Turning around schools in need: a new president and secretary of education bring a new urgency to the task of turning around failing schools nationwide.[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
IN DECEMBER, PRESIDENT-elect Barack Obama selected Chicago's Dodge Renaissance Academy Renaissance Arts Academy is an alternative public charter high school of the Los Angeles Unified School District in Los Angeles, California. Curriculum The school Website states: The study method developed by L. Ron Hubbard is the key to effective learning. Mr. , a 400-student pre-K8 school, as the backdrop for choosing Arne Duncan Arne Duncan (born 11-6-1964) is an American education administrator and basketball player who is the current Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools.
Duncan attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. , the Chicago Public Schools' CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. , as the nation's new secretary of education. Touted as a "turnaround school," Dodge represented the idea that if change could come to a high-poverty, failing school with low test scores and most students on free or reduced-price lunches, then there was hope for all schools.
A school turnaround is "a dramatic and comprehensive intervention in a low-performing school that produces significant gains in student achievement within two academic years," according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Mass Insight Education & Research Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit A corporation or an association that conducts business for the benefit of the general public without shareholders and without a profit motive.
Nonprofits are also called not-for-profit corporations. Nonprofit corporations are created according to state law. education reform organization. The term has been used for decades in the business world.
In his 1991 book The Turnaround Experience: Real-World Lessons in Revitalizing re·vi·tal·ize
tr.v. re·vi·tal·ized, re·vi·tal·iz·ing, re·vi·tal·iz·es
To impart new life or vigor to: plans to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods; tried to revitalize a flagging economy. Corporations, Frederick M. Zimmerman extracted strategies from a study of 16 companies that had been distressed for 20 years or more. Joseph Murphy and Coby Meyers drew heavily from Zimmerman's work in their book Turning Around Failing Schools: Leadership Lessons from the Organizational Sciences (Corwin Press, 2007), although Mass Insight had regularly used the term in its comprehensive and more-widely disseminated disseminated /dis·sem·i·nat·ed/ (-sem´i-nat?ed) scattered; distributed over a considerable area.
Spread over a large area of a body, a tissue, or an organ. research starting in 2005.
The turnaround model is a careful approach in which either the existing district or an outside partner provides step-by-step strategic oversight and tight operational support, says Julie Corbett, program manager of Mass Insight's School Turnaround Strategy Group.
On the surface, the idea of a turnaround school is simple: Got a consistently failing school? Fire everyone and start over. And, oh yeah, the students can stay.
Nonetheless, "you've got to have a model, a vision of what you want that school to look like," says Paul Vallas Paul G. Vallas is the new superintendent of the Recovery School District of New Orleans in Louisiana.
He first gained fame as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). , the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Chicago Public Schools, commonly abbreviated as CPS by local residents and politicians, is a school district that controls over 600 public elementary and high schools in Chicago, Illinois. and the School District of Philadelphia The School District of Philadelphia is a school district based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that includes all public schools in the city of Philadelphia. Established in 1818, it is the eighth largest school district in the nation. and current superintendent of Louisiana's Recovery School District. Vallas is working on the simultaneous turnaround of 112 low-performing schools across the state. "The key is having a strong leadership team that can implement that model," he says. "After 15 or 20 years of reform, we know what works and what doesn't, but I think there is more than one turnaround approach."
Four Turnaround Models
Duncan suggested four basic turnaround models in his speech at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference last June. They include:
1. Students stay and adults leave. This is similar to Duncan's work in Chicago, where new principals and lead teachers can develop the curriculum for students, followed by spring teacher recruitment in preparation for a June takeover. Teachers can reapply Re`ap`ply´
v. t. & i. 1. To apply again.
reapply vi → volver a presentarse, hacer or presentar una nueva solicitud
, and some get rehired, but most go elsewhere.
2. Replace the staff and turn the school over to a charter or management organization, such as Green Dot Public Schools, Mastery Charter Schools, or Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL AUSL Azienda Unità Sanitaria Locale (Italian: Hospital) ).
