Innovation Schools: A Blueprint for Student Success
Featuring Rob Stein, principal of Manual HS in Denver
Fri, Feb 5, 11:30am - 1:30pm, at the Westin in Seattle
$35. For more details, see http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/events
Let me first say: I am not pro-charter nor anti-union, despite the anonymous slings others have tossed at me. I'm just a parent who is convinced we can do better with our schools, and like many of you (including some great principals and teachers), frustrated at the seeming lack of vision, progress, or accountability. I'm not strictly against charters like others who often speak up on this blog, but I share their concerns about outsourcing a public service to non-public entities who might too easily be tempted to increase profits at the expense of the kids most in need. I should also add that I am not a member or supporter of the Washington Policy Center. While education can and should be non-partisan, my political leanings are often at odds with WPC's.
BUT... it is hard to read the description of this talk without envy. It strikes me that the most appealing aspect of charters to many folks is not the model itself, but the ability to disregard the existing bureaucracy. What do you think?
Here is the description of Rob Stein's work in Denver:
Rob Stein is the principal of Manual High School, an inner-city school in Denver, Colorado. This school was closed in 2006, as it was the lowest performing school in Colorado. (All kinds of reforms had been tried on the school, and failed.) With Rob Stein (former principal of the best private school in Denver) at the helm, it re-opened in 2007. In March 2009, the Colorado Board of Education granted Stein’s application for Innovation School status.
This status permits Rob Stein and his school leadership team (which includes faculty) to obtain waivers from the most restrictive state regulations and certain provisions of collective bargaining agreements, so they can deliver high-quality education for children. This new model allows Rob Stein to:
* control his school budget, staff and school schedule
* hire teachers on one year contracts
* award multi-year contracts for only the best teachers on staff
* award performance bonuses to teachers
* part-time specialists to teach certain subjects, even if those teachers do not hold a credential
* add time to the school day and double the time spent each day on key subjects
* create interim student assessments
* choose curricula
* create a dynamic leadership team made up of the principal, administrators and faculty
The local school board may revoke an Innovation School plan if, after three years, the academic performance of the students at the school has not improved significantly, so Innovation Schools are accountable for performance.
In other words, they hired a proven instructional leader, gave him the freedom to work with his faculty & community to innovate, and then they will hold him accountable for results. I'm sure there are lots of folks who will shoot holes in this, but... Doesn't this sound a lot like what most of us would like to see in our schools? Do any of our schools, e.g. alternatives or new STEM, have this kind of control? Shouldn't we be able to try this out without having to turn to charters?