The Washington Post today writes about the steady upward trend of Boston schools, despite the usual urban demographic challenges, under the leadership of a former Clinton administration official.
Boston has relied on private contributors to finance some of the superintendents ideas (as opposed to their own pet projects, as LR has done). This part of his program caught our attention:
One of the most critical uses for external money was for bringing up teacher standards. “At the heart of reform, you have to have a clear understanding of what the kids are supposed to know and good professional development to bring teachers in alignment with the plan,” said Ellen Guiney, executive director of the Boston Plan for Excellence, a local education foundation that played a significant role in shaping the changes.
Payzant was able to remove school principals from collective bargaining his first year on the job, which gave him the ability to fire poor performers. Although the teachers union has resisted certain changes, Payzant has been able to negotiate some discretion in hiring teachers at low-performing schools.
A “teacher residency” program was established to offer applicants another path to certification. Today, teachers work with professional “coaches” in schools, some of whom are volunteers from local colleges, and must attend summer orientation. Three years ago, Payzant also started a “principals institute” to home-grow administrators.
“I do not know of any school district that has as comprehensive a professional development and support system,” said Irwin Blumer, a professor at Boston College, which supports the system with academic expertise and hands-on work with school administrators.