Today we went live and public with our Partnership Zone Initiative, a project we have been designing and assembling since releasing The Turnaround Challenge. Six states — Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New York — will participate in a three‐year, $75‐million public‐private partnership to create scalable and sustainable strategies for turning around clusters of their lowest‐performing schools.
Read the press release for the full monty, but a few highlights:
- Planning and development for the Partnership Zone Initiative has been funded with a $1.5 million, two‐year grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, along with a partial match from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- The significant increase in available federal funds over the next three years, including the guaranteed increase from the ARRA‐supplemented $3.5 billion of 1003g School Improvement Grants, as well as the potential for the states to win competitive grants from the Race to the Top program, ensures that states will have substantial financial resources to make the needed changes in their schools and districts.
- The design and timing for implementation of each Partnership Zone will vary depending on each state’s policy environment and capacity, but all Zones will draw on the same set of guiding principles that turning around low‐performing schools requires a balance of autonomy and accountability, and the implementation of practices most likely to transform chronically low‐performing schools.
- Districts that opt into the initiative will establish small clusters of schools that will be supported by a Lead Partner – an organization that provides academic and student support services to schools as well as coordinates and focuses the turnaround efforts to help overcome the chaotic “program‐itis” that often undermines reform efforts. Lead Partners can either be independent organizations or autonomous units created by the district central office. Zone schools remain inside the district, and are able to tap into the scale efficiencies of many central office services. However, Zone schools also give school level leaders the freedom to make staffing, scheduling, curriculum and related decisions, in return for being held accountable for dramatic student achievement gains within two years.