3. Keep the staff but drastically change the school culture. Establish rigorous performance evaluation Performance evaluation
The assessment of a manager's results, which involves, first, determining whether the money manager added value by outperforming the established benchmark (performance measurement) and, second, determining how the money manager achieved the calculated return systems; increase support, training and teacher mentoring; strengthen the curriculum and instructional programs; and increase student learning in outside regular school hours. This is more suitable for smaller communities with limited staff. These schools must show measurable attendance, parental involvement and achievement results quickly.
4. Everyone goes. Underperforming schools are simply dosed. Students reenroll in better schools. This turnaround model brings a failing school to "a swift and thorough conclusion," Duncan said. Closure is a state and local responsibility, as there is no federal authority to do this.
Some will work better in big cities, while others are more suited for smaller communities, Duncan stated. "We're still working this through," he said.
Corbett adds that operations are an "incredibly huge piece" of the program. Principals shouldn't have to figure out professional development needs, or deal with students' behavioral issues or even fund raising, she says. "When you have an efficient district office, it actually lets the principal really be the leader of that environment and change it."
Several years before being in the spotlight under the Obama administration, Mass Insight monitored reform efforts in consistently underperforming schools across the country that were conducted on a "light touch" basis, which refers to incremental Additional or increased growth, bulk, quantity, number, or value; enlarged.
Incremental cost is additional or increased cost of an item or service apart from its actual cost. school changes, such as redirecting curriculum or providing leadership coaching, versus those where there was "dramatic, transformative change," such as firing most or all of the staff or even closing the school.
In 2005, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, philanthropic institution founded in 1994 by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, to improve the lives of the poor throughout the world, primarily through grants for projects relating to global health care, funded a two-year study by Mass Insight that culminated in The Turnaround Challenge, a report detailing "why America's best opportunity to dramatically improve student achievement lies in our worst-performing schools." Reviewing intervention efforts across 10 states and four districts, over 50 organizations and individual experts contributed directly to the report and its recommendations.
"Most schools in Restructuring (the federal designation for chronic underperformance) are like organisms that have built immunities, over years of attempted intervention, to the 'medicine' of incremental reform," the report states. Turnaround is different from mere school improvement, according to the report, because turnaround is the kind of change that is "propelled by imperative: the school must improve or it will be redefined or closed."
Many of those early Chicago turnarounds are still district-run; however, the force behind several other successes, including Dodge's renaissance, is Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).
A nonprofit organization Nonprofit Organization
An association that is given tax-free status. Donations to a non-profit organization are often tax deductible as well.
Examples of non-profit organizations are charities, hospitals and schools. that partners with Chicago Public Schools, AUSL was founded in 2001 by venture capitalist Venture Capitalist
An investor who provides capital to either start-up ventures or support small companies who wish to expand but do not have access to public funding.
Venture capitalists usually expect higher returns for the additional risks taken. Martin Koldyke and has received support in part from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund The NewSchools Venture Fund is a non-profit venture philanthopy fund that invests in educational entrepeneurship projects at the K-12 levels in United States public schools. , Boeing, Motorola, and other Chicago corporations and donors.
"Sometimes it takes a whole-school transformation, a dramatic intervention, in order to create the kind of opportunities where children will be successful," says Don Feinstein, AUSUs executive director and a former Chicago schools' principal. AUSI AUSI Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute
AUSI Associated Underwater Scuba Instructors (Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia) 2s approach is to completely overhaul a school without relocating students, who return in the fall to renovated facilities, a new curriculum, a new principal, new teachers, new staff, including the janitor, and what Feinstein calls "an entirely new culture of success."
Green Dot Public Schools, another player in turnarounds, is a nonprofit school management organization that has opened 18 public charter schools in Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. .
Focus on Teacher Training
At Chicago Public Schools, long considered one of the most challenging districts in America, then-CEO Duncan closed some 60 chronically underperforming schools and reopened about a dozen schools with new leadership and staff as turnaround schools; many of those were AUSL-managed.
In Chicago and other places such as Los Angeles, many turnaround schools adhere roughly to what Green Dot calls "The Six Tenets of High-Performing Schools": (1) small, safe and personalized per·son·al·ize
tr.v. per·son·al·ized, per·son·al·iz·ing, per·son·al·iz·es
1. To take (a general remark or characterization) in a personal manner.
2. To attribute human or personal qualities to; personify. schools, (2) high expectations for all students, (3) local control with extensive professional development and accountability, (4) parent participation, (5) maximized funding to the classroom, and (6) keeping schools open later.
