Friday, August 21, 2009

Dubious Zone

The Race to the Top/Innovation/Reform/Let's Grab all the ARRA Money We Can folks are on the move. The idea now being touted in Dover is creating something called a "Local Turnaround Zone" for schools in restructuring. A consulting firm called Mass Insight is circulating a document that promotes the zone idea. These zones could be within or across district lines. The zones, according to one Mass Insight document, will allegedly "...change traditional operating conditions that inhibit reform. The zones establish outside-the-system authorities inside the system, within a framework of strong support and guidance from the district and a lead turnaround partner."

Please, allow me to be Mr. Paranoid and paint an un-pretty picture: First, the "traditional operating conditions that inhibit reform" in some people's minds could mean collective bargaining agreements and the unions who enforce them.

Second, "outside-the-system authorities inside the system" sounds a lot like a private company that comes in runs the schools in the "zone". Sort of like an education Haliburton.

Third, "a lead turnaround partner" is a confusing term, at least to me the uninitiated. Could this partner be a foundation like Brode or some corporate entity with specific interests?

If I allow my cynical side to characterize a turnaround zone, I define it as a zone where teacher rights give way to some authority figure who will choose good teachers from bad, choose curriculum, determine work rules, hours of the school day, and days of the school year. The zone will not be a democracy. In short, the zone will be run by a CEO, after all that model has worked so well for our economy.

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