School & District Management Report Roundup

IES Offers ‘Practice Guide’ on School Turnarounds

By Debra Viadero — May 13, 2008 1 min read

“Turning Around Chronically Low-Performing Schools”

Schools that struggle with low student performance year after year should undertake dramatic leadership changes, focus consistently on instruction, make visible changes early, and build a committed staff, according to a new federal report.

Changing leadership is important, the new guide says, because a new leader can immediately signal change. But even existing leaders can enact dramatic and effective changes, the guide says, by becoming highly visible and taking a leading role in guiding the instruction that goes on in classrooms.

Schools can keep the focus on instruction, the report adds, by using school-level data to find out where students’ learning gaps lie and having teachers use formative assessments to analyze their own practices.

The report is the fourth in a series of practice guides produced by the Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education’s main research arm.

In the absence of definitive studies on how to turn around failing schools, the guide is meant to highlight some key practical strategies that have a reasonable chance of succeeding, according to the institute.

The practices were chosen by a panel of outside experts who based their recommendations on a review of case studies, surveys, and other research in the field.

The 43-page guide on turnaround strategies also outlines ways schools can enact the recommendations and discusses challenges they may face as they undertake those changes.

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