Examples from the Field
Miami-Dade County Zone Schools
In Miami, a School Improvement Zone was established by the superintendent to provide targeted support to low-achieving schools. Among the special supports: The day was lengthened to provide extra time for tutoring and enrichment programs and for excellent professional development; teacher pay at these schools was raised proportionately; and staff resources and expertise were bolstered to support the interventions needed for low-achieving students. A similar program, known as the Chancellor's District, was undertaken in New York City. Test scores among the targeted low-performing schools in both districts increased significantly. In New York City, students in the Chancellor's schools consistently make greater annual gains in math and reading than their counterparts. In Miami-Dade County, the number of schools receiving a D or F under the state accountability system has dropped dramatically, from nearly 90 percent to just 22 percent. By 2006, nearly 60 percent of Zone schools received a C, while just over 20 percent earned an A or B.
New Mexico Kindergarten-Plus
The New Mexico Kindergarten-Plus program began in 2003 as a three-year pilot project administered in four school districts: Albuquerque, Gadsden, Gallup-McKinley and Las Cruces. Kindergarten-Plus is based on an idea put forth by former AFT president Sandra Feldman to extend the school year by adding instructional days in the summers before and after the regular kindergarten year. New Mexico was the first state to implement the program, which has demonstrated that the extra school time it provides helps children flourish both socially and academically and also increases parental involvement.
Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association (CTA)
To address the educational needs of its lowest-performing students, the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association has partnered with the Palm Beach County School District to implement a pilot program in six of the county's high-needs schools. Recognizing the impact that knowledgeable teachers can make on improving student achievement, beginning in the 2006-07 school year, the CTA—with support from the AFT—provided ER&D professional development courses in Foundations of Effective Instruction and in reading instruction to all 400 teachers at two elementary schools, one alternative and one middle school, and two high schools. CTA will provide additional ER&D training during the 2007-08 school year.
High-poverty schools in the South Bronx, N.Y., had tremendous turnover rates of new teachers. The resulting churn in school staff further eroded the schools' educational quality. Working with parent groups, the local union designed, and then negotiated, with the district a plan to recruit a corps of lead teachers from across the district to serve as mentors in South Bronx schools. The result: The schools now employ a stable veteran corps and provide support to new teachers. Scores are up, and teacher flight is way down.
Toledo Federation of Teachers
Six years ago, the Toledo (Ohio) Federation of Teachers partnered with the school district to create Toledo's Reading Academy, an initiative to improve early literacy. The academy provides professional development for teachers, a summer school for third or fourth-graders who had failed the state reading test and intensive interventions for students at risk for reading failure. More than 70 percent of summer school students pass the state test at the end of the summer, and the Reading Academy's intervention program, ACE (Achieving Content Excellence) is the largest of the 50-plus providers of supplemental educational services in the city.