Policy Paper:                                                Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools          STRAT...
Policy Paper:                                               Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools       The most...
Policy Paper:                                                Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsThe Challenge: ...
Policy Paper:                                              Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools“If we are to put...
Policy Paper:                                                Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsThe report serv...
Policy Paper:                                               Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsWe, the authors,...
Policy Paper:                                               Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsThe first order ...
Policy Paper:                                                Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsBy the end of t...
Policy Paper:                                               Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools“I would meet of...
Policy Paper:                                               Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsMiami-Dade Today...
Policy Paper:                                               Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schoolsoffices. The pri...
Policy Paper:                                                Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schoolseven on a daily...
Policy Paper:                                               Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsAlthough the Zon...
Policy Paper:                                               Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schoolsproviding incent...
Policy Paper:                                                       Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools        ...
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Proven Strategies for Developing Excellent Leadership at Under-Performing Schools


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In a policy paper released by The McGraw-Hill Research Foundation, “Strategies for Rescuing Failing Public Schools: How Leaders Create a Culture of Success,” co-authors Alberto M. Carvalho and Dr. Steven L. Paine, argue that strong leadership can help even the worst performing schools achieve dramatic changes in achievement and morale.

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Proven Strategies for Developing Excellent Leadership at Under-Performing Schools

  1. 1. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools STRATEGIES FOR RESCUING FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS: HOW LEADERS CREATE A CULTURE OF SUCCESS The Most Important Factors in School Turnarounds are Often the Most Difficult to Quantify By Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Dr. Steven L. Paine, Senior Advisor The McGraw-Hill Research Foundation We now have ... overwhelming evidence that strong leadership in a school can make a real difference in student achievement – indeed, research concludes that “there are virtually no documented instances of troubled schools being turned around without intervention by a powerful leader” and that “the impact of good leadership is greatest in schools where it is most needed.” - Christine DeVita, President, The Wallace Foundation March, 20111Who Will Rescue America’s Failing Schools?The notion of “rescuing” failing schools figures prominently at the beginning of the 2010documentary, Waiting for Superman. The film makes the point that there is no Supermanwho can single-handedly save America’s failing schools – no “Man of Steel” who canswoop down out of the sky and return our public education system to the leadershipstatus it enjoyed for much of the last century.Once the envy of the world, U.S. education has fallen precipitously by all measures.Consider that:  An unacceptably high number of U.S. high school students drop out before graduation, about one in every three based on the most recent data;2  The United States now ranks as low as 18th among developed nations in high school graduation rates;3  A Pentagon report released in 2009 found that as many as 75 percent of young people age 17 to 24 are not fit for military service, with 25 percent of those not fit because they lack a high school or general equivalency diploma (GED);4 and1 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  2. 2. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools  The most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, released in December of 2010, had U.S. students ranking 17th in Reading, 23rd in Science and tied with Ireland for 32nd place in Math.5We are failing our young people by not preparing them for the high-tech, more inter-connected global economy and job market of the 21st century. We cannot wait forSuperman or anyone else to save our educational system for us. We will have to do itourselves – the hard way – over time and through trial and error. It’s not going to be easyand it’s not going to happen overnight.Fortunately, as more than one education expert notes near the end of Waiting forSuperman, a formula for rescuing failing schools is now well documented. Educationthought leaders and researchers were writing about and experimenting with new andmore effective approaches to public schooling as early as the 1960s. They have continuedto build upon their work over the past four decades, documenting what works and whatdoes not.The main ingredients of the formula include:  An intense focus on instructional standards;  Correspondingly high standards for educational achievement for all students, regardless of ethnicity or economic background;  A robust system of measurement and accountability for meeting student