A Nobel but naive notion on failing schools

It was Al Gore who said seven years ago, in a nationally televised debate with George W. Bush, "if a school is failing, we work with the states to give them the authority and the resources to close down that school and reopen it right away with a new principal, a new faculty, a turn-around team of specialists who know what they're doing." That moment may have been the high-water mark for the idea of closing and reopening failed schools. Diana Jean Schemo reports this week in the New York Times that states are having a tough time implementing this reform in practice and at scale. In California alone, 1,000 schools are eligible for "restructuring" under No Child Left Behind, a number which, according to Berkeley ed school professor Heinrich Mintrop, "taxes the capacity of the whole school change industry." Looking at student growth over time might help; according to California officials, 700 of those 1,000 schools are making "substantial progress" and thus might not truly be "failing" after all. But that still leaves 300 Golden State schools in need of closing, reopening, or, better yet, replacing. Which is one more argument for California policymakers and their peers nationwide to aggressively support the speedy development of high-quality alternatives. KIPP, Green Dot, and Aspire: grow, grow, grow!

"Failing Schools Strain to Meet U.S. Standard," by Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times, October 16, 2007