New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef has sent letters to Governor Pataki and Education Commissioner Mills urging them to consider implementing in New York a promising educational pilot program recently initiated n the State of Virginia that trains outstanding principals to become “turnaround specialists” and then sends them to struggling schools to implement their new skills and improve those schools.
The recently-initiated pilot program is off to a promising start, with increased achievement in student test scores across the board and the majority of the schools meeting their improvement targets for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. At George Mason Elementary School, the proportion of students scoring at the proficient level on state reading tests jumped from 58 percent to 93 percent in one academic year. For the same school, the proportion of students scoring at the proficient level in mathematics rose from 69 percent to 96 percent. These marked improvements in the scores are typical of the pilot program.
As of January, 2006, there are 61 struggling schools in New York State that are under registration review by the New York State Department of Education.
“In my letters to the Governor and Commissioner Mills, I suggested that they begin working to implement a similar program in New York State,” stated Assemblywoman Galef. “The program in Virginia is off to a very promising start, and a similar approach could prove to be very effective here in New York. Let us start our own pilot program to assess whether or not this type of program could be implemented widely within our state in order to turn around some of our own struggling schools.”
In the Virginia program, ten school principals were chosen for an intensive summer training program that covered skills like team building, strategic planning, and data analysis. These principals also studied leadership models from business, education, and other sectors. After this summer training, these outstanding principals have become turnaround specialists as well, and are sent to struggling schools where they work to drastically improve the situation. However, they are not alone: these principals receive added support from their central offices, the state, community volunteers, and members of their school staffs. These principals, with the help of their support networks, are succeeding in their objective: improving schools.
“If it works in Virginia and it’s making a difference for their children in troubled schools,” said Assemblywoman Galef, “it can certainly work here in New York.”