According to AUSL, teachers are 27 percent more likely to leave the profession if they begin teaching in a high poverty school. Because of this, a major part of AUSEs efforts have focused on using an urban residency A duration of stay required by state and local laws that entitles a person to the legal protection and benefits provided by applicable statutes.
States have required state residency for a variety of rights, including the right to vote, the right to run for public office, the program in which a teacher completes a full-year apprenticeship with a mentor teacher at a Chicago school Chicago School
Group of architects and engineers who in the 1890s exploited the twin developments of structural steel framing and the electrified elevator, paving the way for the ubiquitous modern-day skyscraper. .
Michael Whitmore, director of AUSEs Urban Teacher Residency Program, recalls his own experience in a traditional program in the early 1990s--"teacher preparation by hazing Hazing is an often ritualistic test and a task, which may constitute harassment, abuse or humiliation with requirements to perform random, often meaningless tasks, sometimes as a way of initiation into a social group. " where his mentor handed him the keys to the classroom and said, "See you in 16 weeks!" "It was a 'because I've suffered so you're going to suffer too' approach," he says. In many ways the opposite of this early approach, the new model created by AUSL is a disciplined transformation process closely connecting theory with practice with strong teacher support. Graduates are certified See certification. and earn a master's degree master's degree
An academic degree conferred by a college or university upon those who complete at least one year of prescribed study beyond the bachelor's degree.
Noun 1. through partnerships with various local universities. By tightly controlling professional development and its implementation, AUSL is better able to ensure results.
"You need a career professional development process based on continuous growth so teachers improve and become more effective," says Feinstein. Bringing "talent" to schools that need them most will close the achievement gap, he says.
Now an AUSL teacher training site, Dodge emphasizes teacher quality. And the result? Dodge posted the largest one-year test score gains in math and reading in the state in 2006 and continued strong in 2008, making double-digit gains in both reading and math with an average annual gain of 20 points over four years.
In his charter schools speech, Duncan noted other accomplishments of Chicago schools that had undergone turnarounds: Dodge and Williams Elementary Schools elementary school: see school. have more than tripled the percentage of students meeting state standards in science, reading and math in the past five years. Sherman Elementary saw a five-point jump in the percentage of students meeting state standards in reading and math in just the first year, and Harvard Elementary reduced absences by five days pet student.
School districts in Miami-Dade County (Fla.), Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.), New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded , New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of , Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta and the state of Massachusetts have taken similar measures in forcing dramatic change. "There's not a lot of difference, as far as I'm concerned, between turnaround schools, high-poverty schools with low achievement, or Title I schools with poor performance," says Peter Gorman Peter Gorman is an investigative journalist and former editor-in-chief of High Times magazine. He lives in New York and spends at least 3 months of every year living in Peru, where he works with Ayahuasca and other plant based medicines, as well as doing political work. , superintendent of the 137,000-student Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (abbreviated CMS) is a local education agency headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. With 132,000 students enrolled, it is the second-largest school district in North Carolina and the twentieth-largest in the nation. . "These are all adult distinctions that we make in how we approach the same problem: kids not learning, or learning enough."
Nonetheless, at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Gorman rejects fixing problems in some of his most struggling schools in a piecemeal piecemeal
patchy, e.g. necrosis of the liver in which groups of hepatocytes are separated by small groups of inflammatory cells and fine, fibrous septa following extension of the inflammatory process beyond the limiting plate. way. He calls his approach a "strategic staffing initiative" and emphasizes (1) leadership, (2) sending in a team of strong educators, (3) removing anyone who does not fully support the changes being made to increase achievement, (4) ensuring and nurturing community support, and (5) maintaining support from the district office. "When these five things are in place, schools improve," says Gorman. In each of the seven schools implementing Gorman's method in 2007-2008, test scores rose for 2008-2009. The number of students who were proficient pro·fi·cient
Having or marked by an advanced degree of competence, as in an art, vocation, profession, or branch of learning.
An expert; an adept. increased by as much as 23 percent. "Strategic staffing is the best approach to turn a struggling school around," Gorman says.
