Musical chairs

The feds want serious change for their “School Improvement Grants” bucks, but several of Iowa’s thirty-five lowest-rated schools aren’t buying it. The state received $18.7 million in turnaround funds to help the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, which could win $50,000 to $2 million each. But despite feeling pressured by tight budgets, eleven of the thirty-five simply won’t apply, citing the money’s strings as a “federal intrusion” into what’s an issue of “local control.” More troubling is the ways in which other schools are getting around the rules. To fulfill the necessary replacement of a school’s principal under the “transformation model,” schools in Columbus, Iowa are going to have the principal of the lowest-performing junior high school and lowest-performing high school simply switch jobs. Another district simply promoted the principal to a central office gig. We could call it principal musical chairs. But one thing’s for sure, there’s only one winner in that game, and it certainly won’t be the kids. States beware: There are lots of ways to “turnaround” a school, and many of them are not up to par. Just ask Columbus, Iowa.

"Schools reluctant to take reform money," by Staci Hupp, Des Moines Register, April 18, 2010