4 Keys to a Successful School Turnaround

How struggling schools can improve

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The Center of American Progress recently released a brief that examines research on effective school turnarounds, the Huffington Post has reported. CAP researchers looked at four schools—Frederick Douglass High School in Maryland, Leslie County High School in Kentucky, Emerson Elementary School in Kansas, and Rose Ferrero Elementary School in California—that, according to the report, made dramatic progress in a short time.

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The CAP researchers determined that the following four components are critical to improving failing schools:

  • Resources. The four schools all received investments from the School Improvement Grants program. Frederick Douglass High School received a SIG grant of $4.2 million in 2010; since then its graduation rate has soared from 25% to 57%.
  • Visionary leadership. A school’s leader tends to influence the strength of its academics and culture, the CAP researchers write. Frederick Douglass replaced its principal and 50% of its teachers before beginning its turnaround. The school then sought to recruit teachers who would create a “college-going culture,” the brief says.
  • Data-driven decision making. Teachers who use data, such as test scores, to identify areas that need improvement, tend to be especially effective, according to research cited in the brief.
  • Support of disadvantaged students in school and out. Schools that turn around successfully focus on improving school culture and provide wrap-around services, the brief says.

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