Information & Dissemination

The creation, collection, and dissemination of information on research-based and emerging promising practices about school turnaround will serve two purposes: (1) to provide educators with current, research-based, and actionable information on school turnaround; and (2) to provide the Center with research and emerging promising practices on which to develop its technical assistance tools, collaborations, trainings, and implementation supports.


Using Federal Education Formula Funds for School Turnaround Initiatives: Opportunities for State Education Agencies

SEAs play a critical role in helping districts and schools navigate federal grant rules and spend funds effectively. To support SEAs in fulfilling this role, this handbook presents the following information: Four strategies SEAs can use to create the conditions for maximizing ED formula grants for turnaround activities and an overview of how districts and schools can use Title I, Part A;3 Title II, Part A;4 and IDEA, Part B5 funds to support turnaround efforts.

Identifying, Selecting, and Retaining School Turnaround Leaders: How-To Modules

Readiness_ScreenshotA partnership of four education organizations studying issues surrounding school turnaround—The Center on School Turnaround at WestEd, the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, Public Impact, and the University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership—have made available materials that can assist state and local education agencies in recruiting, selecting, developing, and retaining school turnaround leaders.


“What it Takes” for a Turnaround: Principal Competencies that Matter for Student Achievement

Readiness_ScreenshotIn this guide, the University of Virginia Partnership for Leaders in Education, a CST partner, calls upon their practice-based experience, expertise, and insight to pro­vide both technical assistance and thought leadership to districts and systems involved in “school turnaround.” Specifically, the authors discuss the behavioral event interview (BEI) and turnaround leader competencies, and we explain how each of these can support the turnaround endeavor.

Snapshots of School Turnaround: How Three Schools Used School Improvement Grants to Improve Student Learning Outcomes

Readiness_ScreenshotThe CST developed profiles of three schools that received Cohort 1 SIG funding in the 2009–10 school year. Each of these schools increased student outcomes by the end of the third year of its SIG funding. This document highlights findings from these successful turnaround cases to provide examples to state, district, and school-level educators working to strengthen struggling schools.


Arts Integration as a Strategy to Improve Teaching and Learning, Promote Personal Competencies, and Turn Around Low-Performing Schools

Readiness_ScreenshotThe CST’s new publication by Belinda Biscoe, Ph.D. and Kirk Wilson, M.A. connects the dots between art integration, students’ personal competencies, and school turnaround. Is arts integration a promising strategy to employ in a turnaround effort? The authors think so, and one reason arts integration is so powerful in affecting student achievement is that it enhances students’ personal competencies that propel learning. This paper explains arts integration and includes a study of an Oklahoma school that achieved results in students’ learning by integrating the arts into the curriculum.

School Improvement Grants: Guidance and Tools for the 2015 Amended Regulations: Maximizing the Optional Planning/Pre-Implementation Year

Readiness_ScreenshotThe purpose of this guide is to provide states, districts, and schools with information and support to prepare applications for 2015–2016 School Improvement Grants (SIGs). The guide includes tools, checklists, and templates aligned with the revised SIG requirements, primarily focused on how LEAs could use the new “planning year” to build a foundation of success for SIG schools.

State Policy Brief Series

This series of briefs will highlight state policies, regulations, practices, laws, or other tools intended to create the necessary conditions for school and/or district turnaround. Each brief will include a tool overview, its development process, its impact, and lessons learned that could assist other education agencies interested in enacting something similar. Policies will be clearly turnaround-related (i.e. Mississippi’s takeover authority and the amendment that includes removal of board members), or a supporting policy (i.e., Illinois’ new regulations for principal certification).

Incorporating Early Learning Strategies in the School Improvement Grants (SIG) Program: How Three Schools Integrated Early Childhood Strategies Into School Turnaround Efforts to Improve Instruction for All Students

Readiness_ScreenshotThis CST and the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) publication focuses on case studies of three schools that have used School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds, with the support of their districts, to implement early learning strategies as part of their turnaround models. A significant body of research shows that achievement gaps in persistently low-performing schools manifest, in many instances, prior to children entering kindergarten. High-quality preschool programs have proven to help close these gaps.

Policy Perspective: School Turnaround in England – Utilizing the Private Sector

CenteronSchoolTurnaround_EnglandTurnaround_PolicyPerspectiveThis paper, written by strategic partner of the CST, Julie Corbett, provides research and examples on England’s approach to turning around its lowest performing schools. The English education system utilizes private vendors to support chronically low-performing schools and districts. The introduction is followed by discussions of each of the three main strategies for private sector involvement, including: school-based management, turning around individual schools and outsourcing the management of districts to private vendors. The paper concludes with lessons learned that could inform the implementation of similar efforts in the U.S.

