New book says local control for schools works.... mostly

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A good school, it turns out, is a lot like a cake. Put in sugar,
eggs and oil, but forget the flour, and all you end up with is a sweet,
sloppy mess. Without all the right ingredients, success will
continually evade you.
That's the
message of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, a
new book published by the University of Chicago Press.
The book examines research on 200 Chicago elementary schools between 1988 and 1995 -- 100 that improved and 100 that floundered.

They came up with 5 essential supports every school needs to succeed. For more on that, take a look at my review in the Chicago Journal.

But one piece of information that lends itself well to our recent debates on LSCs and how principals are chosen. The research examines schools during the time that the first local reforms were taking root, so it has a lot to say about whether those reforms worked.

And the answer is yes, they do work.

Except where they don't.

In most communities, the researchers say, community control brought a lot of improvements to the school. And not just minor aesthetic ones. Parents and community members got involved, chose a principal that shared their vision, and stayed involved to see overall improvement over the long haul.

But in desperately poor communities, local control didn't do any good because there weren't local resources to draw on. We're not talking just poor, working class communities - they did better under local control. We're talking about devastated neighborhoods, the ones where a quarter of kids have documented abuse on their record with DCFS. Describing these schools as "high-needs" is almost an understatement.

So what should we do here? Keep LSCs if a school does well and dump them if no improvement is seen? Or create a specific task force for helping schools in this nether region of reform?

What do you think?

org. schools for improvement

A good school, it turns out, is a lot like a cake. Put in sugar,
eggs and oil, but forget the flour, and all you end up with is a sweet,
sloppy mess. Without all the right ingredients, success will
continually evade you.

That's the
message of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, a
new book published by the University of Chicago Press.
The book examines research on 200 Chicago elementary schools between 1988 and 1995 -- 100 that improved and 100 that floundered.

They came up with 5 essential supports every school needs to succeed. For more on that, take a look at my review in the Chicago Journal.

But one piece of information that lends itself well to our recent debates on LSCs and how principals are chosen. The research examines schools during the time that the first local reforms were taking root, so it has a lot to say about whether those reforms worked.

And the answer is yes, they do work. Except where they don't.

In most communities, the researchers say, community control brought a lot of improvements to the school. And not just minor aesthetic ones. Parents and community members got involved, chose a principal that shared their vision, and stayed involved to see overall improvement over the long haul.

But in desperately poor communities, local control didn't do any good because there weren't local resources to draw on. We're not talking just poor, working class communities - they did better under local control. We're talking about devastated neighborhoods, the ones where a quarter of kids have documented abuse on their record with DCFS. Describing these schools as "high-needs" is almost an understatement.

So what should we do here? Keep LSCs if a school does well and dump them if no improvement is seen? Or create a specific task force for helping schools in this nether region of reform?

What do you think?

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