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Feds Highlight 'Model' Turnaround Efforts in Online Videos

For states and school districts looking for some "how to" advice on turning around those schools where student achievement just won't budge, the folks at the Education Department have put together a line-up of short videos that feature stories of schools that have had some success climbing from the bottom of the academic barrel.

Let's just say these short blurbs are more inspirational than they are instructive. You'd need a feature-length video to really begin to explain how these schools get overhauled.

Two of the featured schools are in Chicago—so they have the imprint of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was Chicago's schools CEO before coming to Washington. These schools were "turned around" by the Academy of Urban School Leadership, one of the darlings of the education reform world.

The third featured school is Locke High School in south Los Angeles, where the charter organization Green Dot Public Schools took over the campus in 2008 after a pitched battle with United Teachers Los Angeles. (Green Dot's teachers are unionized, but are not affiliated with UTLA.) Green Dot is just finishing up its second year in the Watts high school; second-year test scores won't be released until this summer.

Of course, these three examples have been cited by Sec. Duncan over and over as evidence that "dramatically" changing the culture and achievement levels at chronically failing schools is possible. And the federal government is throwing unprecedented resources at states and districts to take on such monumental work.

The Ed. Dept. sent out a release late last week promising more videos from other schools across the country. I think we'd all benefit from hearing about more typical examples of school turnaround. You know, the kind where a school district—without an outside partner like AUSL, or an aggressive charter management organization, like Green Dot—has, or is doing, the work itself. We'll keep you posted if more of those videos appear at www.ed.gov.

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