Monday, August 22, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Northeast Academy Charter School (NACS), in Denver, just started its second year in Turnaround status. What a difference from last year! Last year NACS had three administrators, turned over several staff positions and struggled with discipline all year. Last week I visited the school in the afternoon of its second day and the change was palpable!

The school is now led by Ms. Jere Pearcy, a former teacher and administrator, with a very strong background in Core Knowledge. NACS uses Core Knowledge, Singapore Math and Spalding. The staff had three and a half weeks of training before students arrived last week. Almost half of the staff at NACS is new this year.

It's quite common for Turnaround schools to need a year of transition that's very difficult. Some call it "implementation dip" while others consider drastic change impossible all at once. Either way, this proves to be a much better year for NACS.

Two years ago, before Turnaround, the former Principal and his Asst. Principal couldn't even name the math program used at the school. Several classroom teachers didn't even bother trying to act like they were teaching when visitors toured the school; they just sat in the back of the room.

All NACS students went through Reading level assessment before the first day of school. About 90% of last year's students were below grade level. Many of the older students are 2-3 years behind grade level when they come in to NACS. The 2011 CSAP results showed drops in many content areas, except for Science. Several of the drops were linked to classrooms where there was teacher turnover during the school year.

The NACS community has struggled many times during this Turnaround process. It's nice to see their efforts pay off with a great start to a new school year!

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