The Turnaround Challenge Mass Insight Education & Research Institute
Reactions to The Turnaround Challenge from Education and Policy Leaders
“This report is a wake-up call for the reforms and resources so obviously needed to support the nation’s schools that are farthest behind. Obtaining the funds to implement needed reforms in these schools is their biggest challenge, and must be a top priority in the No Child Left Behind Act.”
The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy United States Senator for Massachusetts
“This is a blockbuster report. It provides the insight we need to bring the turnaround of low performing schools to scale. It is also dead-on in its appraisal of the challenges that must be overcome and the types of resources, organizations, partnerships, turnaround specialists that will be needed to get the job done.”
Robert Balfanz, Associate Research Scientist Center for Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University
“This report is an important contribution to understanding how under-performing schools can be helped to improve.”
Jack Jennings, President and CEO Center on Education Policy
“As the number of failing schools, largely serving low-income students, continues to grow, so too does the urgency for a turnaround plan. By examining high performance, high poverty schools and distilling out best practices, this report will help provide a framework states and districts can use to prepare all their students for college, career, and life.”
Vicki Phillips, Director of Education Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“This is the best report I have seen in ages. It is truly a ‘how-to’ for organizations that want to address low-performing schools.”
Susan Sclafani, Managing Director Chartwell Education Group
“While we’ve got proof points to establish that persistently low-performing schools can become high achieving schools, we don’t yet have systems that make this transformation very likely. Getting to scale on school improvement efforts will take a new approach that includes higher levels of support in policy and resources. This report articulates both the challenges and opportunities, and lays out a game plan for getting to scale on educational improvement in our lowest-performing schools.”
Kati Haycock, President The Education Trust
“One of the most pressing issues facing chief state school officers and their agencies is the need to build the capacity to transform low achieving schools. The Turnaround Challenge provides us with a welcome framework to help states transform what is now a major dilemma into a lever to bring about genuine reform.”
Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director Council of Chief State School Officers
“The Turnaround Challenge has sparked much richer discussion about the need for school turnaround in our state. The ideas in the report's proposed framework are exciting, far-reaching and practical. We will use them to help craft our approaches to our state's underperforming schools.”
MaryJean Ryan, Chair Washington State Board of Education
“Had von Clausewitz turned his attention to education instead of war, he might have spoken of the fog of reform. Mass Insight’s The Turnaround Challenge helps pierce the fog of our earnest efforts to fix underperforming schools. By defining strategies and benchmarks for turnaround initiatives, this report will help us achieve the end of offering genuine equality of opportunity in our society.”
Doug Sears, Former Dean of the School of Education, Boston University; Former Superintendent Chelsea High School
“For too long, efforts to tackle school improvement and restructuring have been hampered by the conviction that we can transform low-performing schools if we only care enough, try hard enough, and devise enough "best practices." With compelling logic, Mass Insight gives lie to those happy aspirations while illuminating a more promising course. The authors provide a no-nonsense guide to the tough political, organizational, and education work that reformers must tackle if they are to deliver on the promise of turning around troubled schools.”
Frederick M. Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies American Enterprise Institute
“The Turnaround Challenge may offer the only real opportunity for the fundamental change that is so sorely needed in our failing schools. This report outlines a very different formula for success than current policy efforts. The difference is that these steps, supported by research, result in sustained improvement over time. As educational professionals, we must use what we know and have learned to make certain that every student in our public schools receives a high-quality education that results in all students meeting a reasonable set of standards, instead of poorly thought out strategies that have us flying toward the sun with waxed wings.”
Anthony P. Cavanna, School Reform Scientist American Institutes of Research
Business Need Despite steadily increasing urgency about the nation's lowest-performing schools -- those in the bottom five percent -- efforts to turn these schools around have largely failed. Marginal change has led to marginal (or no) improvement. These schools, the systems supporting them, and our management of the change process require fundamental rethinking, not incremental change.
The Turnaround Challenge is part of a larger, multi-phase initiative of the Mass Insight Education & Research Institute, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The initiative is aimed at helping states, districts, schools, and partners to successfully address the issue of chronically under-performing schools -- and to use failing school turnaround as the entry point for fundamental change more broadly in public education.
The full report, supplemental report with profiles of intervention efforts in ten states and four districts, and related resources can be found at Mass Insight Education. The Turnaround Challenge reflects the ideas and contributions of well more than 50 organizations and individual experts, over its two-year development process.
Dave Lash served as strategy and innovation consultant on the study, helping develop the conceptual models and frameworks for action as well as the visual explanations contained in the report.
In particular, Dave played the lead role in reviewing available research on the linkages between poverty, human development, and student achievement. These linkages have received extensive research attention for over forty years, as have the small but growing number of high-performing, high-poverty (HPHP) schools who transcend them. Applying an innovation, rather than a pedagogical, perspective, Dave helped develop the High-Performing, High-Poverty Readiness Model that identifies nine strategies that address the daily turbulence and challenges of high-poverty settings, serving as design factors that increase the effectiveness with which these schools promote learning and achievement. These strategies enable the schools to acknowledge and foster students’ Readiness to Learn, enhance and focus staff’s Readiness to Teach, and expand teachers’ and administrators’ Readiness to Act in dramatically different ways than more traditional schools.
Over 200,000 copies of The Turnaround Challenge have been downloaded and the recommendations are widely studied and implemented throughout the country.