Aconfirms what many district and state level officials already know: Turning around low-performing schools, a key requirement of both the School Improvement Grant program and the Obama administration’s marquee Race to the Top program, is really important—and really, really hard.
More than 80 percent of states have made fixing their lowest-performing schools a high priority, but at least half have said the work is “very difficult,” says the report released last week by the Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education’s research arm. The report results from a collaboration of the American Institutes for Research and Mathematica Policy Research. The data came from administrators in 49 states and the District of Columbia, in a survey conducted in spring 2012 and spring 2013.
The researchers also found that, in 2012, a total of 38 states reported significant gaps in their expertise when it came to school turnarounds. And that number didn’t improve the next year, with 40 states reporting big gaps in 2013.
The toughest tasks had everything to do with school staff. In 2012, 21 states said they needed more expertise in developing teacher-evaluation systems that took student growth into account, the same number as in 2013. By 2013, more than half the states in the survey identified recruiting and retaining qualified staff to work in turnaround schools as an area in which there were significant knowledge gaps.
A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2015 edition of Education Week as School Improvement