The School Turnaround Field Guide

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 The School Turnaround Field Guide

Suggested Resources

For more information about federal guidelines, definitions, and funding for turnaround efforts:

  • Alliance for Excellent Education, “Reinventing the Federal Role in Education: Supporting the Goal of College and Career Readiness for All Students,” July 2009.
  • Center on Education Policy, “A Brief History of the Federal Role in Education: Why It Began and Why It’s Still Needed,” 1999.
  • Coalition for Student Achievement, “Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success,” April 2009.
  • Government Accountability Office, “No Child Left Behind: Education Should Clarify Guidance and Address Potential Compliance Issues for Schools in Corrective Action and Restructuring Status,” 2007.
  • Maxwell, Leslie A., “Stimulus Rules on ‘Turnarounds’ Shift,” EdWeek, November 23, 2009.
  • McNeil, Michele, “Duncan Carves Deep Mark on Policy in First Year,” EdWeek, January 19, 2010.
  • McNeil, Michele, “Obama to Seek $1.35 Billion Race to Top Expansion,” EdWeek, January 12, 2010.
  • U.S. Department of Education, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Saving and Creating Jobs and Reforming Education.”
  • U.S. Department of Education, “ARRA Uses of Funds and Metrics,” April 24, 2009.
  • U.S. Department of Education, “Letter to Chief State School Officers from Thelma Melendez.”
  • U.S. Department of Education, “Race to the Top Application.”

To read Race to the Top applications that states submitted:​ications/index.html.

For more information about choosing among turnaround models:

  • Arkin, Matthew D., and Julie M. Kowal, “School Restructuring Options Under No Child Left Behind: What Works When? Contracting with External Education Management Providers,” Learning Point Associates, 2005.
  • Connell, James P., “What Makes for Sound Investments in Educational Innovation?” Institute for Research and Reform in Education, 2009.
  • Kahlenberg, Richard D., “Turnaround Schools That Work: Moving Beyond Separate but Equal,” The Century Foundation, 2009.
  • Viadero, Debra, “Research Doesn’t Offer Much Guidance on Turnarounds,” EdWeek, August 12, 2009.

For more information about states’ roles in turnaround:

  • Center on Education Policy, “Beyond the Mountains: An Early Look at Restructuring Results in California,” 2007.
  • Center on Education Policy, “Building on State Reform: Maryland School Restructuring,” 2006.
  • Center on Education Policy, “Educational Architects: Do State Education Agencies Have the Tools Necessary to Implement NCLB?” 2007.
  • Center on Education Policy, “Hope But No Miracle Cures: Michigan’s Early Restructuring Lessons,” 2005.
  • Center on Education Policy, “Makeovers, Facelifts, or Reconstructive Surgery: An Early Look at NCLB School Restructuring in Michigan,” 2004.
  • Center on Education Policy, “Making Midcourse Corrections: School Restructuring in Maryland,” 2007.
  • Center on Education Policy, “What Now? Lessons from Michigan about Restructuring Schools and Next Steps Under NCLB,” 2007.
  • Center on Education Policy, “Wrestling the Devil in the Details: An Early Look at Restructuring in California,” 2006.
  • DiBiase, Rebecca Wolf, “State Involvement in School Restructuring Under No Child Left Behind,” Education Commission of the States, 2005.
  • LeFloch, Kerstin Carlson, Andrea Boyle, and Susan Bowles Therriault, “Help Wanted: State Capacity for School Improvement,” American Institutes for Research, 2008.
  • Mazzeo, Christopher, and Ilene Berman, “Reaching New Heights: Turning Around Low Performing Schools,” National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices, 2003.
  • McRobbie, Joan, “Can State Intervention Spur Academic Turnaround?” WestEd Policy Center, 1998.

For more information about partners and school operators that support turnaround:

  • Arkin, Matthew D., and Julie M. Kowal, “School Restructuring Options Under No Child Left Behind: What Works When? Contracting with External Education Management Providers,” Learning Point Associates, 2005.
  • Blume, Howard, and Jason Song, “Vote Could Open 250 L.A. Schools to Outside Operators,” Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2009.
  • Mass Insight Education, “Creating Internal Lead Partners for Turnarounds,” 2009.
  • Mass Insight Education, “Partnership Zones: Selecting and Attracting Lead Partners to Support Turnaround Schools: A Mass Insight Report Produced with Apollo Philanthropy Partners,” October 2009.
  • Ziebarth, Todd, and Priscilla Wohlstetter, “Charters as a ‘School Turnaround’ Strategy,” in R. J. Lake & P.T. Hill (eds.), Hopes, Fears, and Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2005, National Charter School Research Project, Center for Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington, 2005.

