Pinellas is taking on its failing schools. This blog reported on the Tampa Bay Times series on south Pinellas schools that had essentially been abandoned when federal desegregation regulations were lifted in 2007. I remember Judge Reynolds’ statement a week ago in the Citizens for Strong Schools case. He said he could not believe that the Florida DOE had not intervened when schools received an ‘F’ grade four years in a row.
The NAACP has filed a report. The U.S. Department of Education has launched a civil rights investigation. Two decades old lawsuits have been rekindled charging that the district is discriminating against minority children. The Pinellas School Board has filed its turn around plan.
Highlights of the turn around plan include the formation of an independent turn around team. Struggling schools will be treated as a whole, and then differentiated between those that are classified as transformation and scale up schools depending upon the degree of intervention needed. The resources may be substantial and are focused on improving the quality of teachers and principals along with increasing time in school.
- Turn around schools will have more instructional time where needed and teacher bonuses. An emphasis on high achieving teachers will be required.
- Scale up schools will have a 9.5 hour teacher day and a 7.5 student day. Recruitment and retention bonuses could be up to $25,000. There will be new teacher coaching, more teacher training, and flexibility in defining curriculum. Family involvement programs will be incorporated.
The attorneys for the State in the Citizens for Strong Schools declared that additional money was not required to turn around schools. The Pinellas solution will cost money. It will be interesting to know where the money will come from. This situation in Pinellas may seem extreme. It really is not. There are similar problems all around the State. Resegregation and economic inequities are problems all educational systems and state legislatures must address.
One option that has been mentioned is to turn these schools into charters. How this would help implies that the district is not willing to work with these schools. Whether charters could do any better is problematic. This is a test of the will of the Pinellas community to ensure that ALL students, not some, have access to a high quality education.