School & District Management

What, Exactly, Does School ‘Turnaround’ Mean?

May 27, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

That, to me, was the key question raised, but not really answered, at an edu-salon convened yesterday by the Progressive Policy Institute.

And the question didn’t come from any skeptic on whether or not turning low-performing schools around is an achievable goal. It came from Justin Cohen, who as the president of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education and Research Institute, is working closely with educators in a half-dozen states on this very difficult endeavor.

With $3.5 billion in stimulus-funded Title I School Improvement Grants flowing to the states and local districts to fix chronically low-performing schools, U.S.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his team at the Education Department have focused heavily on how you turn schools around, and are requiring one of four ways to do it. Their four endorsed school-improvement models are also part of the Obama administration’s blueprint for renewing ESEA. (Those models, of course, have been gaining more detractors lately, especially inside the halls of Congress.)

But, as Cohen rightly points out, there’s been little to no discussion or agreement about what a “turned around” school looks like. Cohen, who thinks the ESEA blueprint is an improvement over the current No Child Left Behind law, says to make it even better, there must be a definition of what constitutes success in this pursuit of turning around the nation’s worst schools.

“There’s nothing about when do we declare victory,” Cohen said. “What does it mean to say we’ve turned a school around? Let’s agree on what we’re measuring.”

Of course, “closing the achievement gap” is the answer everyone can agree on, and we’ve heard Secretary Duncan talk about “dramatic” and “breakthrough” change, but nothing that really defines, concretely, what “turn around” means. That high schools currently graduating fewer than 60 percent of their kids improve that rate to 90 percent? Or that middle schools where 10 percent of 8th graders are reading on grade level improve that proficiency rate to 60 percent?

Besides Cohen, the expert lineup on turnarounds at the panel included District of Columbia Chancellor Michelle Rhee; David Cicarella, the president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, the local AFT affiliate in New Haven, Conn., who was a stand-in for AFT president Randi Weingarten; Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.; and Jordan Meranus from the New Schools Venture Fund.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.

Events

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.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls
Science K-12 Essentials Forum How To Teach STEM Problem Solving Skills to All K-12 Students
Join experts for a look at how experts are integrating the teaching of problem solving and entrepreneurial thinking into STEM instruction.
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.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Modernizing Principal Support: The Road to More Connected and Effective Leaders
When principals are better equipped to lead, support, and maintain high levels of teaching and learning, outcomes for students are improved.
Content provided by BetterLesson

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 Opinion Principals: Supporting Your Teachers Doesn't Have to Be Such Hard Work
Principals can show teachers they care by something as simple as a visit to their classrooms or a pat on the back.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management From Our Research Center Nearly Half of Educators Say Climate Change Is Affecting Their Schools—or Will Soon
Most educators said their school districts have not taken any action to prepare for more severe weather, a new survey finds.
6 min read
Global warming illustration, environment pollution, global warming heating impact concept. Change climate concept.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week and iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion 7 Ways Principals Can Support Teachers
Listening more than talking is one vital piece of advice for school leaders to help teachers.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management What Schools Can Do to Tackle Climate Change (Hint: More Than You Think)
For starters, don't assume change is too difficult.
7 min read
Haley Williams, left, and Amiya Cox hold a sign together and chant while participating in a "Global Climate Strike" at the Experiential School of Greensboro in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Across the globe hundreds of thousands of young people took the streets Friday to demand that leaders tackle climate change in the run-up to a U.N. summit.
Haley Williams, left, and Amiya Cox participate in a Global Climate Strike at the Experiential School of Greensboro in Greensboro, N.C., in September 2019.
Khadejeh Nikouyeh/News & Record via AP