What are Transformation Zones?
Transformation Zones are school- and community-driven groupings of public district schools. These schools form a Zone so that they can collaborate and access flexibilities and supports that enable them to empower educators and thus better serve their students.
Transformation Zone schools are still district schools. Through a contract, they remain accountable to the publicly elected school board – the Zone structure only remains in place if the schools within the Zone are meeting shared performance expectations set by the district and the Zone.
Transformation Zones have a shared governance model that gives Zones the best of district leadership and community voice. The Zone’s shared governing board is the board of a newly formed community-based non-profit organization founded as a partnership between the district and community to support the schools in the Zone.
Transformation Zones are fundamentally about educator empowerment. They exist to empower teachers and leaders with the opportunity to design and sustain a shared learning community that is tailored to the needs of their students and communities and creates new opportunities for teacher voice in campus management.
Several communities across the country have designed and launched Transformation Zones to empower educators and communities to meet the needs of their students.
Why would a school decide to join or form a Transformation Zone?
Teacher and Leader Empowerment: Zones afford educators the opportunity to design and sustain a shared learning community specifically tailored to the needs of their students and the adults who serve them.
Shared Learning: Because Zones are organized around common interests, there is an explicit opportunity and expectation for shared learning to manifest across schools and teams within the Zone. This does not mean all schools must offer the same educational model.
Resource Flexibility: In a Zone, schools have more flexibility over how they use their budgets. They may decide to keep the services they have been receiving from the district, or they may opt in to some district services and opt out of others that don’t fit their needs. Zone schools can also access philanthropic and community partnerships to develop innovative teacher leadership opportunities and student service models that enrich supports, e.g., sharing additional social workers or counselors across campuses.
Zone-Specific Support Structures: Zones can offer the opportunity to construct a support team tailored to the needs of schools in the Zone. For example, schools might choose to pool resources to hire an “operations lead” whose job is to relieve administrative and operational responsibilities at the school level, freeing up more time for school-based teams to focus on teaching and learning. They might also want to partner with support organizations that have specific expertise in areas of interest (e.g., dual language).
Steadfast Focus and Increased Flexibility: Zone schools are empowered to set priorities and goals informed by their own school-level needs and then access the specific supports they need to achieve those goals.
Community Ownership: The Zone structure requires stakeholders to have direct voice in oversight of the zone, thereby empowering local community members as official, ongoing partners in the effort.