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Turnaround Schools Lack State Support, Personnel Policies, Report Says

States are often reluctant to intervene in persistently struggling schools, or uncertain how to go about it, because they lack the capacity to address the schools' needs, a new report concludes.

That's one of the lessons highlighted by the National Governors Association in an analysis of the most common challenges facing schools designed as low-performing under federal law.

The report focuses on common barriers to improving persistently struggling schools. While the federal government has poured considerable resources into turning those schools around academically—$3.5 billion in 2010—progress in many states has been slow. Successful turnaround efforts have been implemented only 10 percent to 20 percent of the time, according to one estimate cited in the report.

Struggling schools are often difficult places to work and have high rates of turnover. Yet state and local policies make it difficult to judge the effectiveness of teachers and other staff there, the report says. Even in academically struggling districts, the report notes, high percentages of teachers are deemed to be doing an effective or even superlative job through evaluations.

"Weak or nonexistent evaluation policies make it hard to identify poor-performing principals and teachers," it says. "Even in places that do conduct regular teacher evaluations, the ability of those evaluations to identify high performance and areas of need is limited."

Many states that lack the capacity to help struggling schools should consider devoting a portion of the federal funding they receive to creating new divisions within their state education agencies focused specifically on that task. They also need to form partnerships with outside organizations, such as charter management organizations, to help them work in those schools.

Do the NGA's suggested remedies for low-performing schools make sense? What ideas are missing?

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