- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2008


BALTIMORE | State education officials are pushing failing schools to replace principals and teaching staffs more than officials in other states, according to a report evaluating restructuring Maryland schools under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The report released Friday by the Center on Education Policy, a District-based nonprofit advocacy group for public education, found that such drastic measures aren’t being used as widely at schools failing to meet federal standards elsewhere in the country.

“I think in Maryland it has grown out of a frustration at the pace of change,” said Jack Jennings, the center’s president.

Maryland initially brought in turnaround experts, but the report said only 16 percent of the most troubled schools saw significant improvements.

State schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said officials have seen better results when staff is replaced. Mrs. Grasmick’s effort to take over several problem schools was blocked by the General Assembly, so staff overhauls are seen as the next most radical measure.

“We are very comfortable being more aggressive about this,” Mrs. Grasmick said, noting that most local superintendents agree with the approach.

Since overhauls have only just begun, the report said it’s too early to draw conclusions.

The center has studied Georgia, Michigan, California, Ohio and Maryland, but Mr. Jennings said only Georgia appears to be making progress in improving the worst schools.

Failing schools in the middle of restructuring in Georgia are forced to follow a state curriculum with weekly checks to ensure compliance. The technique has worked and the number of failing schools has been declining, Mr. Jennings said.

Mrs. Grasmick is working on creating a statewide center offering technical assistance to schools trying to improve.

“If people knew what to do (to fix schools) they would do it. I truly believe that. But they don’t know what to do,” she said.

But there does not appear to be a formula for success.

“We have done a statistical analysis, and there is no one thing that guarantees success,” Mr. Jennings said. “It shows that we are at the beginning of understanding what to do.”

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