achievement goals;  Employing the latest and most sophisticated tools to collect student performance data for ongoing, formative assessment; and  A commitment to developing and supporting great teachers and leaders.The question this raises is: If we do indeed have a proven formula to make our schoolsmore effective, why is the U.S. educational system still leaving so many of our studentsbehind, especially those who attend inner-city and rural districts blighted by poverty?This paper discusses how we (the authors) have implemented successful reforms in therecent past (Dr. Paine, who pioneered many reform strategies as Superintendent ofEducation at a school district in West Virginia in the late 1990s and early 2000s) andcurrently (Mr. Carvalho, who is bringing new energy to rescuing failing schools assuperintendent of the Miami-Dade County School District – the fourth largest district inthe U.S.).2 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  3. 3. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsThe Challenge: Changing the Culture of Failing Schools There is a challenge in moving from a bunch of interesting cases, in which schools have figured out how to do this, to a system, because a lot of this has to do with unpacking things that are intuitive and systemized. 6 - Richard Elmore, Gregory R. Anrig Professor of Educational Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of EducationScaling innovative solutions so that they will work consistently for districts and statescreates a set of challenges involving human factors difficult to quantify. These challengesrequire the kind of leadership necessary to change the climate and the culture of failingschools from one that expects failure to one that demands success.Systems and strategies for optimizing the overall efficacy of institutions are, by their verynature, empirical and mechanistic; they must work predictably to be effective. But humanbeings can be unpredictable -- whimsical in their actions and sometimes self-defeating intheir decisions. How else do we explain the development of an educational system thatwas described in the famous 1983 U.S. Department of Education report, A Nation at Risk,as tantamount to an enemy attack on the United States?7Humans working within large institutions can be incented with financial and otherrewards and discouraged from non-productive behaviors (carrot and stick), but, in theend, human beings remain unpredictable. They are not machines, and they stubbornlyrefuse to behave as such. Yet large-scale organizations with specific goals require them towork together predictably.What we have learned is that to make even the best public education approaches workeffectively at scale, it is not enough to know what needs to happen. You have to knowhow to make it happen synergistically, and on several levels all at once. This involvesconvincing many different groups of adults -- sometimes with conflicting agendas-- to allwork together.As author Daniel Pink has pointed out in his book Drive and elsewhere, humans are notalways or even most effectively incented by monetary reward alone. They can also bemotivated by challenge and the desire to be a part of something larger than themselves.They will work hard to achieve altruistic goals that will benefit society, such as ensuringa better future for the nation’s children. And there is arguably no societal goal morecritical at this point in our nation’s history than in seeing that all students have access tothe best possible education.The Obama Administration knows this, which is why it is providing $3.5 billion in Title ISchool Improvement Grants (SIGs) to fund improvements at the nations 5,000 lowestperforming schools.3 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  4. 4. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools“If we are to put an end to stubborn cycles of poverty and social failure, and put ourcountry on track for long-term economic prosperity,” Secretary of Education ArneDuncan said in announcing the grants, “we must address the needs of children who havelong been ignored and marginalized in chronically low-achieving schools.”8The Coleman Report and Four Decades of Education Research There are basically only three ways you can increase learning and performance: increase the knowledge and skill of teachers [rigor]; change the content [relevance]; and alter the relationship of the student to the teacher and the content [relationships]. If you change one, you have to change them all.9 - Richard Elmore, Gregory R. Anrig Professor of Educational Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of EducationIn the late 1960s and early ’70s, education researchers and leaders in the U.S., Canadaand the United Kingdom began to realize that the public education systems that hadserved those Western nations for more than half of the 20th century were no longerproviding the level of knowledge or skills people would soon need to earn a middle-classlivelihood in an increasingly inter-connected and high-tech world. Educators and policyexperts began to focus on how education might change to begin meeting the newdemands of a rapidly approaching future.A 1966 U.S. Department of Education report on education equality written by sociologistJames Coleman added both fuel and a spark to the debate. The Coleman Report claimedthat the public education system itself had little effect when it came to levels of studentachievement. Far more important, the report concluded, were the cultural and socio-economic factors external to the school environment, elements over which educators haveno control.Poor children from disadvantaged and racially diverse backgrounds would perform betteracademically, Coleman suggested, if they attended school with wealthier and whitestudents – not because the wealthier neighborhood schools were better equipped or doinga better job at teaching young people than those in poor neighborhoods – but because anenvironment of poverty bred values inimical to learning. This later became one of theprime justifications for busing African-American and other minority students topredominantly white schools.In other words, poverty itself made for low-performing students. It wasn’t the schoolsystem that had to change to ensure education equality; all society had to do to ensure agood education for all students – regardless of background or ethnicity – was to even outthe cultural and economic environments students encountered at school – a notion that isalmost as fanciful as believing that Superman will rescue our failing students and schools.4 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  5. 5. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsThe report served to falsely legitimize the claims of many teachers and administratorsthat poor student achievement levels were primarily due to the family backgrounds andsubstandard environments of the students. Plainly speaking, educators had convenientlybeen let off the hook, allowed to “blame the victim” for poor school-wide academicachievement results. Efforts to improve the student achievement levels of all children atthe school level were perceived as futile.Some education experts at the time of the Coleman Report refused to accept itsconclusions. Researchers like Larry Lezotte in the U.S., Michael Fullan and Ben Levin inCanada and others in the United Kingdom believed that all children came to school tolearn, regardless of economic background, and that all students could learn if providedwith good educational content and instruction.These reform-minded education experts believed, too, that schools do have sufficientcontrol of the variables to assure student learning, that schools should be heldaccountable for measured student achievement and should strive to ensure that allstudents, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or social class, were successfully learningthe intended school curriculum. They began to gather data and study the issue morescientifically to back up their opposition to Coleman.First they decided that if students in the latter half of the 20th century were going tograduate with the skills necessary to achieve a middle class income they would need tomaster a few basic skills: 1. Read and do math at a 9th grade level or higher; 2. Be able tosolve problems; 3. Work with people who are different; and 4. Become proficient atoperating computers or other high-technology equipment.After testing approximately 6,000 randomly selected high school graduates against thosestandards, it was discovered that only about 10% could meet all of them.That meant, Lezotte said in a 2002 interview, “we [had] a huge job to do in terms ofupgrading the quality and level of education … [and] you are not going to make thosekind of changes in the system … by simply working a little harder… [W]e have to goback to [and change] the basic structure and systemic nature of schools and schooldistricts.”10Over the past four decades Lezotte (who founded the Effective Schools Movement),Fullan and Levin (who helped turn around the Ontario school system and make it a modelfor the rest of the world), along with others like Ronald Edmonds and Richard Elmore(working independently, but both at the Harvard School of Education), have created abody of research that points the way toward creating the kind of complete overhaul of theeducation system Lezotte refers to above.5 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  6. 6. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsWe, the authors, have been able to improve education outcomes at the district and statelevel by employing and refining many of the ideas and strategies for reform thesepioneers have proposed.The Experience in West Virginia in the 1990s to Early 2000s [T]hey gave me a baseball bat and a megaphone – like the principal [in the film “Lean on Me”] -- and said “this is what you’re going to need to handle the students at this school.” - Dr. Steven Paine, Senior Advisor, The McGraw-Hill Research FoundationIn 1990, co-author Dr. Steven Paine was asked to serve as principal for the lowestperforming school in West Virginia. The school was also the largest middle school in thestate, with 1,200 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.Discipline at the school was a major problem. The kids were “completely out of hand,”according to Dr. Paine, who had previously served as a vice principal at a West Virginiahigh school with a similar discipline problem.“I guess they thought I was a tough guy, like the principal in that movie, ‘Lean on Me,’”Dr. Paine recounts.“The day before I took over I had a meeting with the staff and they gave me a baseballbat and a megaphone – just like the principal in that movie had – and said ‘this is whatyou’re going to need to handle the students at this school.’”“I said ‘well, I know some of you think that this is what’s needed to make this institutionfunction as a school again’ and they all applauded.” Dr. Paine went on to say that whilehe appreciated the gifts, he was not going to need either the bat or the megaphone.“We are going to become a functioning school again,” he remembers saying, “but we’regoing to do it by treating our kids with dignity and respect and they’re going to give usthe same. We’re going to raise the bar and expect great things out of our people, andthat’s how we’re going to get it done and become one of the best schools in this state.”“Well, you could feel the wind go out of their sails. I guess they thought I had turneddiscipline around at the high school with a bat and a megaphone. But we had done it bysetting standards for behavior and being consistent. There were consequences for badbehavior, of course, but students always knew and understood those consequences, andthey were meted out fairly and evenly.”6 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  7. 7. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsThe first order of business was to establish a safe, orderly and business-like environment.“We had to clean the entire school up before we could establish discipline or do anythingelse.”Nothing in the school worked well – plugged-up toilets, defaced lockers, and much, muchmore. The first order of business was to change the climate – make the school a placewith decent teaching and learning conditions and establish the high expectations forlearning that are so necessary. Dr. Paine and his staff organized community volunteerefforts to give the school “a total face lift.”“We painted the entire place, got rid of graffiti, we fixed the bathrooms. And we did it allthrough volunteer efforts and mostly donated products. This helped the community tomake an investment in the school and begin caring about it. And of course the nicerfacilities made the students feel better about being there.”Only after the school environment had been upgraded did they begin to work onimproving discipline, which Dr. Paine and his staff focused on for the entire first year. “We had to create a degree of professionalism emanating from the teachers,” he says,“and the kids had to sense that.”The second year they began to home in on the quality of the instruction.“I don’t know how to say this without offending someone, but we had a serious problemwith some our math teachers not achieving satisfactory results. So we went to them andasked them what they needed to turn it around.”The teachers offered several solutions, but Dr. Paine thought they were all just “more ofthe same thing.”“I began to look at some technology-based solutions,” Dr. Paine remembers.“There was a suite of interactive instructional video disks on the market at the time. Theylooked like the old ‘33’ record albums. We bought the math series and then pre-tested ourkids. The pre-test results were abysmal. But the post tests showed amazing results. Notonly did the program help students learn math, it actually showed the math teachers howto be better teachers by modeling effective teaching behaviors.“So the kids would watch the lesson on TV and the teachers would facilitate and monitor,and when you had a critical mass of 80 percent understanding the concept they’d moveon. And the teachers would focus on the 20 percent who didn’t get the concepts asquickly as the majority. This was a very early and crude version of the more sophisticatedongoing assessment and differentiated instruction programs now widely available toeducators.”7 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  8. 8. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsBy the end of that second year, the school went from dead last to being one of the top fivemiddle schools in the state for math achievement.11“That was twenty years ago, and we could see then how important technology was goingto be for raising student achievement. We had computer labs and we used a very basicsoftware program that helped kids to comprehend what they were reading.”Dr. Paine visited one of the reading classes, held up a book and asked if the studentswould rather read the book on their own or read a section on the computer and answerquestions about that section.“Overwhelmingly they wanted to read off the computer. This surprised the teachers. Butalready these young students were learning how to multi-task. It was only 1991 – therewasn’t even an Internet yet – but these kids were completely comfortable withtechnology. It’s taken the education environment twenty years to catch up with them.”After getting the facilities, discipline and instructional practices under control, Dr. Painebegan to focus on professional development for his teachers and using student data toimprove achievement results.“We brought in a principal and his staff; they had all become experts in improvingstudent achievement results by collecting data. They showed us how to use data todiagnose very specific learning problems that were occurring with our kids. We spent awhole week with them just looking at and analyzing our data. And then we came up withvery specific solutions. We actually called these solutions ‘prescriptions,’ and ourteachers had to write a prescription for each different learning problem, just like doctorswrite prescriptions to treat different medical conditions.”The school established inter-disciplinary teams and teachers would work together onthose teams to create a professional learning community within the school where theycould share both problems and solutions. Teachers within each subject would get togetherand have shared planning time, and teachers from different disciplines would meet toshare teacher concerns and issues that crossed department boundaries.”“We did a lot,” Dr. Paine says, “but I’d say the focal point was a very intense focus oninstruction based on and related to our database.“I didn’t spend a lot of time in my office. I’d go into classrooms and evaluate teachers tohelp them improve. Of course there were times when I had to let teachers go if theypersisted in not meeting standards.”Dr. Paine made it a point to build connections with the teachers’ unions and other teacherorganizations, forging a strong bond of trust with representatives and officials.8 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  9. 9. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools“I would meet often with one leader from a state teachers’ organization to talk about theissues and build a level of trust, to the point where she was almost an assistant principalon staff. And if there was an issue with a teacher she’d come to me and let me have acrack at it before it went into some kind of formal process.”At the end of four years, Dr. Paine’s middle school was number one in the state inEnglish and number three in the Total Basic Schools Score, which combined reading,English language arts and math achievement.12 In 2004, the school was named a NationalForum Blue Ribbon School in English; a year later it was designated by the U.S.Department of Education as a Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free School – one of only 10schools in the U.S. to receive both awards.