For more information about community engagement in turnaround efforts:

  • Visit for examples of materials that three schools used in the process of converting from schools in Y4 program improvement to charter schools that increase student achievement, including parent petitions, a multimedia public-information campaign, timelines, parents’ frequently asked questions, and parent fliers.

For more information about human capital for school turnaround:

  • Augustine, Catherine H., Gabriella Gonzalez, Gina Schuyler Ikemoto, Jennifer Russell, Gail L. Zellman, Louay Constant, Jane Armstrong, and Jacob W. Dembosky, “Improving School Leadership: The Promise of Cohesive Leadership Systems,” RAND Education, Commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, 2009.
  • Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education, “Lift-Off: Launching the School Turnaround Process in 10 Virginia Schools,” September 2005.
  • Kowal, Julie M., and Emily A. Hassel, “Turnarounds with New Leaders and Staff,” The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, 2005.
  • Legters, Nettie E., Robert Balfanz, Will J. Jordan, and James M. McPartland, Comprehensive Reform for Urban High Schools: A Talent Development Approach (New York: Teachers College Press, 2002).
  • New Leaders for New Schools, “Principal Effectiveness: A New Principalship to Drive Student Achievement, Teacher Effectiveness, and School Turnarounds with Key Insights from the UEF,” 2009.
  • Public Impact, “School Turnaround Leaders: Competencies for Success,” June 2008.
  • The Washington Post Editorial Page, “Less Than ‘Courage’ in New Haven,” November 10, 2009.

For more information about school closure as a lever for turnaround:

  • De La Torre, Marisa, and Julia Gwynne, “When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools,” Consortium on Chicago School Research, October 2009.
  • Kowal, Julie M., and Bryan Hassel, “Working Papers: Closing Troubled Schools,” National Charter School Research Project, Center on Reinventing Public Education, 2008.
  • Public Impact, “Try, Try Again: How to Triple the Number of Fixed Failing Schools Without Getting Any Better at Fixing Schools,” August 2009.
  • Smarick, Andy, “The Turnaround Fallacy,” EdNext, Winter 2010, Vol. 10, No. 1.

For more information about system-level turnaround lessons learned:

  • Balfanz, Robert, Cheryl Almeida, Adria Steinberg, Janet Santos, and Joanna Hornig Fox, “Graduating America: Meeting the Challenge of Low Graduation Rate High Schools,” Jobs for the Future, July 2009.
  • Commission on No Child Left Behind, “Losing Patience with Chronically Low-Performing Schools: How to Improve School Improvement,” September 2, 2009.
  • Gambone, Michelle A., Adena M. Klem, William P. Moore, and Jean A. Summers, “First Things First: Creating the Conditions and Capacity for Community Wide Reform in an Urban School District,” Gambone & Associates, 2002.
  • Kowal, Julie M., Emily A. Hassel, and Bryan C. Hassel, “Issue Brief: Successful School Turnarounds: Seven Steps for District Leaders,” Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Innovation, September 15, 2009.
  • Learning Point Associates, “School Restructuring Under No Child Left Behind: What Works When?” 2006.
  • Mass Insight Education, “The Turnaround Challenge” and “The Turnaround Challenge: Supplement to the Main Report,” 2007.
  • Public Impact, “School Turnarounds: A Review of the Cross-Sector Evidence on Dramatic Organizational Improvement,” Center on Innovation and Improvement, 2006.
  • Scott, Caitlin, “Improving Low-Performing Schools: Lessons from Five Years of Studying School Restructuring Under No Child Left Behind,” Center on Education Policy, 2009.
  • Vallas, Paul G., and Leslie R. Jacobs, “Race to the Top Lessons from New Orleans,” EdWeek, September 2, 2009.

