Falling in line with a federal mandate that calls for drastic improvement, the District of Columbia Public Schools system has begun restructuring six of its 129 schools and positioning another to operate with the assistance of an external partner. The restructuring processes, which come as the result of a five-year failure in meeting Adequate Yearly Progress, took effect late last month.
“Reconstitution is just one tool offered by the federal government for districts to use to equip schools with the necessary composition to meet high standards and to prioritize student achievement,” said Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who also expressed confidence that all DCPS students can be high achievers.
Among schools slated for reconstitution are Davis, Garfield and Stanton elementary schools; the Hamilton Center, Luke C. Moore Academy and Ballou Senior High School.
According to Mayor Adrian Fenty, who joined forces in 2007 with Rhee in the controversial takeover of the troubled system, it’s critical that steps be taken to put targeted schools back on track.
“Every neighborhood school should be a place where students can receive a high quality education,” Fenty said in a statement, “and when schools do not meet these standards, we will work together and take aggressive measures.”
The restructuring also mandates that staff and teachers at struggling schools reapply for their jobs. They will have to schedule an interview with their respective school’s administration officials. The action, which is part of a tiered intervention initiative on the part of the U. S. Department of Education, allows school officials to select staff they believe will be committed to DCPS’ academic priorities, and who are as highly qualified as they are effective.
DCPS also has engaged two partnerships that serve as external forces to operate schools. The partnerships began during the last academic year and involve Friends of Bedford at Dunbar and Coolidge senior high schools and the Friendship Public Schools program at Anacostia Senior High School. Another partnership on tap for next year involves Stanton Elementary, which will come under leadership of the Philadelphia-based Scholar Academies.
According to DC Voice Executive Director Jeff Smith, DCPS has no choice other than compliance. “I think that any time for five years in a row schools have failed in basic areas such as in English and math the ways these [targeted] schools have, there is justification for substantial overhaul,” including the termination of ineffective teachers , Smith said. “Some drastic measures are required and while restructuring is a painful process,” he continued, “[DCPS] cannot allow year after year, incremental changes to be put in place in schools that have demonstrated that length of failure.”