We’ve talked before about how “corporate” the style of the current education reform movement is. It’s all about the numbers….”don’t tell me how, just do it” Michelle Rhee says …reward the good, fire the bad, etc. This article is about the old fashioned approach – leadership, training and improved teaching. Notice that there is still a heavy reliance on data, but it is used to support a detailed approach to teaching rather than merely for top-down, reward-and-punishment management.
Mary Ronan seems to have accomplished a lot more than Michelle Rhee did and didn’t have to break the china to do it.
Mary Ronan | Superintendent
Cincinnati Public Schools
The first order of business for Mary Ronan as the acting superintendent of the Cincinnati school system four years ago was making big changes at more than a dozen of the city’s lowest-performing elementary schools. Many of them had been plagued by stagnant student achievement for more than a quarter-century.
Four years later, none of the 16 schools that Ronan and her team targeted for special interventions is stuck in “academic emergency”—the lowest rung of the Ohio accountability system, and the label most of them shared before the turnaround. A dozen of those schools have reached the level of “continuous improvement”—the mid-level rating—and others have gone on to be rated “effective” or even “excellent.”
“The first year [of the effort] was really hard,” Ronan recalls. “We were asking our teachers to do a lot of extra work; … we got a lot of pushback. There were folks who said we should call it off.” But at the end of that year, some half-dozen of the 16 targeted schools made adequate yearly progress, or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, something they had never achieved before.
“That was really the turning point,” Ronan says now. That was when the other schools—and the rest of the community in this midsize city along the banks of the Ohio River—realized what was possible, she says.
The schools in what became known as the“elementary initiative” in Cincinnati first had to embrace some major instructional shifts. Each was required to offer 90-minute blocks each of reading and mathematics—as opposed to the scattershot scheduling that some had been using. Instead of whole-class instruction, teachers were shown how to divide their students up into smaller groups based on their abilities and needs.
And school officials created “data folders” to keep track of the academic progress of each student. Teachers were tasked with reviewing the data with their students every couple of weeks.
“That gave principals a tool to see how every child was doing,” Ronan explains. “You’re not just teaching to the middle anymore.”
see the rest at: Education Week: Veteran Educator Turns Around Cincinnati Schools.