Miami's "Zone" -- Not So Much Improvement
Miami-Dade brought out the big guns to fix 39 of its lowest-performing schools. It spent $100 million, and created a special administrative team to tend to a cluster of eight struggling high schools and their feeder schools. Students at those schools had extra math and reading instruction, and longer school days and years. And now a new study says it had little payoff.
According to the study, the School Improvement Zone produced "at best an inconsistent impact that was limited to the elementary grades" and "was not found to have had a consistent positive impact at the secondary grades." The district study compared the 39 Zone schools with 39 demographically similar schools, and found the Zone schools turned in worse scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in most subject areas than did the other schools.
When I wrote this story about the Zone for EdWeek in October 2007, the program was in its ending stages. But its advocates hoped its strategies would continue, noting data that showed Zone students moving out of the lowest-performing rungs on the FCAT more quickly in some subjects and in some grades than their peers statewide.
Given the gloomy findings in the newest study, it will be interesting to see what the school board decides is the best strategy to pursue for improving these schools. At the moment, it seems like it's a Zone of Uncertainty for those 44,000 students.