Profiles of School Turnaround Strategies in Selected Sites

The School Improvement Grants (SIG) program provides grants to support rigorous interventions aimed at turning around the nation’s persistently lowest achieving schools. Since the redesign of the SIG program in 2009, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) has awarded over $5.5 billion to all 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Indian Education. More than 1,500 schools across the country are undertaking one of four interventions that require schools to institute rigorous changes to improve outcomes for students.

In the five years since SIG was redesigned, States, districts, and schools have taken a wide variety of approaches to implement one of the four SIG intervention models. Through its technical assistance efforts, the Department has worked to increase peer-to-peer sharing of some of these approaches and strategies, particularly in the area of capacity building. To further these efforts, American Institutes of Research (AIR), under contract with the Department, has developed profiles of State-, district-, and school-level strategies to build capacity for turning around the lowest-performing schools. Although each strategy shares a common goal of ultimately improving students’ academic achievement and other outcomes, including social and emotional growth, the strategies span a wide variety of focus areas—including, for example, school leadership, the use of external partners, and data-based decision making. Covered in each profile are topics such the strategy used, the strategy development process and implementation, barriers overcome in the process of implementing the specific strategy, signs of promising implementation, and lessons learned from development and implementation of the strategy.

Selection and Data Collection Process
Organizations engaged in school improvement and turnaround work from across the country―including federally funded regional comprehensive centers, content centers, and regional educational laboratories―identified SIG schools, local educational agencies (LEAs), and State educational agencies (SEAs) to feature in profiles based on (1) evidence of improving student outcomes (e.g., State assessments, graduation rates) and (2) their geographic location (for diversity across the set of sites). In addition, AIR identified schools and LEAs through a media search focusing on SIG and other key words (e.g., turnaround, improvement).

To collect the information for the profiles:

  • AIR notified key respondents (e.g., school principal, district superintendent, SEA administrator) from each of the selected sites and conducted interviews of the key respondents.
  • In some instances, AIR interviewed more than one individual to obtain detailed information about the highlighted practice.
  • In most cases, AIR conducted a follow-up conversation to clarify the description of the practice.
  • Finally, key respondents at each site reviewed the profile for factual accuracy.

The result is more than 60 school-, district-, and State-level profiles covering a range of topics related to school turnaround. The practices described in the profiles are provided merely for informational purposes. The Department hopes that these profiles are useful tools to SEAs, LEAs, schools, and other stakeholders engaged in school turnaround work, and that they serve to disseminate promising practices and support innovative approaches to turning around the nation’s lowest performing schools.

These profiles were prepared by AIR under contract to the Department, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, in consultation with the Office of State Support in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. This series of profiles is based on telephone interviews with the selected sites and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department. The Department has not independently verified the content of these profiles and does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Not all of the activities described in the profiles are funded though SIG, and the inclusion of the information in these profiles is not intended to reflect a determination by the Department that any activity, product, program, intervention, model, or service mentioned may be supported with SIG funds. The Department has not determined that the practices in these profiles are effective and does not endorse or recommend any organization, product, or program mentioned in these profiles or any views expressed in these profiles; the practices described herein are provided merely for informational purposes.

Making Data-Based Decisions Recruiting, Retaining Turnaround Leadership State-Level Monitoring and Performance
Changing Leadership Practices Labor-Management Collaboration Administering School Diagnostic Process
Implementing Job-Embedded Professional Development Engaging the Community in the Turnaround Process Providing Technical Assistance to Build District Capacity
Implementing a System of Rewards Making Data-Based Decisions Helping Districts with External Providers
Ensuring Committed and Qualified Staff Holding External Providers Accountable Organizing SEAs to Support Turnaround Efforts
Extending and Maximizing Learning Time Developing Principal Pipelines Developing state-level principal pipeline programs
Strategies or English Language Learners (ELs)
Improving School Climate and Conditions through Non-Academic Interventions
Engaging Families and Communities

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Last Modified: 03/12/2015