Commonwealth of Virginia Will Expand Turnaround Specialist Program With Microsoft Partners in Learning

REDMOND, Wash., and PORTSMOUTH, Va., Sept. 23, 2004 — Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner and Microsoft Corp. announced today in Portsmouth the formation of a relationship to support and expand the Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program (VSTSP) for principals. As part of the Governor’s Education for a Lifetime initiative, the program teaches school administrators proven business management skills, places them in charge of persistently low-performing schools, and works with local divisions to give these new principals expanded power to help turn their school around. Last spring Warner awarded a $1.4 million contract to the University of Virginia’s Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education to implement VSTSP. Today Microsoft announced it will invest up to $3 million in the VSTSP over the next five years, through its Partners in Learning initiative, in collaborative projects aimed at addressing student achievement.

As part of Microsoft’s U.S. Partners in Learning, Virginia, Microsoft and the Darden/Curry Partnership will increase district support for the VSTSP, provide a digital forum to share and access multimedia case studies, create a sustainable funding mechanism to ensure the long-term success of the program, and develop a model for the turnaround specialist concept that can be scaled across the nation.

“Our education leaders need the support of a community effort to overcome adversity in many of our troubled schools,” Warner said. “Microsoft sees the value of this business world model to provide our principals with new and innovative resources. We hope to create a model and road map that can be replicated within our commonwealth and beyond.”

VSTSP is designed to raise student achievement by focusing on the characteristics of high-performing organizations, personal leadership qualifications, turnaround leadership skills and the development of school turnaround plans. To date, 10 principals have been selected to participate in the program and have undergone nine days of training delivered collectively by the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia (UVA). A minimum of 10 more candidates will be selected for the 2005–2006 school year.

“Governor Warner has brought to life a vision for improving student achievement that is grounded in business practices but sensitive to the situations educators face,” said Linda Zecher, vice president of the U.S. Public Sector Group at Microsoft. “Microsoft’s U.S. Partners in Learning was created to supplement such visions and help create a reality that serves as a role model for all states.”

The 10 specialists trained this summer will receive on-site coaching during the 2004–2005 school year and, with the expansion of the program, will now receive additional training from the UVA in the spring time frame. A performance-based school turnaround credential will be earned upon successful completion of the full program.

“This strategic relationship between Virginia, Microsoft and the UVA is anchored in institutions with a track record of success,” said Tierney Fairchild, executive director of the UVA Darden/Curry Partnership. “Microsoft’s commitment increases the opportunity for meaningful and sustainable change in support of children in our lowest-performing schools.”

“It takes vision, persistence and determination to inspire change and confront the challenges of reshaping the culture and perception of high-poverty minority children in a low-performing school,” said J. Harrison Coleman, principal of Stephen H. Clarke Academy. “To the joy of turning an ‘at risk’ school into one ‘at promise,’ Microsoft’s dedication to excellence adds a mark of distinction.”

Partners in Learning seeks to address the digital inclusion issues facing education today by facilitating access to technology and training. Microsoft recognizes the need for students, teachers and administrators to not only master the technical skills needed to use technology successfully, but also to understand how technology can be integrated throughout the academic environment to help make teaching and learning more rewarding for teachers and students.

This is the fourth significant announcement regarding U.S. Partners in Learning. The first was the launch of an initiative and memorandum of understanding with the state of Washington in May. Next was the announcement of an online assessment tool co-developed with the International Society for Technology in Education at the National Educational Computing Conference in June, followed by a memorandum of understanding with the state of Michigan in August.

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