“By then, everybody in that school wanted to contribute to its success. Even thecustodians and teacher aides would come in on weekends. We had a group called‘Teachers Who Care’ who volunteered their own time after school to tutor kids for noextra pay. They recognized that we had a lot of kids who needed help and they stepped upto address this on their own, creating their own tutoring schedules.”Building pride in the school, Dr. Paine said, was the big motivator that convincedeveryone to work together for its success.“One thing that motivated them was – they were sick and tired of working in a schoolthat was commonly known as a failing school. They’d reached their limit. “This isunacceptable,’ they thought, ‘and we’re not putting up with it any more.’“I just happened to be the principal who came in when they’d had enough.”Dr. Paine was rewarded by being named district superintendent of the worst performingschool district in West Virginia, where he had similar success before being asked to serveas superintendent for the entire state.“Being a district superintendent was the same job one level up. As a principal my job wasto assure top quality teachers. Now my job was to find the best principals for each school,so I’d spend a lot of time with the principals in our district, getting out to schools andwalking the halls with them.“But I have to say that when it comes to district leadership, my co-author AlbertoCarvalho and his staff have been setting the bar very high currently in the Miami-Dadeschool district.“They are exactly on target when it comes to showing how great, innovative districtleadership can change the culture of an entire district and get very impressive results.”9 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  10. 10. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsMiami-Dade Today [Our] focus is on the quality of instruction. That’s the key. You can talk about other components that are important, but if you don’t improve the quality of instruction you don’t improve the school. - Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent Miami-Dade County Public SchoolsMiami-Dade is the fourth largest school system in the nation, with an annual budget of $6billion. Fifty-three thousand employees teach and support the education of 345,000students in nearly 50 million square feet of facilities. Students belonging to minoritygroups make up the majority of the district’s student population, 70 percent of whomqualify as “economically disadvantaged,” making the district an excellent laboratory fortesting and scaling up strategies for student achievement in large urban districts acrossthe nation.An early initiative put in place before Superintendent Carvalho arrived to lead Miami-Dade had sought to aid failing schools by creating an “Improvement Zone,” within whichthe rules of operation would be somewhat different from other schools in the district. TheZone strategy focused on extending learning times after the regular school day, andprovided instructional coaches in reading and math who could work with smaller groupsof students who were struggling, and even one-on-one. There was also an emphasis onprofessional development for teachers in Zone schools.“The Zone began the conversation of targeted strategies,” says Carvalho. “First off, itmade the system recognize there is a need for differentiation – you can’t treat all schoolsthe same -- additional resources must be put into low-performing schools. It also put agreat deal of work into collecting and organizing data; using data to drive instruction.Because of the work done by the Zone, Miami-Dade got a head start in data, and becamemuch more sophisticated in using data to drive instruction and efficiencies.”Despite a strong beginning, results for the Miami-Dade Improvement Zone were mixedafter three years. Elementary schools improved dramatically at first, then regressed. Thehigh schools showed very little to no improvement. Nevertheless, Miami-Dade’sexperience with the Zone was valuable in providing guidance on which strategiesworked, which did not, and which could work better with some organizationaladjustments.One reason given for the Zone’s ultimately disappointing performance was that principalsin Zone schools received mixed signals from different areas of district leadership. Therewas no one united voice speaking for school reform. The Zone office set goals andoffered principals additional leadership support and monitoring, but day-to-dayoperations in the Zone still came under the authority of the district’s half a dozen regional10 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  11. 11. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schoolsoffices. The principals had to function within the structure of the regional authority, andhad to go to region offices for operational support, personnel and budgets.When Carvalho assumed the superintendency for Miami-Dade schools in 2008, therewere 13 “F” schools. He immediately set about creating a system of high standardscoupled with higher levels of support for troubled schools, building on and strengtheningthe robust data system begun under the Zone. This allowed for the immediate drillingdown of useful data from student assessments and other sources into the classroom,where it could help identify learning problems and provide effective interventions.He replaced some principals and moved teachers who were consistently ineffective atachieving goals, despite increased levels of professional support. In one particularlycontroversial move, he moved high-performing principals who had been designatedFlorida Principals of the Year, reassigning them to low-performing schools. This is astrategy that makes obvious sense – a leader gives his or her most effective personnel thegreatest challenges – but it was not common in the education sphere.Superintendent Carvalho also began to challenge the long-held tradition of placingAfrican-American principals into predominantly African-American schools, and Hispanicprincipals into Hispanic schools. Instead, he began to put the most effective principalsinto the schools that needed them most, regardless of whether they looked like people inthe community they would be serving.