Why Schools are Bad Innovators

Thoughtful Michael Horn piece here. What stands out is the comment on “risk aversion.” There’s little appetite for it, which is understandable. Look at the thumping Rocketship is taking for launching an innovation that didn’t turn out well, resulting in test score dips at all their schools. It’s understandable that Rocketship is drawing a lot of attention for that setback.

The Rocketship school with the biggest test score drop was Mateo Sheedy — 70 points on California’s API rankings. Big drop. The 2013 student proficiency rates for English and Math: 62 and 76. In 2010 the school had proficiency rates of 83 and 90.  Obviously, the “innovation” there backfired.

But let’s keep things in perspective. Less than a mile away, just across the freeway, is Gardner Elementary, part of San Jose Unified. The proficiency rates for Gardner students in English and Math: 19 and 32, down from 30 and 45 in 2010. How much critical publicity does Gardner get for quietly bumping along at the bottom? None.

Is avoiding risk a good thing? I would argue no. Already, Rocketship has righted the ship at its schools. Innovative schools can do that. But Gardner appears to persist in bumping along the bottom — with no press attention.