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Extensive media coverage of New York City's Harlem Children's Zone's cradle-to-career program over the past several years has served to focus mainstream attention on school reform in a way unprecedented in recent history.

 

PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORKS: Using the Power of Connections to Enhance Education

JOSSEY-BASS, $24.95

A nationwide survey of forty-two states and the District of Columbia examined how states are using the $3.5 billion in School Improvement Grants, part of the federal Title I program. Early State Implementation of Title I School Improvement Grants under the Recovery Act, conducted by the Center on education Policy and released in late February, found that changes in the guidelines implemented for these grants were intended to funnel more resources toward those high schools most in need.

Memphis (Tenn.) City Schools will forfeit its charter after a landmark vote in the city on March 8 mandated the district allow Shelby County—its neighboring suburban district—to regain control of its school system. Memphis, which has been separate from the county, has long been deemed the struggling district, while Shelby County (Tenn.) Schools has been regarded as the successful one.

There is nothing new about the fact that school superintendents come and go. Some retire, and some are recruited into other school districts or opportunities. But let's face it, some are let go.

What a difference a year can make.

Recently a student named Michael returned from his freshman year at college to visit the principal at his former high school. He is majoring in engineering and is president of the student council at his college. During the summer, he plans to enroll as a mentor for children at a local Boys and Girls Club. By all accounts, Michael is a shining example of academic success and of positive student leadership. To his former principal, Michael's success is particularly meaningful.

When students fail courses or drop out of school, it isn’t good for them or their districts, which are under federal and state mandates to improve test scores and graduation rates. With those mandates and about 1.2 million students dropping out each year—or one every 26 seconds—“there is more pressure today than ever to help students stay in school and graduate on time,” according to Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

A suburban school systewas saddened when its third student in several months died by suicide. The superintendent shared the most recent tragedy at a meeting with other local superintendents and was startled to learn that across four neighboring districts, nine teenagers had died by suicide in the last 18 months. Were they in the midst of a suicide cluster? If so, how could they stop it? Did these teens all know each other? How will further deaths be prevented? Who is most at risk?

Districts wanting to turn around schools without hiring an outside organization are being drawn to the University of Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program, which equips principals and other administrators with the skills needed to bring about deep change in low-performing schools and provides them with ongoing support.

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