Dr. Tanya R. Green is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in school turnaround.
When I was appointed the principal of Calverton Elementary-Middle School, the school was one of the lowest performing in Baltimore City and on the state’s persistently dangerous list. I immediately recognized that in order to move the school forward, I would need to not only engage the students, but their families. After selecting a strong leadership team that shared a common vision, we worked to provide wraparound services to students and families. A food bank was instituted at the school, an at-risk student program was developed, after school programs were created to meet student needs and interests, and partnerships with mental health programs were established to support students and their families. After my first year, the school had been removed from the state’s persistently dangerous list and some academic growth was made, but we still had a long way to go to meet our goals.
Due to years of low academic performance, the school was designated a turnaround school. Baltimore City selected Friendship Public Charter Schools, an organization with a track record of success in both Washington D.C. and Baltimore, to serve as a Lead Partner and operate the school under the new name: Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton. From the start, Friendship’s approach was one of true partnership. Chris Maher, Friendship’s deputy chief academic officer, worked with me to make decisions, including hiring teachers, creating a budget, and aligning our programs and partners to school performance goals. We collaborated to create and deliver job-embedded professional development that reflected my teachers’ needs. We worked together to develop parent workshops to help parents understand their student’s data and to learn teaching methods to assist students at home. Friendship invested in my leadership team by sending us to summer sessions at Harvard University.
This partnership model of turnaround was evident to everyone who came in to evaluate our progress, including the district, state, the U.S. Department of Education, and independent evaluators. Baltimore City, Friendship, and Calverton’s school-based leadership work collectively toward one goal: providing all students with a world class education. As a result of this hard work and partnership, Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton met all of the state targets for reading, mathematics, and attendance in 2012. The school was also the recipient of the Race to the Top STAR (Strategies Targeting Achievement and Retention) Award, an incentive award for improving school climate outcomes.
While quite a feat for a school that was not long ago designated one of the state’s most dangerous and lowest performing, I am most proud that the accomplishments were made without changing the student demographics and population. The school still has a special education population that exceeds 30 percent, including a program for students with emotional disturbance and students with autism. The school has over 90 percent of its students receiving free and/or reduced meals. In addition, the school continues to accept all students regardless of high-risk behaviors or academic performance.
True turnaround leaders should be able to make the necessary changes and establish meaningful programs that support all students, especially those that have the highest needs. We have accomplished that, and I am honored to be an agent of change at Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton.
Dr. Tanya Green, Ed.D is the principal of Friendship Preparatory Academy at Calverton, a turnaround school within the Baltimore City Public School System.