Despite decades of reform, states continue to struggle with how best to help failing schools and districts. This policy update from a National Association of State Boards of Education symposium asserts that states must adopt a more active strategic role and address the underlying causes of schools’ inability to meet performance requirements. It also looks at high-performing, high-poverty (HPHP) schools, finding such institutions are characterized by an overriding mission to serve students and make decisions in their best interest, as opposed to responding to structures, contracts and schedules that pose barriers to serving individual learners. To foster this kind of behavior in more low-performing schools, speakers proposed creating what they called Turnaround Zones, or clusters of schools that have a common attribute, such as their approach to reform, and whose leaders would have more authority over staffing, scheduling, funding and other areas.
The update also includes a summary of turnaround efforts in Massachusetts and Maryland.