Friday, February 4, 2011

Light weekend reading: turnarounds.

The journalism on school turnarounds and takeovers and transformations suffers when reporters were not around to see what the school was like before the reforms started. Then you’re relying on secondhand accounts of what things were like, why various efforts worked or didn’t, and so on. But this is the situation most journalists are facing, and they need to make the best of it—and many do. Not surprisingly, most of the journalism to date on turnarounds is from large urban districts. A partial list follows. Except for the Banchero pieces, which are from 2007, these are all from the past year. I would still like some more examples of older stuff.

Inside School Turnarounds by Laura Pappano, Harvard Education Press. Excerpt here in the Harvard Education Letter.
—The Big Fix, GothamSchools and WNYC, ongoing.
In the South End, a ‘Last-Ditch Effort’ to Save a School by Bianca Vazquez Toness, WBUR.
Firing Everyone, Even the Lunch Ladies, to Fix Failing Schools by Linda Lutton, WBEZ.
Focus on School Turnarounds, Philadephia Public School Notebook, and their Renaissance Schools coverage.
Coverage of Central Falls High School by Jennifer D. Jordan and Linda Borg in the Providence Journal.
Changes Take Hold at Chicago’s First Turnaround School by Maureen Kelleher, Focus on Instruction Turns Around Chicago Schools by Dakarai Aarons, and a whole slew of older Education Week coverage by Lesli Maxwell (who has since left).

The Toughest Assignment by Stephanie Banchero, Chicago Tribune.

If you expand your scope to research and analysis, there is a lot more to read:


Turning Around the Nation’s Lowest-Performing Schools by Karen Baroody, Center for American Progress.
Beyond the School by Joel Knudson et al., California Collaboration on District Reform.
Unlikely Allies by Elena Silva and Susan Headden, Education Sector.

Are Bad Schools Immortal? by David A. Stuit, Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
The School Turnaround Field Guide by Jeff Kutash et al., FSG Social Impact Advisers.
Restructuring “Restructuring” by Robert Manwaring, Education Sector.
The Turnaround Fallacy by Andy Smarick, Education Next.

Successful School Turnarounds by Julie Kowal et al., Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement.
Breaking the Habit of Low Performance by Dana Brinson and Lauren Morando Rhim, Center on Innovation & Improvement.
Turning Around Failing Schools: Leadership Lessons from the Organizational Sciences, Joseph Murphy and Coby V. Meyers, Corwin Press.
Managing More Than a Thousand Remodeling Projects by Caitlin Scott, Center on Education Policy.
The Turnaround Challenge by Andrew Calkins et al., Mass Insight.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the links. But I was awfully disappointed by the CAP report which should have been entitled "List of the Opinions of ERS." Many of the opininons made sense. But the evidence what has worked in turnarounds was:

    a)N.C.'s turnaround "achieved major results" for $200,000 per school,
    b) Atlanta's test score increases (for what they were worth) were 5% greater in their turnarounds from 2000 to 2003, and
    c) Crew had success from 1999 to 2002.

    I checked footnotes to learn about district #4 and and its failure, and found some sound opinions in "ERS Turnarounds" but mostly it just had checklists.

    In its 85 pages, there were some nice sentiments, like entire districts much change and we must build our bench of educators and turnaround talent. This is crucial because where are they going to get qualified principals, teachers, and instructional coaches? If a district had the bench required for putting instructional leaders in schools, they wouldn't be in that mess. And what real inner city teacher is going to listen to an instructional coach who hasn't paid their dues in the hood? But if you pull effective teachers out of the inner city classroom, how are you going to find replacements?

    Perhaps most the most disappointing characteristic was the most important issue - school culture - wasn't mentioned. In secondary schools, for instance, dealing with attendance and behavior is going to dwarf all other issues, but that's the 3rd rail. Justin Cohen essentially acknowledge that in Pappano's book, saying that districts will have to accept shortterm increases in suspensions and lower attendance, but in my experience, that fits in the category of "when pigs can fly." We can't turnaround schools without a frank discussion of attendance and behavior, but ERS took a dive on that one. To their credit, they mentioned that schools needed to look at students who are categorized in multiple ways. Who doesn't love the IEP or ELL student who sits on the front row and follows the guidance of their ELL or special ed teacher? It is the critical mass of kids on IEPs and eLLs, who've suffered horrible abuse, perhaps are seriously mentally ill, on parole, and not knowing how to wrestle with their demons that came from extreme trauma. They are equally deserving of love, but ERsdoesn't address them.