“I went into the community personally, projected student outcomes using persuasive datadealing with literacy and other important subjects, and said ‘Look at these scores – this istragic -- we have not moved the needle, and we must.’”Within two years of implementing these and other strategies, low-performing schoolsbegan to improve. When the Obama Administration announced it would offercompetitive School Improvement Grants (SIGs) to help turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools, Miami-Dade applied and received a $14.8 million grant to transform19 of the district’s worst performing schools.Carvalho used those funds to create the Miami-Dade School District’s EducationTransformation Office – the ETO.The ETO is run on a day-to-day basis by Assistant Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, whoreports directly to Superintendent Carvalho. The Improvement Zone leadership, bycomparison, had reported to an associate superintendent. In that hierarchy, importantinformation about what was happening in the Zone often did not reach the top.“Superintendent Carvalho gives me a free hand,” says Assistant Superintendent Vitti,“but he is very involved with these schools and wants to know, on a weekly – sometimes11 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  12. 12. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schoolseven on a daily basis – what’s happening in them. “Having me report directly to thesuperintendent cuts a lot of the red tape you see in many large urban districts,” Vitti says.The original 19 schools quickly expanded to 26, to include some elementary and middleschools, and these 26 schools and their principals report directly to Vitti, who focusesprimarily on curriculum, instruction, and professional development.Under the system set up by the earlier Improvement Zone initiative, principals of Zoneschools had to go to their region heads to obtain equipment, personnel or other resources.Vitti has established two administrative directors within his office who handle theserequests and ensure they are filled promptly, freeing up principals to focus on curriculum,instruction, and teacher development.“So if they need a new air conditioner or have a position in science they can’t find aqualified applicant for, they can come to us and we take care of it – everything needed foran ETO school goes through the ETO office.”“Nikolai has also cultivated relationships in each of the facilities support shopsthroughout the district,” Carvalho adds. “They serve as facilitators for the ETO schools.So if any ETO principals need something fast, the office knows exactly who to go to ineach of these departments to make it happen.”Carvalho and Vitti also developed an ETO team of content experts in reading, math andscience who had been successful in high poverty schools as teachers and instructionalcoaches.Like Dr. Paine in West Virginia, the ETO has developed a level of understanding withthe teacher’s union to do things outside of the contract for these schools.“For example,” says Vitti, “we have common planning. Our teachers have voluntarilygiven up their right to individual planning so they can come together two hours everyweek to share best practices and work together on developing shared lesson plans.”The Algebra I teachers will all come together and one will present a proposed lesson.The other teachers watch that teacher implement the lesson plan, and then they discusswhat worked and what did not. Vitti is careful to add that this kind of mutual professionaldevelopment is lesson study, not an evaluation process. It is a way to build capacity andbest practices, facilitated by an instructional coach.“They agree and disagree – sometimes they agree to disagree on certain strategies,” saysVitti, “but the result is stronger lesson plans and better instructional capacity.”12 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  13. 13. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public SchoolsAlthough the Zone first implemented the instructional coaches, they also served in anadministrative capacity under the previous model, which often took them away fromcoaching – their core function.Rather than use coaches as administrators or quasi-assistant principals concernedprimarily with discipline, the ETO focuses their efforts on instruction and coaching only.“Our coaches attend an academy every month,” Vitti says, “where we look at data, talkabout best practices and discuss other strategies for improving student scores.”There is also a focus on making certain assistant principals are not just limited todisciplinary concerns. Assistant principals at ETO schools have become more involved asinstructional leaders, to support the work of the instructional coaches.“At our ETO high schools,” says Carvalho, “assistant principals are given an academicdepartment to oversee. That becomes their department – they own it – and they areresponsible, to some degree, for ensuring a consistent level of high-quality instructionwithin that discipline.”This leads to another key component of Superintendent Carvalho’s district leadership –sustainability.“We’ve all thought a lot about sustainability,” Carvalho affirms. “AssistantSuperintendent Vitti is doing cutting edge work, but some day he will be running his owndistrict somewhere else. All good things end and neither of us will be here forever. Thework isn’t just about him or me – it’s about systems and processes and cultural change,and it’s also about building the next generation of leaders.”