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Note: This page is part of the Governor's News Archive, which holds press releases from January 2009 through September 2011. Since October 2011, recent news can be found in the Newsroom and archived news is available at

February 2, 2010

New "Partnership Zones" Target Failing Schools

---Six states launch strategy for dramatic school turnaround---

Dover - Delaware, along with five other states (Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts and New York) will participate in a three-year public-private partnership to create scalable and sustainable strategies for turning around clusters of their lowest-performing schools. A two-year extension is slated to follow the initial three-year effort. The announcement was made today by the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education & Research Institute, a non-profit organization that published the ground-breaking 2007 report, The Turnaround Challenge.

“These six states have strong state leadership committed to target new federal funding, establish the conditions for reform and put in place partner organizations with the capacity to support district initiatives to turn around failing schools,” says William Guenther, President and Founder of Mass Insight.

Planning and development for the Partnership Zone Initiative has been funded with a $1.5 million, two-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, along with a partial match from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mass Insight and its partners are committed to raising an additional $30 million of private funding for the three-year initial program and further funding for a two-year extension to match the $45 million of school level public funding. Public funds will come from state commitments to target federal 1003g School Improvement Grants to schools in the Zones. The major single investment in Partnership Zone schools will go towards increased teacher compensation to support extended learning time and incentive pay.

“I am pleased that Delaware is participating in this public-private partnership to provide assistance to schools that have struggled to provide better academic support for our children,” said Governor Jack Markell. “These are Delaware students in schools that have not made and are not making acceptable education progress over a period of years. This Partnership Zone initiative is one more step forward to turn around struggling schools and better prepare our state’s children to succeed.”

“Signing on to the Partnership Zone is a wonderful opportunity to help our struggling schools,” said Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery. “With help from national experts as well as input from Delaware teachers, administrators, education organizations and business communities, I feel this collaboration will help our struggling schools to succeed.”

In Delaware, the Longwood Foundation generously invested in Delaware's initial work with Mass Insight this past summer when Secretary Lowery convened her Innovation Action Team (IAT). The IAT, consisting of representatives from state agencies, DOE personnel and the business community, worked with Mass Insight to develop goals and strategies to support Delaware's lowest performing schools.  The result of that work laid the foundation for the initiatives in Delaware's Race to the Top application as well Delaware’s inclusion in Mass Insight's Partnership Zone Initiative.

“From the beginning, we’ve all said that success depends on everyone being fully engaged in changes made in all of our schools,” stressed Diane Donohue, president of the Delaware State Education Association which represents the teachers in Delaware’s 19 school districts. “DSEA and the teachers in its local unions have an important role to play in helping the Partnership Zone schools turn around, both through collaboration with their school communities and through the collective bargaining process.”

The states will initially establish Partnership Zones in one or two school districts that will serve as proof points to demonstrate the success of a more strategic approach to turnaround. Each cluster of three to five low-performing schools will be supported by a “Lead Partner,” that is, an organization that provides academic and student support services to schools and coordinates and focuses the turnaround efforts to help overcome the chaotic “program-itis” that often undermines reform efforts. Lead Partners can either be independent organizations or autonomous units created by the district central office. Zone schools remain inside the district, and are able to tap into the scale efficiencies of many central office services. However, Zone schools also give school level leaders the freedom to make staffing, scheduling, curriculum and related decisions, in return for being held accountable for dramatic student achievement gains within two years.

The design and timing for implementation of each Partnership Zone will vary depending on each state’s policy environment and capacity, but all Zones will draw on the same set of guiding principles that turning around low-performing schools requires a balance of autonomy and accountability, and the implementation of practices most likely to transform chronically low-performing schools. States plan to launch Partnership Zones on a flexible but aggressive timeline; with some states implementing Zones as early as the 2010-11 school year.

Delaware, along with the other partnering states were selected based on:

    • A commitment to the Partnership Zone framework set forth in Mass Insight’s 2007 report, The Turnaround Challenge;

    • A commitment to investing the resources necessary for successful turnaround; and,

    • Alignment and support of state leadership.

Mass Insight and a leading group of National Collaborators will assist states and districts in planning, state policy analysis, human capital analysis, district and school budget audits, communications/outreach, and other critical turnaround activities. National Collaborators include: Education Counsel, Education First Consulting, Education Resource Strategies, KSA-Plus Communications, The New Teacher Project, the Parthenon Group, and Turnaround for Children.

“Turning around low-performing schools is one of the areas that President Obama and Secretary Duncan include in all federal guidance for state education agencies. The Partnership Zone Initiative complements the Race to the Top fund and the four assurances set forth by the Secretary, as well as the guidance for the 1003g school improvement grants,” says Justin Cohen, President of Mass Insight’s School Turnaround Group. “This alignment is based on the belief that increased authority should be given in exchange for increased accountability, the recognition that these schools require quick and dramatic changes, and the acknowledgement that schools and districts must look to partners to increase their capacity to do this work and ensure its sustainability.”


Last Updated: Monday, 05-Aug-2013 15:25:40 EDT
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