Hoping to stave off state intervention at a handful of struggling schools, Director of Schools Jesse Register has opted for a bold move: the creation of a new “innovation zone” comprised of 10 low-performing Metro schools designed to direct attention to places that need it most.
Through a so-called “Office of Innovation,” announced at Tuesday’s school board meeting, Register said he plans to pinpoint the district’s lowest achieving schools based on forthcoming Adequate Yearly Progress data. From there, the schools will become the target of closer monitoring, reform strategies and additional educational resources. The plan kicks off this school year.
“It’s basically to get rid of all the road blocks to aggressive change and improvement,” Register said, adding that after a school starts toward a downward spiral, it’s harder to lift it up. “We’re going to develop this very aggressive strategy for the schools that are in the lowest achievement categories that we have.”
Though AYP results aren’t expected for a few weeks, Register said Napier Elementary School, Apollo Middle School and Glencliff High School are likely among the 10 schools to be clustered together.
Register said he sees the concept as an alternative to potential state intervention at certain schools, which upcoming federal No Child Left Behind test results could enable.
School board chair Gracie Porter said she feels good about the plan, adding it’s all about being “proactive.”
“It gives us a head start in making sure that our schools are succeeding,” Porter said.
Based largely on Chattanooga’s Benwood Initiative, an approach Register installed as schools’ superintendent in Hamilton County, the plan is to install an executive director to oversee schools within the zone and supervise all operations. That person, to be hired within a week, is to report directly to Register.
The school board recently hired UK-based Tribal Group, Inc., to help launch the new “Office of Innovation.” Register said the organization has proven to be successful over the years in implementing turnaround strategies.
Register likened the new Metro cluster to the state’s Achievement School District, created during the recent Race to The Top legislation. The ASD, as educators call it, is comprised of 13 school districts across the state. Metro’s Glencliff, as well as Cameron Middle School — recently transformed into a charter school — qualify for the ASD.
“Our consultants will be in town starting next week to work with these schools and to use the talents within those schools, the leadership, to begin turnaround strategies,” Register said.
He also said he plans to assign employees within the central office to help assist with the new zone.
On the prospect of additional funds pumped into the 10 schools, Register said it’s something to look at.
“I hope that there is some school improvement grant money that comes from the state,” Register said. “But one way or another, whether it’s our federal money or state funds, I think we have to look at providing resources as necessary to get these schools turned around.”