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Turnarounds Can Be Effective When Used With Other Strategies, Report Finds

Turnaround Graphic 3.JPG

The Center on Reinventing Public Education published a report this month that shows different ways states have intervened in schools, mapping four turnaround approaches: state support for local turnarounds, state-authorized turnaround zones, school takeovers, and district takeovers.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, which goes into full effect next fall, directs states to intervene in low-performing schools and districts but gives them a freer hand in choosing how to go about it.  The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, signed by President Barack Obama in December 2015, is the newest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The report from CRPE has found that state involvement can be most effective when turnaround policies are "tailored" to a school or district's particular circumstances.

"One state's success can easily be another's failure if policy ideas are imported with little attention to the factors that made the turnaround effort effective in the first place," study author Ashley Jochim wrote.

Jochim, a research analyst at the CRPE, found that successful interventions required four key "ingredients."

  • The "will" to make real change happen.
  • The "authority" to execute effective strategies.
  • The "capacity" to perform the turnaround.
  • The "political support" to sustain change.

"States should do more to learn from the experiences of other states, but they must approach imitation cautiously," Jochim wrote.

She gave the example of Louisiana, "where large infusions of talent and philanthropy and weak opposition enabled reforms to take root."

"The variability in local contexts gives no guarantee that a strategy deployed with success in one district or state can be replicated in another," Jochim wrote. The report also notes that states can combine strategies as well.

ESSA mandates that states identify schools performing in the bottom 5 percent every three years, as well as those with graduation rates below 67 percent. Such schools qualify for "turnaround" treatment.

Read Jochim's report right here.


Chart: Who takes control during a turnaround depends on the state you live in. Source: "Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds" by Ashley Jochim from The Center on Reinventing Public Education.

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