- In North Carolina, 103 low-performing schools have been approved for the state’s new “restart” model that allows “charter school flexibility” with regard to issues such as school calendar, length of school days, teacher licensure and use of school funds, EdNC reports in an article reprinted by the Hechinger Report.
- The Restart program is based on the premise that schools know the needs of their own students best and that increased autonomy to pursue innovative ideas to address these needs will improve student performance.
- Schools are innovating in a number of ways including adding after-school clubs, reducing class size, developing an “opportunity culture" to support teachers, extending the school year, and hiring teachers with special skills who are not licensed within the state.
The move to allow chronically low-performing schools to apply to become a “restart” school and gain “charter school flexibility" is intended to encourage these schools to try innovative approaches to solving the educational challenges in their own area, and a number of schools are responding with creative solutions.
However, North Carolina is not the only state to pursue such an approach. Other states, including (but not limited to) Texas, Massachusetts, Colorado and Kansas are also providing greater flexibility under certain circumstances to encourage innovation in individual districts and schools. In most cases, however, these schools still have to report school achievement under state accountability measures.
Susana Cordova, who served as acting superintendent of Denver Public Schools when it requested innovation zone status, summed up the need for such flexibility nicely when she said, "If you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done." For schools struggling under the current state or federal regulatory guidelines, this increased flexibility and autonomy allows them a chance to innovate in a way that will hopefully lead to gains for their schools. In most cases, this approach is too new to effectively measure results, but the added wiggle room on high-stakes mandates in some areas could be enough to encourage educators to try new ideas that may prove a better fit for their own district and others nationwide.