At the Los Angeles Unified School District The Los Angeles Unified School District (the "LAUSD") is the largest (in terms of number of students) public school system in California and the second-largest in the United States. Only the New York City Department of Education has a larger student population. , Superintendent Ramon Cortines has a similar mindset mind·set or mind-set
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.
2. An inclination or a habit. . "I've been a teacher and administrator probably longer than anybody in America," he says, "and I'm still struck by the challenge. But don't tell me it can't be done. Of course it can be done. It's not about the kids. They will learn what they are taught and respond to how they are treated."
Since January 2009 when he took on the job, Cortines has already removed the administration of one of his lowest-performing schools and made nearly half a dozen follow-up visits to the new staff. "I have a responsibility to help them build capacity--to ask, 'What if ...?' 'Why not ...?' 'How come ...?'--but then also, when they do identify issues, to bring the right people to them."
Inside a growing handful of Los Angeles schools The Los Angeles School of Urbanism is an academic movement emerged during the mid-1980s, loosely based at the University of Southern California and UCLA, that poses a challenge to the dominant Chicago School of Urbanism. , the kind of support Cortines refers to comes from people like Marco Petruzzi, president and CEO of Green Dot Public Schools. "We should have the courage to close down and turn around all the chronically underperforming schools. Period. There is no excuse for waiting," says Petruzzi, who comes from the charter school management and international business worlds. With Green Dot founder and chairman Steve Barr Steven Charles (Steve) Barr (born September 8, 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri) is a former starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Boston Red Sox (1974-1975) and Texas Rangers (1976). Barr batted and threw left handed. He is the uncle of pitcher Ryan Madson. , Petruzzi was instrumental in improving attendance and student retention rates at Locke High School Alain Leroy Locke High School is a Title 1 co-educational public high school located in Los Angeles, California, United States, and is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is named after Alain LeRoy Locke.
Locke is located in South Los Angeles near Watts. in Watts--one of the city's most troubled--dividing the 1,800-student district into eight smaller academies, each with its own staff and principal. In Petruzzi's turnaround work, everyone had to reapply for a job. "So we have no problem with Arne's approach," says Petruzzi.
The New Orleans Factor
If turnaround schools are all about confronting the lowest-performing schools in a school system, then what can be said for confronting a whole school system facing utter devastation? For the last two years, Paul Vallas has been charged with turning around a growing district of 112 low-performing schools across Louisiana, all part of a special legislature-created Recovery School District that was put in place pre-Katrina but made all the more relevant after the storm.
"You need to have a model for what constitutes a high-quality school district," says Vallas. "Turnaround is not just taking over a failing school and then not having a clue of how to fix it. A lot of turnaround schools, they'll just take a successful principal and stick him in a school thinking by osmosis osmosis (ŏzmō`sĭs), transfer of a liquid solvent through a semipermeable membrane that does not allow dissolved solids (solutes) to pass. Osmosis refers only to transfer of solvent; transfer of solute is called dialysis. that school is going to get better. You've got to have a turnaround plan."
Vallas acknowledges that the basic model may vary from district to district. "But it doesn't deviate that much," he says. "It's a two-year process: first year, stabilize; second year, take your reforms to scale."
By stabilizing, Vallas means inspecting schools for curriculum and instruction usage that aligns to state standards, for strong professional development programs, and for benchmarking to learn from student progress for intervention and monitoring teacher performance for purposes of support. Then each school must be adequately staffed with a strong leadership team. "Spend a week [observing] and come up with a school improvement plan you can start implementing," he says.
According to Chicago's turnaround school funding model, estimated costs for up to three turnaround planning positions (new, salaried administrative staff members that lend authentic capacity to address turnaround efforts) at a typical elementary school might be $300,000, while the same positions for a high school would run $520,000. Add in another $120,000 for a new assistant principal position, and factor in an annual turnaround stipend sti·pend
A fixed and regular payment, such as a salary for services rendered or an allowance.
[Middle English stipendie, from Old French, from Latin st of $420 per pupil ($500 for high school students) during years one through five of the school turnaround, renovations not included.