District Readiness to Support School Turnaround

This guide, written by Daniel Player, Dallas Hambrick Hitt, and William Robinson from Center on School Turnaround partner, the University of Virginia’s Partnership for Leaders in Education, provides SEAs and districts (LEAs) with guidance about how to assess the district’s readiness to support school turnaround initiatives. Often, school turnaround efforts focus only on the school’s structure and leadership. Rarely do policymakers or practitioners think about school turnaround as a system-level issue requiring fundamental changes in district-level practice to establish the conditions for school turnaround to succeed.

The State Role in School Turnaround: Emerging Best Practices

The-State-Role-CoverThe Edited Volume will provide research and examples of practice on how state educational agencies (SEAs) manage school turnaround. Main chapters will include a literature review, framework, and action principles for the SEA. Brief chapters will focus on a turnaround-related topic, especially as it applies to a subset of schools or student populations. The Edited Volume is organized around the Center’s objectives, the SEA System of Recognition, Accountability, and Support change levers (Opportunity, Incentives, Capacity—Systemic, Capacity—Local), and ED’s turnaround principles.

Work Highlights

CST Fall Conference: September 23-24, 2014

CST Conference Logo

On September 23 – 34, the Center on School hosted a two-day fall conference, entitled Building Systemic and Sustainable Turnaround Efforts: An SEA Discussion. The conference was designed for SEA turnaround and improvement leaders and their teams. The conference was centered around three topics; 1) leaders in turn around schools; 2) district capacity to support school turnaround; and, 3) State support for school turnaround. The conference offered the opportunity to speak with experts in the turnaround field and allowed states to share practices.

The conference had four breakout sessions where SEA staff from Arkansas, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Georgia, New Hampshire, Virginia, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Indiana, Kentucky , and Washington presented to attendees on a variety of turnaround-related topics including, Planning and Preparing Districts and Schools for Turnaround, Leveraging Change in Districts through a School Turnaround Network, Measuring District Effectiveness, Effective Leadership in Turnaround Schools: Principals Pursuing Excellence, Developing Intentional Statewide Tiered Support Systems, and Ensuring Equity for All Students. Each facilitated session included time after the presentation for table talk among SEA staff around four pointed questions that would elicit productive discussion and encourage connections and collaboration.

All the materials, including the breakout session PowerPoint presentations, are now available for download.

SIG Turnaround Success Stories

Over 1300 schools completed the first three-year cycle of School Improvement Grants (SIG) in 2013. The CST is working with Regional Comprehensive Centers (RCCs) and associated SEAs to identify and shine a spotlight on some of the successful SIG Cohort I schools across the country. To identify these Success Stories, CST staff contacted RCCs to nominate schools in their region. Several RCCs and SEAs suggested schools and CST staff working through this list by examining data and discussing the nominees with RCC and SEA staff. Leaders from identified schools will be interviewed, as well as district and state staff, to understand the school’s turnaround efforts. This project will produce case studies describing what the school did to achieve its success, a report looking at lessons learned across sites, and webinars and presentations.

Reaching for the Holy Grail: Successful and Sustainable School Turnaround

Sustainability is a component of SIG grants but to date, there is a dearth of research about sustainability. This cross-sector literature review brief will synthesize emerging literature about sustainability. Reflecting the thin literature base, the literature review will include examining research on comprehensive school reform sustainability and relevant research from other sectors (e.g. business, municipal governments, military).

A follow-up brief will synthesize emerging literature to advance SEA personnel’s understanding of factors that contribute to sustainable change.

The research will advance SEA’s understanding of the concept of sustainability beyond basic financial resources and improve their ability to provide technical assistance on this topic.

Building Personal Competencies as Turnaround Strategies

Turnaround strategies typically focus on leadership and instruction. A missing dimension may be the cluster of personal competencies, for both personnel and students that include cognitive competency, metacognitive competency, motivational competency, and social/emotional competency. These personal competencies are intentionally recognized, nurtured, and built through the school culture, professional development, instruction, and student supports. They are enhanced through the relational suasion of teachers and staff and through personalization of instruction.

This project will include a series of four publications, with coordination among authors to achieve coherence. Tentative titles: Arts Infusion as a School Transformation Strategy; Building Intentional Schoolwide Norms Linked to Personal Competencies: A School Transformation Strategy; Schoolwide Effects of “Personal Competency Interventions”; and Building Personal Competency in the School Culture and Effects on School Climate.

Early Childhood Education Turnaround Project

At the request of the U.S. Department of Education, the CST is working with Content Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) to promote the use of PK-3 Best Practices as strategies to help turnaround the nation’s lowest performing schools. The project will identify examples of successful turnaround schools that have used PK-3 Best Practices as strategies in their efforts.