Special Education Letter to the Editor

Optimistic ‘Turnaround’ Signs, Despite a Lean Research Base

August 24, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

As the authors of the 2007 report “The Turnaround Challenge,” we were pleased to see it discussed in your recent article on the emerging field of school turnaround (“Research Doesn’t Offer Much Guidance on Turnarounds,” Aug. 12, 2009).

When the report was released, it was unclear how education practitioners and policymakers would respond. Two years later, more than 150,000 copies have been downloaded, and the ideas in the report have proved influential. Elements of the framework are being implemented by several states, urban districts, and turnaround partner organizations.

Your article correctly points out that because school turnaround is a new field, there are too few longitudinal, “research-tested” recommendations. But the headline suggests a more pessimistic outlook than our research supports. There is a wealth of evidence about what hasn’t worked, a small but growing base of research on individual high-performing high-poverty schools, and promising approaches from a group of entrepreneurial urban districts.

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, our organization has formulated a set of strategies to guide turnaround and a framework for delivering these strategies at scale, as well as integrated tools to help education leaders make this framework operational. Two recent reports, “Partnership Zones” and “A New Partnership Paradigm,” are available on our Web site (www.massinsight.org). The site also includes case studies on Philadelphia’s Delaplaine McDaniel Elementary School and Pickett Charter Middle School (both mentioned in the article), and on the Academy for Urban School Leadership and Green Dot Public Schools (two organizations influencing turnaround strategies being promoted by the U.S. Department of Education).

With the backing of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, we will soon launch pilot “partnership zones” in a number of states and districts; the effort will include comprehensive evaluation to assess the efficacy of this approach. We see this as a particularly promising framework for turning around chronically low-performing schools, but we hope that other frameworks will emerge as well.

William H. Guenther

Founder and President
Mass Insight Education and Research Institute
Boston, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the August 26, 2009 edition of Education Week as Optimistic ‘Turnaround’ Signs, Despite a Lean Research Base


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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
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.
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
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.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

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

Special Education The Pandemic Made It Harder to Spot Students With Disabilities. Now Schools Must Catch Up
After more than a year of disruption for all students, the pressure's on to find those in need of special education and provide services.
13 min read
Aikin listens to her eight-year-old son, Carter, as he reads in the family’s home in Katy, TX, on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Carter has dyslexia and Aikin could not help but smile at the improvement in his fluency as he read out loud.
Kanisha Aikin listens to her 8-year-old son, Carter, who has dyslexia, as he reads aloud in the family’s home in Katy, Texas.
Annie Mulligan for Education Week
Special Education What Employers Can Teach Schools About Neurodiversity
The benefits of neurodiversity have gained traction in business, but college and career support for students with disabilities falls short.
8 min read
Special Education The Challenge of Teaching Students With Visual Disabilities From Afar
Teachers of students with visual disabilities struggle to provide 3-D instruction in a two-dimensional remote learning environment.
Katie Livingstone
5 min read
Neal McKenzie
Neal McKenzie, an assistive technology specialist, works with a student who has a visual impairment in Sonoma County, Calif.<br/>
Courtesy Photo
Special Education 'They Already Feel Like Bad Students.' A Special Educator Reflects on Virtual Teaching
In a year of remote teaching, a high school special ed teacher has seen some of his students struggle and some thrive.
4 min read
Tray Robinson, a special education teacher, sits for a photo at Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos, Calif., on April 21, 2021.
Tray Robinson, a special education teacher, says remote learning has provided new ways for some of his students to soar, and has made others want to quit.
Sarahbeth Maney for Education Week