Petruzzi says costs depend on many factors, the main ones being school size, real estate in the area and available state funds. "In our case, it was fairly expensive: we had over 3,000 students. We had to build two satellite facilities to be able to serve them all, and being in California, we are pretty low in terms of funding," he says. Philanthropy philanthropy, the spirit of active goodwill toward others as demonstrated in efforts to promote their welfare. The term is often used interchangeably with charity. picked up the extra costs, says Petruzzi, but the intention is to break even on government dollars by year four.
And what about the federal funds Federal Funds
Funds deposited to regional Federal Reserve Banks by commercial banks, including funds in excess of reserve requirements.
These non-interest bearing deposits are lent out at the Fed funds rate to other banks unable to meet overnight reserve ? In his charter schools speech, Duncan said something that most education leaders aren't used to hearing: "We have a lot of money to support this work."
Combine Race to the Top funds, What Works and Innovation funds, and $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement grants with another $1.5 billion Duncan will seek in 2010, and there is over $5 billion in federal funds specifically targeting turnaround schools. Breaking it down, this amount represents hundreds of thousands of dollars above normal funding levels for every turnaround school, according to Duncan.
With congressional support, says Duncan, turnaround efforts are "likely to receive more money in subsequent years." This is money needed for school and district commitment of staff (Atlanta, for example, allocated $1.2 million for each large school) and to enhance turnaround efforts through capital improvements such as paint, carpeting, furniture and landscaping, which could cost around $900,000, as well as technology updates, which could cost $300,000.
"To fix these schools will cost a lot, but we can also look at how to reallocate Verb 1. reallocate - allocate, distribute, or apportion anew; "Congressional seats are reapportioned on the basis of census data"
allocate, apportion - distribute according to a plan or set apart for a special purpose; "I am allocating a loaf of existing dollars," Corbett says. "In the long run, not fixing them will cost even more." To receive not just some but all of the money in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Reinvestment
Using dividends, interest and capital gains earned in an investment or mutual fund to purchase additional shares or units, rather than receiving the distributions in cash.
1. In terms of stocks, it is the reinvestment of dividends to purchase additional shares. Act, turnaround plans for the poorest-performing schools are a must. "Show the plans and you'll see the money," says Corbett.
Future of Turnarounds
Currently, 1,100 schools nationwide have fallen into "restructuring"--the most extreme federal designation for failure-and face the threat of closure for underperformance under the No Child Left Behind law. That number is on track to rise to 5,000 schools by 2010--representing more than 2.5 million students, Duncan claims. "We need more of you to get into the turnaround game," he said in his charter schools speech.
Feinstein points to districts in Washington, D.C., Hartford, Conn., and New York to watch regarding turnaround efforts. "Next year we'll have eight turnarounds; seven will be elementary schools and one a high school," he says. "You'll see a lot more of this transformational work catch on across the country. Turnaround schools are probably the hardest work in education, but it's rewarding work."
Meanwhile, Mass Insight will produce manuals for states, large urban districts and outside funding partners on how to start turnaround schools. Additionally, according to Mass Insight, a new system of "turnaround zones"---designated clusters of turnaround schools with set conditions for smoother, successful turnaround efforts--will serve as entry points for reinventing the way districts, states and external partners organize their work. In 2009-2013, Mass Insight "partnership zones" in three states will serve as proof points for turnaround school and district redesign strategies.
"The education reform movement is not a table where we all sit around and talk," Duncan has stated, "It's a train that is leaving the station, gaining speed, momentum and direction. It is time for everyone--everywhere--to get on board."
Six Essential Characteristics of Successful Turnarounds
1. Clearly defined authority to act based on what's best for children and learning: flexibility and control over staffing, scheduling, budget and curriculum.
2 A relentless focus on hiring and staff development as part of an overall "people strategy" to ensure the best possible teaching force.
3. Highly capable, distributed school leadership--not simply the principal, but an effective leadership team.
4. Additional time in the school day and across the school year.
5. Performance-based behavioral expectations for all stakeholders Stakeholders
All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government. , including teachers, students and (often) parents.
6. Integrated, research-based programs and related social services social services
welfare services provided by local authorities or a state agency for people with particular social needs
social services npl → servicios mpl sociales that are specifically designed, personalized and adjusted to address students' academic and related psychosocial psychosocial /psy·cho·so·cial/ (si?ko-so´shul) pertaining to or involving both psychic and social aspects.
