Advocates for Children and Youth (ACY) recently released a report on “zero basing”, the practice of replacing most or all of the staff at a failing school. The report, entitled “Failing Our Failing Schools”, questions whether zero basing actually works because the State has failed to enact commensurate teacher training and retention policies. The report’s findings are encapsulated in its executive summary:
To improve persistently poorly performing schools, Maryland is increasingly relying on “zero-basing,” i.e., replacing all or most of the existing staff. Two years after a large group schools were zero-based, there is no evidence that these schools have been able to attract and keep effective staff or implement the additional strategies needed to turn around failing schools. As the State uses this approach more often, it must require schools to implement activities needed to create a stable cadre of effective teachers, require schools to use the additional research-based strategies to improve the quality and quantity of instruction, and efficiently monitor and support implementation. The State needs to clarify its Race to the Top application to incorporate these changes.
Quotes from a May 26 Maryland Reporter article:
Matthew Joseph, [ACY’s] executive director, said schools’ replacement of staff did not ensure that schools would necessarily improve.
“When [these schools] had gotten rid of a large part of their staff, the state hadn’t asked them to prove they were getting better staff,” Joseph said. “Predominantly, what they got were young staff. That’s not to say those are bad teachers, but they’re basically not considered proven teachers.”
Joseph said evidence of failing schools using zero-basing “best practices” like professional development for young teachers, targeted recruitment campaigns to hire effective teachers, and financial incentives to get teachers to stay at these schools, was “thin.”