For more information about school-level turnaround lessons learned:

  • Duke, Daniel L., “Keys to Sustaining Successful School Turnaround,” Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education, Educational Research Service, 2006.
  • Herman, Rebecca, Priscilla Dawson, Thomas Dee, Jay Greene, Rebecca Maynard, Sam Redding, and Marlene Darwin, “Turning Around Chronically Low-Performing Schools: A Practice Guide,” National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2008.
  • Rivero, Victor, “Turning Around Schools in Need,” District Administration, September 2009.

For more information about the history of school reform:

  • Burton, Gary, “History of School Reform Movements Over the Years,” Wicked Local Wayland, July 16, 2009.
  • Matthews, Jay, “Small Schools Rising,” Newsweek, May 26, 2008.
  • National Commission on Excellence in Education, “A Nation at Risk,” April 1983.
  • U.S. Department of Education, “Helping Schools Adopt Comprehensive Improvements With a Track Record of Success,” January 2002.




Jay AltmanFirstLine Schools
Jacqueline AncessNational Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching, Teachers College
Alan AndersonOffice of Human Capital, Chicago Public Schools
Kathy AugustineAtlanta Public Schools
Ben AustinParent Revolution
Karla Brooks BaehrMassachusetts Department of Education
Robert BalfanzEveryone Graduates Center, The Johns Hopkins University
Elisa BeardTeach for America
Larry BergerWireless Generation
Sue BodillyRAND
Harold BrownEdWorks
LeAnn BuntrockUniversity of Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program
Amanda BurnetteTurnaround Schools Initiative at South Carolina Department of Education
Andy CalkinsThe Stupski Foundation
Matt CandlerIndependent Consultant
Karl ChengParthenon Group
Dale ChuIndiana Department of Education
Justin CohenMass Insight Education
James ConnellFirst Things First/IRRE
Michael CordellFriendship Public Charter Schools
Chris CoxonTexas High School Project
Jennifer DavisNational Center on Time and Learning
Nina de las AlasCouncil of Chief State School Officers
Joan DevlinAmerican Federation of Teachers
Christine DominguezLong Beach Unified School District
Ann DuffyGeorgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement
Josh EdelmanDistrict of Columbia Public Schools
Kristin Engel WatersDenver Public Schools
Mary-Beth FafardThe Education Alliance, Brown University
Don FeinsteinAcademy for Urban School Leadership
Ben FentonNew Leaders for New Schools
Larry FlakneMissouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Don FrayndOffice of School Turnaround, Chicago Public Schools
Sajan GeorgeAlvarez and Marsal
Robert GlascockBreakthrough Center, Maryland State Department of Education
Scott GordonMastery Charter School
Peter GormanCharlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Greg GreiciusTurnaround
Leah HamiltonCarnegie Corporation of New York
Bryan C. HasselPublic Impact
Kati HaycockEducation Trust
Frederick M. HessAmerican Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Gerry HouseInstitute for Student Achievement
Kevin HuffmanTeach for America
Gary HugginsCommission on NCLB, Aspen Institute
Bob HughesNew Visions for Public Schools
Rene IslasB&D Consulting
Joanna JacobsonStrategic Grant Partners
Jack JenningsCenter on Education Policy
Mike JohnstonNew Leaders for New Schools
John JordanMississippi Department of Education
John KingNew York State Education Department
Barbara KnaggsTexas Education Agency
Richard LaineThe Wallace Foundation
Lillian LoweryDelaware Department of Education
Lisa MargosianKIPP Foundation
Frances McLaughlinEducation Pioneers
Jordan MeranusNew Schools Venture Fund
Darlene MerryNew Leaders for New Schools
Laura MitchellCincinnati Public Schools
Nora Moreno CargieThe Boeing Company
Paul PastorekLouisiana State Department of Education
Marco PetruzziGreen Dot Public Schools
Courtney PhilipsThe Broad Foundation
Eileen ReedTexas Initiatives
Doug ReevesThe Leadership and Learning Center
Paul RevilleMassachusetts Department of Education
Jim RexSouth Carolina Department of Education
Bill RobertiAlvarez and Marsal
Vincent SchoemehlSt. Louis Public Schools
Caitlin ScottCenter on Education Policy
Kelly ScottThe Aspen Institute
Joe SiedleckiMichael and Susan Dell Foundation
Andy SmarickThomas B. Fordham Institute
Connie SmithTennessee Department of Education
Kathleen SmithVirginia Department of Education
Nelson SmithNational Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Melissa SolomonAtlanta Education Fund
Kenyatta Stansberry-ButlerHarper High School, Chicago
Tamar TamlerResources for Indispensable Schools and Educators (RISE)
Philip Uri TreismanUniversity of Texas at Austin
Victoria Van CleefThe New Teacher Project
Carmita VaughanAmerica’s Promise Alliance
Joseph VillaniNational School Boards Association
David WakelynNational Governors Association
Laura WeeldreyerBaltimore City Public Schools
Courtney WelshNew York City Leadership Academy
Ann WhalenU.S. Department of Education
Bob WiseAlliance for Excellent Education
Kevin WooldridgeEducation for Change
Trevor YatesCambridge Education