Involving aspects of both social and psychological behavior. needs.
Source: "What Success Requires: A 'Zone' for Effective Turnaround," The Turnaround Challenge, Mass Insight
RELATED ARTICLE: Training turnaround leaders.
DISTRICTS WANTING TO TURN AROUND SCHOOLS WITHOUT HIRING AN OUTSIDE organization are being drawn to the University of Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program, which equips principals and other administrators with the skills needed to bring about deep change in low-performing schools and provides them with ongoing support.
The program was started in 2004 by the university's Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education (PLE PLE
protein losing enteropathy. ), a joint venture of the Darden School of Business and the Curry School of Education The Curry School of Education is a public school of education in the U.S. Located on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Curry School offers professional programs designed to prepare individuals for a variety of careers related to the practice of , as part of e series of targeted education reforms promoted by then-Gov. Mark Warner Mark Robert Warner (born December 15, 1954) is an American businessman and politician from the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia and a member of the Democratic Party. Warner is the immediate former governor of Virginia and the honorary chairman of the Forward Together PAC. . In 2006 the program opened its doors to participants from other states.
The program has become a success because of two unique qualities. First, it offers participants resources from both the education and the business fields. "At UVA we have one of the top education schools and one of the top business schools in the country," says LeAnn Buntrock, executive director of the PLE. "Our program is on par with the best executive education programs."
Second, principals do not participate alone. When they arrive on campus in July for their weeklong week·long
Continuing through the week: a weeklong conference.
Adj. 1. weeklong - lasting through a week; "her weeklong vacation"
seven-day introduction to the program, each is accompanied by a district team. After one to two days the team members return home, except for one who is designated the "shepherd." "We have always required the district to participate," says Buntrock. Indeed, districts, rather than individual principals, apply for the program and then choose the principals who will participate.
This week initiates an intensive turnaround process. Each principal leaves the university with a 90-day plan for making specific, big-impact reforms that can be implemented right away. These reforms can be as simple as adding landscaping, painting walls or fixing bathrooms. Buntrock observes, "One of the things we know about successful turnarounds is that it's important to get some quick, visible and dramatic wins right away. It starts to show people that you're serious about change, it helps get buy-in, and it helps silence critics."
In the fall, faculty and staff from the program provide ongoing support to principals and conduct site visits to individual schools. In January, the principals return to the university for two and a half days, along with school leadership teams they have chosen. Principals and teams focus on long-term strategic plans for their schools. Shortly after they return home, program faculty and/or staff make additional site visits. Each visit is tailored to the specific needs of the school or district "We use it to address whatever issues they might be grappling with," Buntrock says.
The second year of the program is structured similarly, with on-campus sessions, site visits and ongoing support, but is focused on sustainability. The key, says Buntrock, is making sure that principals engaged in a turnaround are allowed to remain at that school. "We want to see quick success, but we're also about sustainability. Once you start to see success, you need to leave those principals in place. They're making strides, but in order to change the culture and put the systems and processes in place, they need to be in there for a longer period of time." But does UVA's School Turnaround Specialist Program actually lead to successful turnarounds?
The program is young and still evolving, but the initial evidence is positive. For example, after two years of intervention, schools in the third cohort, which started the program in 2006, saw reading proficiency pro·fi·cien·cy
n. pl. pro·fi·cien·cies
The state or quality of being proficient; competence.
Noun 1. proficiency - the quality of having great facility and competence rise from 38.6 percent to 52.9 percent, and math proficiency rise from 37.6 percent to 51.9 percent.
Buntrock knows the stakes are high, and she is not content with achieving only a certain level of success. "We're always trying to sit down and figure out, based on the most recent research here and elsewhere, how we can make the program better," she explains. In the end, however, she admits that "pulling off a successful turnaround is difficult." Principals and district leaders may nevertheless find in UVA's program the resources and support they need to do this difficult work.
The PLE offers a credential for principals who complete the entire program and whose schools make Adequate Yearly Progress Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is a measurement defined by the United States federal No Child Left Behind Act that allows the U.S. Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing academically. .--Don Parker-Burgard
Read about the turnaround timeline.
Victor Rivero is a freelance writer based in Malden, Mass.