Given that schools play different roles in different communities, it isn’t a surprise that some in disadvantaged communities see school closures as a civil rights issue. In disadvantaged communities, “schools can represent a vibrant hub, a place not only where kids learn, but also feel safe, eat well and where parents are able to maintain a sense of community, improve their own education, or gain citizenship.”
In my post, I state the case that addressing feeder patterns or aligning “teaching and learning and socio-emotional connections between elementary, middle, and high schools through aligned, targeted system of supports and interventions” will improve student achievement. By targeting resources strategically to improve the lowest performing schools as well as prevent the next tier of schools from falling farther behind, the feeder pattern approach not only impacts the lowest performing schools in a district but those schools on the cusp of the “lowest five percent” list.
One of our subsidiaries, EDWorks, has had success using the feeder pattern approach to school turnaround including professional development and leadership development, scheduling flexibility, and extended day programs.
Current funding (think Title I and SIG) needs to change in order to allow states to shift from looking at school turnaround on a school-by-school basis to a more systemic approach. For example, New Jersey is requiring LEAs with SIG schools to implement district wide policies and programs to improve performance at SIG schools within their boundaries.
Unfortunately, some schools will still need to be closed. It just doesn’t make sense for schools to remain open when populations are shrinking, maintenance is prohibitive, and students are not receiving the education they deserve. However, if we are more systemic on the front end, we will be able to keep more schools open in communities that need them the most.
To read my entire post National Journal Education Experts blog, click here.
Matt Williams is Vice President of National Advocacy and Partnerships for KnowledgeWorks Foundation. In this role, he is responsible for directing both federal and state relations on behalf of the Foundation. Matt assists the various divisions, subsidiaries, and major investments of KnowledgeWorks in building and maintaining relationships to advance their initiatives and also assists in advancing policy priorities for the Foundation.