Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Managing Struggling Schools Is Difficult

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Managing Struggling Schools Is Difficult

Article excerpt

Byline: tonyaa weathersbee

Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals hailed the Duval County school district's decision to hire an education management company to run its four failing schools as a bold move.

It appears to be more desperate to me.

Then again, when it comes to saving North Shore Elementary School, and Raines, Ribault and Jackson high schools, times are desperate. Time is, in fact, almost up.

If the students at those schools don't score high enough on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test next year to escape intervene status, they face the possibility of being closed or converted into charters.

While the state gave the district another year to manage its intervene schools, it did tell it to hire an educational management company for services and assistance.

Pratt-Dannals told the Times-Union that he decided to go a step further and have the company it hired, Educational Directions LLC, perform a supervisory function as well, which means providing coaches in various subjects and imbedding a staff member in those schools.

Yet, education researchers are dubious about the efforts of educational management companies in turning around in troubled high schools that have large low-income and minority populations.

Bill Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that such organizations "don't work very well at all," and that curriculum tends to be reduced to focus more on test taking skills.

Another researcher, Gary Miron of Western Michigan University, also told the Courier-Journal that while such management groups can bring in resources and know-how, other problems can arise, such as the disruption of staff.

I will be rooting that Educational Directions succeeds.

But I fear that much of the opportunity to do that was lost a long time ago. …

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