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ERIC Number: ED536004
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Oct
Pages: 34
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Democratic School Turnarounds: Pursuing Equity and Learning from Evidence
Trujillo, Tina; Renee, Michelle
National Education Policy Center
In 2009, the Obama Administration announced its intention to rapidly "turn around" 5,000 of the nation's lowest-performing schools. To do so, it relied on the School Improvement Grant program (SIG) to provide targeted funding for states and schools, and to mandate drastic, school-level reforms. While the program channels grants to participating schools (up to $2 million a year per school), it does not maintain funding beyond three years, nor does it alter the basic, inadequate funding structures for public education. The SIG program's reforms require massive administrative and teacher replacement, particularly under the "turnaround option." In the public debate about the SIG program, reforms such as this have been described as new and innovative. In reality, the nation has significant experience with these models, particularly over the past 40 years. Generations of research show that the SIG reforms are based on faulty evidence, unwarranted claims and they ignore contradictory evidence. The most prominent error is the claim that these corporate-based models can yield transformative results. The second most prominent error is the assumption that the drastic reconstitution of school staff will prove beneficial. Neither claim is supported by research. This report considers the democratic tensions inherent in the federal SIG policy's market-based school reforms. It concludes with a set of recommendations that re-center the purposes of public education for low-income students, students of color, and local communities in developing more equitable, democratic school turnarounds. These recommendations are: (1) Increase current federal and state spending for public education, particularly as it is allocated for turnaround-style reforms; (2) Focus school turnaround policies on improving the quality of teaching and learning rather than on technical-structural changes; (3) Engage a broad cross-section of schools' communities--teachers, students, parents, and community organizations--in planning and implementing turnaround strategies that are tailored to each school and district context; (4) Surround struggling schools with comprehensive, wrap-around supports that stabilize schools and communities; (5) Incorporate multiple indicators of effectiveness--apart from test scores--that reflect the multiple purposes of schools; and (6) Support ongoing, systematic research, evaluation, and dissemination examining all aspects of turnaround processes in schools and districts. (Contains 90 notes and references.)
National Education Policy Center. School of Education 249 UCB University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309. Tel: 303-735-5290; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice; Ford Foundation
Authoring Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder, National Education Policy Center