Archive for June, 2011

Schools chief gets raise, but why not the teachers?

Simple: Chicago Public Schools new chief Jean-Claude Brizard’s 3-year contract clearly specifies numerous student performance goals. If those goals aren’t met, he’s not eligible for significant bonuses and could be fired.

If teachers are ready to be paid based on student performance and work under a fully accountable system, then they might get raises and bonuses too. But every time, a district comes close to offering pay for performance and true accountability (i.e. DC under Rhee) the union fights it, and usually defeats it.

In effect, Brizard has his work cut out for him – he can’t change his performance in the classroom to better meet student needs, but instead he must hire (and fire) the right people, set a positive culture of change throughout CPS, fix the growing debt problem, implement (and cut) the right programs, and make sure that everyone else is doing their jobs.

Brizard is responsible for improvements that he doesn’t have direct control over. That is truly accountability from the top. I wish him the best of luck and I hope the district can make and surpass the performance goals defined in Brizard’s contract – not only to show that this can work, but because the student’s deserve it.

Read more: CPS chief Brizard gets a contract – unlike predecessors- and a raise, Chicago Tribune, June 22, 2011

(Note: I recognize that the debate is still out on if performance pay does/doesn’t improve student performance.)


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Michigan takes control of Detroit

This week, Michigan announced a new statewide district to run the persistently low-performing Detroit schools, called the Education Achievement System. Principals in the new district have increased autonomy over their buildings, a higher percentage of dollars will reach the building (as opposed to administrative or debt costs), and foundations and philanthropic organizations will fund at least two years of post-secondary education for all students who graduate. The state-wide district will eventually expand and take on schools outside of Detroit.

The state-wide carve-out zone has a strong and growing history in other locations across the country (most notably the Recovery School District in Louisiana), the model will only work if it’s implemented with fidelity. That fidelity is dependent on significant political will to overcome controversy and an increasing supply of strong teachers and principals. Unless those two potential barriers are addressed, and early, the impact of the new system is uncertain.

But in Detroit, it’s about time for drastic action.

Read more: Sweeping overhaul set for ailing Michigan schools, The Detroit News, June 21, 2001.

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States lead way on SIG initiatives

To the EdWeek Editors:

We agree with the article “School Improvement Grant Efforts Face Hurdles” (April 27, 2011) and the conclusion that schools, districts, and states across the country are struggling to meet the needs of the revamped federal School Improvement Grant program. While no state has figured out how to “solve” the problems that face persistently low-performing schools, a few states are embracing the challenge head-on, significantly changing how this subset of schools is supported, shifting the state role from compliance to support, and implementing promising practices that will increase the likelihood of success.

The Center on Innovation & Improvement and Corbett Education Consulting assist and advise state education leaders on how to implement the SIG program and how to build coherent state systems of support. Through our work, it became clear that a few states developed, or were in the process of developing, improvement programs that should be shared with the rest of the country.

We created a series of case studies to profile promising practices of the SIG program. Interviews with state education agency leaders and document analysis were used to gather information, codify the models, and determine promising practices. Montana developed a state-led coaching model to meet the high needs and remote nature of its American Indian communities; strong and focused support are the foundations of Oklahoma’s SIG program; and Virginia created a well-aligned support system to assist teams of external lead partners while school and district staff develop capacity and implement the SIG models.

While every state’s improvement program varies, and these three states continue to refine their own models, aspects of each of these examples could be incorporated into any state or district.

The studies can be downloaded from

(Sam Redding and Julie Corbett)

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