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Collaboration, Investment: Best Aids for Disadvantaged Schools

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To successfully reform struggling schools, policymakers need to involve community members in coming up with solutions—and that is rarely done, according to a report released today.

"Democratic School Turnarounds: Pursuing Equity and Learning from Evidence," by Tina Trujillo of the University of California, Berkeley and Michelle Renée of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, suggests that government agencies and policymakers, including the U.S. Department of Education, should look at educational research as they guide school turnarounds.

"Evidence shows that top-down, punitive efforts that are currently in vogue are ineffective and counterproductive. A collaborative, community-driven approach combined with significant, sustained financial investment and a focus on teaching and learning has been proven to be the better path to school improvement," says the statement announcing the report's release.

In the preface to the report, the authors say the document examines "the democratic tensions inherent in the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) policy's market-based school reforms. It offers recommendations that re-center the purposes of public education for low-income students, students of color, and local communities in developing more equitable, democratic school turnarounds."

The report offers six recommendations. For community engagement, it calls for policymakers to "engage a broad cross-section of schools' communities—teachers, students, parents and community organizations—in planning and implementing turnaround strategies that are tailored to each school and district context."

Read the full report here.

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