The New York Times ran an article this week about all the make-shift companies crawling out of the woodwork, labeling themselves as school turnaround experts, and bidding for a piece of the $3.5 billion allocated to school improvement this year.
Three school districts in Oklahoma received a chunk of that school turn-around change: Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Crutcho public schools.
Oklahoma City went with a company that top administrators said was tried and true: Marzano Research Laboratory. The district has partnered with the Indian-based company before on projects and said it was pleased.
Tulsa Public Schools requested proposals from companies to serve as “a lead turnaround partner.” The bid solicitation closes on August 17, 2010. It will be interesting to see how many companies experienced and inexperienced respond to the nation-wide search.
“We believe it is to our advantage to survey the market on any of our purchases,” said Linda Phillips, director of materials management for Tulsa Public Schools.
There was also an interesting Oklahoma tie in the NYT article.
Quoted in the article was former Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent John Q. Porter, who according to the article was hired in March to run Mosaica Turnaround Partners. The New York Times article read:
Mr. Porter said he attended a vendor fair at Ohio State University in June that had been organized to introduce dozens of new companies and nonprofits to districts preparing school turnarounds.
“It was like a cattle call,” Mr. Porter said. “No, actually it was more like speed dating.”
Lt. Paco Balderrama said his six truancy officers visited more than 2,000 homes of habitually truant students and that the warnings issued to parents decreased truancy by 50 percent.
“It’s a brand new program, but I believe it was pretty successful,” Balderrama said.
He presented his truancy report to the Oklahoma City School Board this week. The program began in the fall 2009 with two officers visiting the homes of students with five or more unexcused absences. Then in the spring 2010 the force received a federal grant and added four more officers and Balderrama to the efforts.
Balderamma said the program has tracked a 53 percent decrease in truancy among students that it has made contact with, but noted the program is limited by size.
Every year more than 6,786 students are identified as habitually truant.
“We contact about 32 percent,” Balderrama said. “Believe me, it’s not from a lack of effort.”
Since then officers have also been given the authority to ticket students for truancy, a step that Balderrama said is a last resort when working with these kids.