New Report Finds State-Initiated Turnarounds Can Improve Schools but Are Most Powerful When Multiple Strategies Are Combined

New Report Finds State-Initiated Turnarounds Can Improve Schools but Are Most Powerful When Multiple Strategies Are Combined

Date
Thursday, November 3, 2016

Seattle, WA - States are looking to make the most of their new mandate under the Every Student Succeeds Act to intervene in the lowest-performing schools and districts. But research to date has provided little guidance on which strategies are best and under what conditions.

A report released today by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell helps fill this gap by providing the first comprehensive assessment of evidence to date on state-initiated turnarounds. The study finds that state intervention can be effective at improving outcomes for students, but no single approach is a clear “winner.” Using a combination of intervention strategies tailored to specific circumstances can increase the chances of success.

“State-initiated turnarounds are among the most difficult initiatives states can undertake,” said Dr. Ashley Jochim, research analyst at CRPE and author of the report. “This report is designed to help them better navigate the rough waters and ensure their support is more targeted, better received, and, ultimately, more effective.”

Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnaround examines five common turnaround approaches: state support for local turnaround efforts (e.g., Massachusetts School Redesign Grant program), state-authorized turnaround zones (e.g., Memphis iZone), mayoral control (e.g., New York City), school takeover (e.g., Louisiana’s Recovery School District), and district takeover (e.g., Newark Public Schools). Each strategy’s advantages and drawbacks are outlined so that states can weigh them in light of their own context and on-the-ground realities in the districts and schools they hope to improve. The report also dives deep into nearly a dozen recent turnarounds in eight states.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • All strategies require four ingredients to be successful: (1) the will to initiate changes to practice, (2) sufficient authority to implement effective strategies, (3) adequate capacity to execute the turnaround plan, and (4) political support to sustain changes over time.
  • States should not expect one strategy to be a good fit everywhere or to solve every problem they confront. Support for local turnaround, for example, demands less of states in terms of leadership, capacity, and political support but it requires effective district leadership to be successful.
  • Given the varied state and local contexts, states will maximize their odds of success by using multiple turnaround strategies, including leveraging districts as partners when possible and engaging in more disruptive approaches when the challenge demands it. States and researchers should continue to develop the evidence base around state-initiated turnarounds to ensure strategies are well aligned with local context and effective at improving schools and districts.

Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnaround, by Ashley Jochim, is the first in a series of publications from CRPE’s “Linking State and Local School Improvement” initiative, meant to inform state education leaders, policymakers, and advocacy groups about how to best support promising local school improvement efforts.

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The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) is a research and policy analysis center developing system-wide solutions for K-12 public education. CRPE is affiliated with the University of Washington Bothell and based in Seattle. CRPE’s work is funded entirely through philanthropy, federal grants, and contracts. Learn more at crpe.org.

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