Nationwide, schools have embarked on an ambitious effort to turn around their 5,000 lowest-performing schools. "Turnaround" refers to intensive short-term interventions undertaken by a state or district with the goal of dramatically improving the way a school operates. This report compares major approaches to school turnaround, explains how school progress should be measured and identifies gaps in resources needed to ensure large-scale school turnaround success. It describes the various contributors to school turnaround—public and private, local and national—and how they might work more effectively, both individually and collaboratively. It also outlines the political debate over school turnaround, areas of agreement, unanswered questions and lessons gleaned from turnaround efforts to date.
Researchers found that those who intervened in struggling schools were often surprised by the severity of student needs and the school’s problems. As a result, they revised their initial plans to provide more supports for students and staff. Many experts interviewed also reported that when turnaround is not accompanied by improvements in state and district supports for struggling schools, any progress is likely to be short-lived.