Letter to the Editor

Michael Casserly

Dear Gadfly,

In her critique of “The School Improvement Grant
Roll Out in America’s
Great City Schools
”, Daniela Fairchild badly mangles our findings, and then compounds
the error by drawing a conclusion that cannot be supported by any information
in the report.

Ms. Fairchild says that one learns from the report “that districts seem to be less
aggressive with their turnaround efforts post ARRA.” She bases this claim on
the assertion that the number of transformation schools, the most flexible of
the reform models, jumped from 24 percent to 74 percent, pre- to post ARRA.
Conversely, she indicates that the number of schools undergoing tougher reforms
plummeted. But the route she took to arrive at a “pre-ARRA” figure of 24
percent was to take the total number of schools that were implementing some
sort of turnaround strategy in the five years prior to ARRA, add the number of
schools that were closed for academic reasons during this time, subtract the
number of these schools that subsequently reopened, and then take the total
number of schools that had only removed the principal and divide it by this

Unfortunately, all of this
arithmetic does not result in a valid estimate of the number of schools
pursuing the transformation model prior to ARRA.  In terms of pre-ARRA turnaround efforts, we
only asked narrowly about the replacement of principals in order to gauge
districts’ perspectives on how well this strategy worked in the past--NOT to
report the number of districts who were pursuing this model wholesale prior to

Meanwhile, the 74 percent is a more
straightforward case of misreading the data: The report clearly states that 74
percent of schools nationwide use the transformation model while only 54
percent of the Great
City schools
use this model. So, neither of these numbers—24 or 74—are accurate and
comparing them makes even less sense. In fact, there are no before and after
data in this survey that would allow one to reasonably determine any increase
or decrease in the use of the transformation model--or any of the SIG models.  To conclude from this tortured reading of the
report that urban schools are more interested in pocketing the money than in
pursuing real reform is not only snarky and unfounded but a disservice to your


Executive Director,

of the Great City Schools  

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