Friday, November 6, 2009

How to Triple The Number of Fixed Failing Schools

Without Getting Any Better at Fixing Schools

We can triple (or possibly quadruple) the number of failing schools fixed within five years without getting any better at fixing failing schools. How? By shortening the time that passes before recognizing failure and retrying major change. This goes for starting fresh and turnarounds-from-within.

In short, it’s education lore that major change efforts take five years to work. In other sectors, people don’t get five years to pull businesses out of bankruptcy or show start-up results to venture capital funders. Why? Because most turnarounds and start-ups fail, and savvy investors know it. If we care as much about our children as our wallets, we must:

Commit to faster retry rates in failing school fix efforts, one or two years not five.
Identify the “leading indicators” of success/failure that show up in years one and two of fix efforts.

Adopt “spigot on” school-and-leader replacement supplies, since so many efforts will fail the first time.

Here’s the power of faster retry rates: If a school district fixes 30% of its failed schools the first time out (a high rate by cross-sector standards), shortening the “identify failure and retry” rate from five to two years would nearly double the total percentage of schools fixed within five years from 30% to 58%. Shortening it to one year would drive the five year fix rate up to 83%. If the initial success rate is more dismal, say 10%, shortening the retry cycle from five years to one year quadruples the number of schools fixed within five years.

Complete report.

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