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ERIC Number: ED505162
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Feb
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
School Turnarounds: Resisting the Hype, Giving Them Hope. Education Outlook No. 2
Hess, Frederick M.; Gift, Thomas
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Education reformers are abuzz over school "turnarounds," a simple idea that has undeniable appeal. School turnarounds offer the opportunity to take familiar educational institutions and improve them through coaching, mentoring, capacity building, best practices, and other existing tools. Unlike most reform efforts, which focus on incremental improvement, this approach seeks to take schools from bad to great within a short period of time. The process sounds clean and relatively orderly and--ideally--is a ready answer to the school improvement challenge posed by No Child Left Behind. But evidence from similar efforts outside education suggests the need to proceed deliberately and with realistic expectations. AEI research suggests that experiences in the private sector offer four key lessons for making turnarounds work. First, school leaders must have autonomy, flexibility, and urgency if they are to have a fighting chance at staging a turnaround. Second, reformers should not hesitate to change principals and school leaders to jump-start the turnaround process. Third, reformers need to view school turnarounds as an all-or-nothing proposition to avoid the pitfalls caused by unclear or conflicting objectives. Finally, once the decision is made to go forward with a turnaround, reformers should avoid forcing change on the school through organization-wide, top-down mandates. Instead, they should pursue continuous improvement by establishing high goals for individual teachers and staff, while giving them the tools and flexibility they need to be successful. Whether it is in schools or private firms, a successful turnaround requires transforming culture, expectations, and routines. That may not always be possible in organizations burdened by anachronistic contract provisions, rickety external support, and years of accrued administrative incompetence. (Contains 21 notes.)
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1150 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-862-5800; Fax: 202-862-7177; Web site:
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research