Laurel Middle School in the Laurel School District will replace Christina School District's Bayard Middle after the state confirmed an error in how it calculated which schools would be eligible to participate in the zone, which brings an influx of resources and assistance to underperforming schools.
“This is a great opportunity for our community,” acting Laurel Superintendent Dorothy Nave said. “Being part of the Partnership Zone gives us access to new resources. We will have the chance to work with our community to design a plan to implement reforms we otherwise wouldn’t have the money or technical support to enact.”
Last month, the state announced six schools in the second PZ cohort. The others are: Capital School District’s Dover High; Christina School District’s Bancroft Elementary; and Red Clay Consolidated School District’s Lewis Dual Language Elementary, Marbrook Elementary and Stanton Middle. They joined the four inaugural schools named to the Partnership Zone last year: Christina’s Glasgow High and Stubbs Elementary, New Castle County Vo-Tech School District’s Howard High School of Technology and Positive Outcomes charter school. The state’s School Turnaround Unit supports and monitors the PZ schools.
The Delaware Department of Education launched the Partnership Zone (PZ) in 2010 to dramatically improve the lowest-achieving schools in the state. Schools were selected by a two-step process that included a quantitative analysis to determine the persistently lowest achieving schools on the state’s reading and math tests and a qualitative analysis by Lowery that considered input from stakeholder groups.
In the 2008-09 academic year, Bayard was granted “new school status” under federal accountability ratings because of a change in its grade configuration. That code change was omitted from the state formula, resulting in Bayard's incorrect inclusion.
With that correction made, the next Tier I school eligible for inclusion based on the quantitative analysis would be Red Clay's Warner Elementary, however because Red Clay already has three schools in the second cohort, Lowery has chosen instead to add Laurel Middle, a Tier II school to the zone.
“Being part of the Partnership Zone is an intensive commitment that requires significant staff resources,” Lowery said. “I have concern that four schools going through this process at one time would exceed the capacity of any district.”
Since discovering the Bayard error, state officials have recalculated every other school in the first and second PZ cohorts. All of their statuses were confirmed. State officials also have ensured that school codes are updated in the state system for every building in Delaware.
“I apologize to the Bayard community for the confusion this has caused and for the time members already devoted to work on their PZ plan,” Lowery said. “I know this will be a disappointment to some who were excited about the great work they envisioned as part of the Partnership Zone.”
The Partnership Zone was a key component of the state’s top-ranked Race to the Top plan. Last year, Delaware was one of two states to win first-round funding in the federal competitive grant program, earning $119 million to support efforts to improve the quality of education in the state. The state’s plan included the support of every school district, superintendent, charter school and charter school director.
Partnership Zone schools will benefit from RTTT funds and school improvement grants to carry out one of four models for significantly improving student performance at the school:
Closure – District closes the school and enrolls the students who attended that school into other schools.
Restart – District converts a school into a public charter school pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 5 of Title 14 of the Delaware Code, or closes and reopens a school under a charter school operator, a charter management organization or an education management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
Transformation – School makes significant changes in its governance and operation, including making changes to teacher evaluation consequences and modifying instructional time.
Turnaround – School makes significant changes in governance, staffing and operation including removing at least 50% of the current staff.
Because the pot of RTTT PZ funding is distributed using a formula that takes into account factors such as the size of each building's enrollment and the number of years the school has been under improvement, the change in buildings also will result in a recalculation of the PZ allotment for the second cohort buildings. The state will announce the new allocations when the re-calculations are completed.
Over the next three months, each school will engage parents, students, educators and other school community members to develop a plan to improve student achievement. The plans may include strategies such as: increased instructional time inclusive of enrichment, intervention and cultural enhancement opportunities, embedded collaboration time for instructional staff, reflection and possible alterations of school leadership staff; and meaningful family engagement activities.
All PZ schools’ plans must include data from 2008-on and targets through 2014 for the following metrics:
Reading Proficiency: overall and by subgroup
Math Proficiency: overall and by subgroup
PZ high school plans also address:
Promotion of first-time 9th graders to 10th grade
AP enrollment and AP course grades of C or better
Lowery must approve the plans. Each of the inaugural PZ schools used the transformation model to create unique plans that address each school’s needs. The following is a summary of those plans. Full plans and additional information about the PZ are available online at http://www.deturnaround.org/ .
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, Delaware 19901
Phone: (302) 735-4035
Fax: (302) 739-4654
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