Organizations That Serve the Turnaround Sector

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list

School Operators

  • Academy for Urban School Leadership
  • Education for Change
  • Friendship Public Charter Schools
  • Green Dot Public Schools
  • Mastery Charter Schools

Supporting Partners

  • Comprehensive School Redesign
    • Cambridge Education
    • Edison Learning
    • Institute for Student Achievement
    • Partners in School Innovation
    • Strategic Learning Initiatives
  • Human Capital and Professional Development
    • New Leaders for New Schools
    • The New Teacher Project
    • New York City Leadership Academy
    • Teach for America
    • University of Virginia School Turnaround Specialists Program
  • District and School Resource Management
    • Alvarez and Marsal
    • Education Resource Strategies
  • Integrated Services
    • Turnaround
    • Turnaround for Children
  • Parent and Community Organizing and Engagement
    • America’s Promise
    • Parent Revolution

Research and Field-Building Organizations

  • The Aspen Institute
  • The Center on Education Policy
  • Mass Insight Education
  • NewSchools Venture Fund
  • Public Impact

Philanthropic Funders

  • The Broad Foundation
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • The Ford Foundation
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Hewlett Foundation
  • The Rainwater Charitable Trust
  • The Wallace Foundation
  • The Walton Family Foundation
  • The Wasserman Foundation

Detailed Critical Actions Aligned to Turnaround Gaps




Advisory Group

An advisory group made up of key practitioners and experts in the education field provided vital counsel for this project. FSG sincerely thanks them for their guidance and insight.

  • Alan Anderson, Chicago Public Schools
  • Karla Brooks Baehr, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Andy Calkins, The Stupski Foundation
  • Matt Candler, Candler Consulting
  • Justin Cohen, Mass Insight Education
  • Josh Edelman, District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Donald Feinstein, Academy for Urban School Leadership
  • Donald Fraynd, Chicago Public Schools
  • Kelly Garrett, Rainwater Charitable Foundation
  • Robert Glascock, The Breakthrough Center, Maryland State Department of Education
  • Leah Hamilton, Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • Jennifer Henry, New Leaders for New Schools
  • Jennifer Holleran, Independent Consultant
  • Joanna Jacobson, Strategic Grant Partners
  • Greg John, The Stuart Foundation
  • Richard Laine, The Wallace Foundation
  • Frances McLaughlin, Education Pioneers
  • Jordan Meranus, NewSchools Venture Fund
  • Courtney Philips, KIPP Foundation
  • Deborah Stipek, Stanford University School of Education
  • Courtney Welsh, New York City Leadership Academy


FSG Social Impact Advisors gratefully acknowledges the support of our report and conference sponsors: Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rainwater Charitable Foundation, The Stuart Foundation, and The Wallace Foundation.

This study would not have been possible without the much appreciated assistance of the education practitioners that participated in interviews and shared their experience in school turnaround. We thank each of them for their generous contributions of time and information.


Jeff Kutash ( is a managing director in FSG’s San Francisco office and leads FSG’s Education and Youth Practice. Eva Nico ( is a director in FSG’s San Francisco office. Emily Gorin, Samira Rahmatullah, and Kate Tallant are consultants at FSG.


All statements and conclusions, unless specifically attributed to another source, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of any individual interviewee, the funders, or members of the advisory group.

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