A lesson plan for 'failing' schools
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 23, 2004
Pat Kossan

Around the country, state takeovers of failing schools have been unpopular and expensive.

So, Arizona schools chief Tom Horne and the State Board of Education have worked to sharply limit the number of Arizona schools that could be ranked "failing" this October and to soften their approach to intervention.

On Sept. 1, Arizona will announce AIMS and Stanford 9 student test scores for all schools and districts.

That same day, state officials will report which schools and districts passed or failed federal standards, known as "Adequate Yearly Progress." The federal formula, which differs from state to state, generally requires schools to improve overall test scores, as well as test scores among smaller groups of students, including poor children, minority children, and children just learning English.

The state will use the test scores and federal reports to rank schools as "excelling," "highly performing," "performing," and "underperforming." Those rankings will be released Oct. 15.

About 80 schools face being ranked "underperforming" for a third year. That
means they could make Arizona's first list of failing schools and face a state takeover of their classrooms and budgets by the 2005-06 school year.

The state will offer each school an opportunity to appeal the failing rank. Even if a school remains on the failing list, the state will work with parents and neighbors and provide most of the schools with help and extra time to turn around.

Here is what this year's failing schools can expect:

Schools may appeal their ranking, and the Arizona Department of Education will send out teams to review the school's student test data, progress toward its improvement goals and curriculum.

By early 2005, the Department of Education will make its recommendations to the State Board of Education, whose nine members will decide which schools will remain failing.

If a school remains failing, the state will initiate three levels of intervention the following year: low, which means monitoring the school to make sure it's working toward improving; moderate, which means staff training and pairing the school with a more successful school; and intensive, which means replacing the principal and teachers with specially trained "turnaround specialists," who would take over the classrooms and budget for about three years.

Staff changes will begin during the summer, and intervention plans will be initiated as the 2005-06 school year begins.