured local superintendents and educators today that he's not out to take over their schools, but to work hand in hand with them to help improve achievement. ...

During his opening remarks, Covington said the nation's "continuous and egregious failure" to adequately educate children "continues to be our biggest problem."

"The vast majority of children are failing to meet the mark," Covington said.

Part of the problem, Covington said, is that today's education system is extremely outdated, saying schools aren't equipped to deal with children born with a phone in one hand and a laptop in another. It's also a system, he said, that doesn't acknowledge that "one size does not fit all."

"We continue to force this structure upon children that's not working and it's criminal," Covington said.

Covington relayed similar comments to me when I wrote about state turnaround districts this week. When I spoke to him, he was in Louisiana, meeting with leaders from that state's Recovery District, which oversees most of the schools in New Orleans. The Michigan turnaround will eventually oversee low-performing schools throughout the state, starting in Detroit.

These turnaround districts may be the newest policy prescription that states will try to address persistently failing schools and districts—coming in and directly managing the districts, like what has happened in New Jersey, has led to mixed results.

Walt Gardner, a former teacher and a current Edweek blogger, says these reformers may be promising more than they can deliver with these turnaround districts. As a reporter, I wonder how much time these new leaders will be given to make measurable improvements, and what will count as success. What other questions do you have about these new management structures?

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