Critics, and even simply concerned citizens who want the best for their students but aren’t sure exactly how to address underperforming schools, raise legitimate questions about the best paths for success. Our approach is to collaborate with communities to design plans to meet their needs.
In Springfield, for example, Empower Schools worked with the Superintendent, Mayor and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create an unprecedented new partnership for eight middle schools in an independently-governed Empowerment Zone. Schools in the Zone will have greater flexibility in matters such as hiring, scheduling, programming, and budget in exchange for stiffer accountability to the state. Equally important to the design of the new Zone has been the support of the community: 92% of teachers in the Springfield Education Association and six out of seven School Committee members voted in favor of the Zone.
Of course, this is only the beginning of what will require significant effort and ongoing engagement from many partners. Turning around a school isn’t just a matter of a vote or a plan; it demands skilled leadership, critical supports, experienced partners to implement change, and time.
As a recent piece in the Boston Globe reminds us, this is incredibly hard work. Empower Schools looks forward to continuing our collaboration with the Springfield community to support school leaders, teachers, and families as we all work together to improve outcomes for students.