“Our succession management plan is that – if you’re a great teacher – you become acoach, a mentor for other teachers. Once you’ve proven yourself as an instructionalcoach, you become an assistant principal. And if you do a great job as an AP you willbecome a principal in one of our schools.”But the main focus, Carvalho insists, is on quality of instruction.“You can talk about other components that are important, but if you don’t improve thequality of instruction you don’t improve the school. Building instructional capacitystimulates a momentum that continues to build and have a positive effect on other areas.Not only do academic scores and other measures of success show how we are improvinginstruction, but everyone – students, parents, teachers and administrators – all begin totake pride in the school. And once you have that sense of pride going, people will workhard to protect and keep it.”Carvalho and Vitti have sought to improve the quality of instruction on several fronts atonce, by establishing a Memorandum of Understanding with the teachers’ union,13 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  14. 14. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schoolsproviding incentive pay and bonuses for high-performing faculty, transferring teachersand replacing principals who consistently fail to meet student achievement goals in theirclasses and schools, and expanding the use of Teach for America volunteers.“We have 150 Teach for America volunteers in our 26 ETO schools,” Carvalho says.“We’ve found them to be high-energy and very passionate. Many of them have justgraduated from challenging colleges and universities, and they understand the concept ofrigor and higher order thinking upfront.”The entire district has also placed a sharp focus on college and career readiness, with dualenrollment, while expanding options for Advanced Placement (AP) classes. UnderCarvalho’s leadership, the district has established career academies in each high school.Students at all of the district’s high schools have the opportunity to pursue one of threeoptions: Dual enrollment (in a community college or training program); AdvancedPlacement classes; or a program leading to industry certification in key occupationalskills.“Our concept is – you’re either going to college after you leave us, or you’re going to gethigh-level work skills while you’re here to make you employable after you graduate.”During Superintendent Carvalho’s time at Miami-Dade, the district has gone from having13 schools designated “F” by the state to three. In addition, a majority of schools in thedistrict earned an “A.”In 2009, Miami-Dade students consistently out-performed their national peers onNational Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) assessments in Reading, Mathand Science. NAEP assessments are considered the gold standard of educationalperformance accountability.The ETO has seen the number of its schools rated “D” drop from 10 to 6, the number of“C” schools rise from 7 to 13, and the number of “F” schools fall to zero.ConclusionA 2008 Newsweek editorial, written on the 25th anniversary of the publication of “ANation at Risk, wrote: Schools are complex social enterprises; their success depends on thousands of daily personal interactions. They are, in the end, only as good as the people in them and the culture in which those people work. So its crucial to get everyone in a school community invested in a schools mission. Ownership is key. That comes from giving schools autonomy—in staffing, budgeting and instruction. From giving families a chance to choose their public schools. And from school leadership that promotes a14 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org
  15. 15. Policy Paper: Strategies For Rescuing Failing Public Schools strong sense of school identity and clear expectations of success. Reform has to come from the inside-out as well as the outside-in. Theres a human side of school reform that we ignore at our peril. ###1 The Wallace Foundation, Research Findings to Support Effective Educational Policies, Introduction,2011, p. 1; internal quotes: Kenneth Leithwood, et al., How Leadership Influences Student Learning,Universities of Minnesota and Toronto, 2004, p. 32 Diploma’s Count, 2010 - http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/dc/2010/DC10_PressKit_FINAL.pdf.3 Education at a Glance 2009 : OECD indicators, OECD, Paris, 2009. www.oecd.org/edu/eag2009;4 Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve: 75 Percent of Young Adults Cannot Join the Military; 2009Mission: Readiness - http://www.missionreadiness.org/5 New York Times, December 7, 2010 “Top Test Scores from Shanghai Stun Educators.”6 “Leading the Instructional Core, An Interview with Richard Elmore,” InConversation, Summer 2010 –Volume 11-Issue 3, published by the Ontario Ministry of Education7 "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educationalperformance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war." Holton, Gerald, A Nation atRisk, U.S. Department of Education, 1983.8 Obama Administration Announces Historic Opportunity to Turn Around Nations Lowest-AchievingPublic Schools, U.S. Dept. of Education Press Release, August 26, 2009,http://www2.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/08/08262009.html9 http://www.uknow.gse.harvard.edu/leadership/leadership001a.html.10 Nancy Sellers interview with Dr. Larry Lezotte, November, 2002 edition of the Audio Journal,Educational Research Service (ERS, www.audioed-online.com11 Dr. Paine’s middle school was the only one in its county, which ranked 55th out of 55 counties in WestVirginia for both math and English. At the end of two years the county was ranked among the top five formath achievement at the middle school level.12 See previous endnote.September 201115 www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org