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ERIC Number: ED540347
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Sep
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Making Sense of School Turnarounds
Hess, Frederick M.
Policy Innovators in Education Network
Today, in a sector flooded with $3.5 billion in School Improvement Grant funds and the resulting improvement plans, there's great faith that "turnaround" strategies are a promising way to tackle stubborn problems with persistently low-performing schools. Unlike traditional reform efforts, with their emphasis on incremental improvement, turnarounds seek to take schools from bad to great within a short period. It's hard not to root for these efforts. Yet while turnarounds are an appealing idea, making them work is far more complicated. That's why it makes sense to look outside education to learn how to improve the odds of staging a successful turnaround. In a comprehensive search of business and management literature from 2000 to the present, the author and his colleagues identified roughly a dozen articles that provided empirical analysis of major turnaround initiatives--namely, Total Quality Management and Business Process Reengineering. Their research suggests that experiences in the private sector offer four key lessons for making turnarounds work: (1) Staging a successful turnaround entails setting high expectations; (2) Reformers should not hesitate to change principals and school leaders to jump-start the turnaround process; (3) Reformers need to view school turnarounds as an all-or-nothing proposition to avoid the pitfalls caused by unclear or conflicting objectives; and (4) 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.
Policy Innovators in Education Network. 401 Second Avenue North Suite 405, Minneapolis, MN 55415. Tel: 612-354-3253; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Policy Innovators in Education Network