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Strategic Support for 'Unexpected' Schools

Karen Hawley Miles pens letter to the editor in Education Week on importance of school systems for scaling up "unexpected" school success

Read the letter as it orginally appeared in Education Week

To the Editor:

Karin Chenoweth's Commentary on the systems behind "unexpected" schools' success ("What 'Unexpected' Schools Do That Other Schools Don't," July 19, 2017) is right on target. Fundamental to scaling up that success is the school system within which each school operates. Districts can embrace the opportunity to use resources in ways that enable, support, and encourage unexpected schools to thrive. Innovative districts nationwide make bold moves to restructure resource decisions around people, time, and money and implement the systems Chenoweth described—what many would call strategic school design.

Take the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in Charlotte, N.C., for example. Almost 10 years ago, this district recognized how the central office could better support struggling schools and implemented a strategic staffing initiative. They put together teams of top leaders and teachers, provided training and support to those teams, and gave them flexibility over their resources to make necessary changes. Because of this enhanced district support, many of the schools made significant academic gains. Similar efforts are taking place now in Cleveland and Memphis, Tenn., where district leaders are working with schools to implement strategic school design in conjunction with applying weighted student-funding systems. When district leaders make the bold changes necessary to make strategic school design a possibility for every school, unexpected schools become the schools that parents and students can expect.

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