Letter

‘Turnaround’ Essay Shows Need for a Reform Focus

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints

To the Editor:

Daniel L. Duke, in his recent Commentary on the research he and colleagues at the University of Virginia have been doing on “school turnaround specialists,” once again points out that the correct unit of analysis and focus of change, if we hope to improve education, is the school, not the school district ("Turning Schools Around," Feb. 21, 2007). Mr. Duke highlights his program’s findings, and while this is very useful, the point not stressed is identification of the appropriate entity upon which to focus efforts.

A number of articles have been written lately arguing that districts should be the focus of turnaround efforts. Lost in this argument, however, is the commonly held understanding that principals, usually in a line relationship to superintendents and, therefore, CEOs of their respective organizations, can make or break any district change effort. This is seen over and over in initiatives of all sorts. Further, each individual school has its own unique history and culture that must be considered in any reform effort (Mr. Duke knows this well, as demonstrated in his book The School That Refused to Die).

While I don’t downplay the importance of districtwide change efforts, the proper role for superintendents and other central-office administrators is to select building-level leaders who are committed to the district’s initiatives and possess the ability to implement them in their respective schools. (A primary finding of Mr. Duke’s research is that there is no substitute for leadership at the building level.) Unfortunately, most superintendents “inherit” building-level administrators when they arrive.

School districts, moreover, are loosely coupled organizations. Despite recent efforts to tighten the accountability screws on principals and their schools (via use of school-level achievement scores, reconstitution of schools, or performance-based principal-evaluation systems), they remain essentially islands within the larger sea.

Mr. Duke’s research on the process of turning schools around and those that do this is very useful. Now we must take the key findings and ensure that school systems and superintendents apply them in the most productive way, and at the appropriate organizational level, to accomplish real reform.

William D. Silky
Professor of Educational Administration
State University of New York
College at Oswego
Oswego, N.Y.

Vol. 26, Issue 27, Pages 36-37

Published in Print: March 14, 2007, as ‘Turnaround’ Essay Shows Need for a Reform Focus
Related Stories

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented

Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >