Many schools are not preparing students for success in the 21st century. Far too many students are dropping out, and many of those who do graduate lack the key skills to succeed in college or the advanced economy. Successfully initiating, implementing, and sustaining the transformation of the lowest-performing public schools is a pressing challenge for policy leaders and practitioners nationwide. Public schools governed by elected local school boards are one of the cornerstones of our nation’s democracy, and local school boards sit at the junction of policy and effective implementation of targeted turnaround efforts. Yet ongoing efforts to improve public education focus primarily on the role of teachers, principals, and superintendents and, to a lesser extent, on state and federal policymakers. Missing from the work is a substantive role for local school boards.
In line with the Center on School Turnaround’s charge to support states’ efforts, we sought to highlight districts engaged in focused turnaround efforts where their respective boards played a key role in catalyzing, shaping, and supporting targeted improvement efforts. Our goal in developing these case studies was to present information-rich cases that can inform state and district efforts to optimize the board’s role in school turnaround. These case studies may be used independently, but they are designed to be part of a year-long training program for local school boards.