“It’s not an easy job, and there are not many success stories out there,” Spengler said. “But we have been very encouraged by some of the first-year results in Denver.”
The nine schools are among the original 35 underperforming schools the state designated three years ago under a state law enacted at that time to reverse chronically low achievement at dozens of schools across the state. That law gives schools three years to improve or face state receivership.
Chester said he decided to give the districts’ one more chance at salvaging the schools because he believes receivership should be a last-resort measure. He has not approved any of the partnerships yet.
“We would much rather school districts retain local authority over their schools,” Chester said. “We would rather for them to be successful with the turnarounds.”
Achievement at roughly a third of those schools, Chester said, has risen sharply, giving him optimism that they will no longer be underperforming this fall. Results at the other schools, he said, have not been as strong or are shaky.
Test scores at both the Greenwood and English have dropped sharply during their turnaround effort, in spite of the infusion of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal school improvement grants that have helped to lengthen the school day and train teachers, and other initiatives.
The state was so concerned last year that English had veered off course that officials decided to withhold more than $900,000 in the federal school improvement funds until a more sound turnaround plan was developed.
“Right now, I have not seen evidence we are moving in the right direction,” Chester said.
James Vaznis can be reached at email@example.com.