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School Turnarounds Get New Emphasis Within Ed. Dept.

The U.S. Department of Education is creating a new office to focus on school turnaround efforts, officials there announced today. It will be led by Jason Snyder, who's been serving as chief of staff to Deputy Secretary Tony Miller, and will be housed within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The creation of this new office may seem like a very bureaucratic move (which it is) but it also shows how important the department, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, thinks these turnaround efforts are. After all, I've heard Duncan say that the $3.5 billion School Improvement Grant program, and the four turnaround models the feds have created to intervene in the worst schools may be some of the most important work the department is doing.

Today's news follows the announcement from earlier this week that the department was eliminating the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools and moving those programs over to the elementary and secondary education office, too. Department officials tell me this should be the end of the bureaucratic shuffling—that this isn't the start of some big departmental restructuring.

Here's the memo Deputy Secretary Tony Miller sent to staff today on the new turnaround office:

The Department is committed to developing and deepening program and policy expertise in the program offices, especially in high-priority areas. Consistent with that objective, we are planning to establish an Office of School Turnaround in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education that will help focus our support to states, districts, and schools as they implement critical reforms to turn around our lowest-performing schools.

The Office of School Turnaround will be responsible for the administration of the School Improvement Grants program and will play an important role in ensuring that our support of state and local turnaround efforts is coordinated across department programs.

The Office of School Turnaround will be led by Jason Snyder, who will serve as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy. As many of you know, Jason has been working with OESE (particularly Kandace Jones and the SIG Team) on conducting an in-depth review of SIG grant recipients in order to inform our policy development, monitoring, and technical assistance efforts for this program. Jason is leaving his position as Chief of Staff in the Office of the Deputy Secretary (ODS) and will join OESE in early July in order to work full time on school turnaround issues. Deputy Secretary Miller has asked Wendy Tada to serve as Acting Chief of Staff in ODS.

The structure and staffing details of the office will be determined in the coming months and we will provide additional information as it becomes available. The Department will work with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union to address workplace issues that may affect bargaining unit employees.

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