School & District Management Letter to the Editor

Effective State Turnarounds Require Targeted Support

March 08, 2016 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

In the Commentary “When ‘Opportunity’ Is Anything But” (Jan. 27, 2016), the authors highlight that many state takeovers aren’t working. They correctly emphasize that applying a “cookie-cutter approach” to school turnaround is not likely to yield positive results. Our experience working with districts sheds light on why this might be.

Effective turnaround needs to start by carefully looking at the systems, structures, and practices that contribute to a school’s “failing,” and then strategically targeting action and support to remediate the problems. Addressing these challenges requires a solid understanding of the distribution and organization of resources—people, time, and money—and adjusting them equitably and strategically, according to student need.

Another structural requirement to scaling turnaround is to have teacher- and principal-evaluation systems and practices that provide growth-oriented feedback and enable targeted support, while also identifying teachers and principals who are less effective.

Massachusetts is a good example of a state customizing its approach for schools and districts, as well as requiring and supporting structural changes to contracts, time, funding, and school portfolio for longer-term success. Lawrence, Mass., is beginning to show how this approach can bring quick wins while moving toward sustainable growth, according to a case study of the district that my organization carried out.

In Lawrence, the state-appointed superintendent, Jeff Riley, quickly assembled his own strong leadership team, which instituted quick changes, such as adding tutors and providing support to ensure effective team-teaching. Simultaneously, the leadership team worked on underlying structures, such as career paths and compensation for teachers, the organization of high schools, and extended learning time. The approach is paying off with consistently improving test scores and a high school graduation rate that increased by 40 percent between 2010 and 2015.

The fact that many state efforts fail shouldn’t be a reason for not striving to understand how states in tandem with districts can ensure the urgent action that failing schools need to improve for the long-haul.

Karen Hawley Miles

President and Executive Director

Education Resource Strategies

Watertown, Mass.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2016 edition of Education Week as Effective State Turnarounds Require Targeted Support


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How District Leaders Can Make Sure Teachers Don't Miss the Loan-Forgiveness Deadline
Many teachers and other public employees may not know they qualify for a student loan-forgiveness waiver that has an Oct. 31 deadline.
4 min read
Young adult woman cutting the ball and chain labeled "Debt" which is attached as the tassel hanging from a graduate's mortarboard
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Download A Visual Guide to Nonverbal Communication (Download)
Understanding nonverbal communication can help you improve interactions and get your message across.
1 min read
v42 8SR Nonverbal Communication Share Image
Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty
School & District Management Ensure Your Staff Gets the Message: 3 Tips for School Leaders
School staff are inundated with information. Here's a few ways to ensure they will actually hear you.
3 min read
Image showing a female and male in business attire connecting speech bubble puzzle pieces.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Keep School Staff Motivated All Year Long: Advice From Principals
Here are some of the things—big and small—that school leaders do and say to keep teachers excited about the job.
13 min read
Teachers and faculty play a game of Kahoot! to get to know one another better during a Welcome Back training at CICS Bucktown on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022 in Chicago, Ill.
Teachers and faculty play a game to get to know one another better during a Welcome Back training at Chicago's CICS Bucktown in August.
Taylor Glascock for Education Week