Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Turnaround Schools Struggle With Staffing, Time, and Climate

By Alyson Klein — July 11, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Anyone who has taken a close look at the federal School Improvement Grant program—or turnarounds in general—probably knows that school staffing, scheduling, and climate can be among the toughest challenges to tackle. The Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, which has already done some must-read studies of SIG, took a deeper look at the these three tricky issues in a trio of reports out today.

The reports relied both on a survey of 46 Title I directors, conducted by CEP in the winter of 2011-12, and on “case studies” of SIG schools in three very different states: Idaho, Maryland, and Michigan. (Other reports using the survey and case-studies are available here and here.) Background on the very complicated program, including its four complex models here.

The two most popular of the four models for the SIG program—"turnaround” and “transformation""—require schools to remove the principal, unless that person has been on the job less than two years and was hired as part of a turnaround effort. The turnaround model also requires schools to get rid of at least half the teachers. Both of those interventions have been highly controversial, and haven’t been easy to implement.

Does getting rid of staff help? For the most part, state officials seem to think it does. Fifteen out of 45 states using the most popular model (transformation, which is used at three-quarters of SIG schools) saw getting rid of the principals as a key element of the turnaround. Ten states said it helps “to some extent,” while 16 states said the extent varies from school to school. Just one state said it didn’t make a difference, while three thought it was too soon to say. The results were similar for states using the turnaround model when they were asked whether getting rid of half the staff made a difference.

States—which are supposed to provide technical assistance to SIG schools—largely steered clear of the human resources challenges, perhaps because hiring and firing is usually a district prerogative. Just 10 out of 46 states said they helped districts find and recruit good principals. And just eight of the 46 said they helped pinpoint and enlist effective teachers.

Interesting tidbit: Finding staff for turnaround-model schools was so hard that, in the second year of the grant, Prince George’s County, Md., opted instead for the “restart model,” which requires schools to become charters or partner with an education management organization. (They could still, technically, hold on to their entire staff if the charter operator agreed.)

The bottom-line: Even a ton of new money doesn’t create new people, and good staff is hard to find. Plus, the short time frame for the grants didn’t help much on this front. (The Government Accountability has also dinged the department for expecting schools to move to fast to implement the complicated SIG program.) CEP’s research-based suggestion? The feds should consider some flexibility when it comes to the personnel requirements of SIG, particularly for rural schools.

CEP also took a close look at the way states are implementing the extended learning time piece of the program, which has been a puzzle for districts and schools. It found that the Maryland schools in the case study were spending the extra time primarily on the students who are struggling the most academically, while Michigan schools were pushing to extend the school day for everyone, with mixed results (i.e. some schools were only able to add a small amount of time to the school day). Idaho schools, which were largely rural, especially struggled with the requirement and don’t see it as an essential piece of the school improvement formula. Overall, the perceptions about whether extended learning time really works were generally positive, but mixed, with some state-level folks saying it was too early to say and others saying it really varied from school to school.

The third CEP report focuses on climate and school culture. Under the School Improvement Grant regulations, schools aren’t necessarily held accountable for improving school culture and climate, but many principals felt it was necessary to start to tackle non-academic challenges, such as attendance and behavior. And some had creative ideas to get the job done, including bringing in an entourage of behavior specialists, social workers, community coordinators, and other outreach for parents.

Officials at Gholson Middle School, in Prince George’s County, Md., spent the first week and a half of its first year in the grant just on school climate, such as getting the kids to refer to themselves as “scholars” and wear uniforms, which the schools’ two principals refer to as “paycheck attire.”


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


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
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
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
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
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
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
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

Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
The move on behalf of students with disabilities deepens the fight over masks between the Biden administration and GOP governors.
4 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 13, 2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles in April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP