This report describes examples of actions that school principals have taken in trying to lead turnaround. Most principals have either not worked in a turnaround situation or have fallen short in a turnaround attempt, despite their best efforts. Not all of the principals highlighted in this report have successfully turned around their schools, but we intend for these examples to be helpful to other principals, teacher-leader teams, and principal supervisors who are looking to approach turnaround work with strategic, but less common actions in an effort to get new, better results. The authors draw on prior research to frame the examples. The report also draws on the observations of two organizations with deep experience in the turnaround field: Public Impact and the University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education. The examples of actions that are described in this report are organized into categories familiar to many principals in both typical schools and in turnaround schools, namely: vision, goals, data, change leadership, teachers and leaders, instruction, and strategic partnerships. These categories are also tied to domains and practices described in the Center on School Turnaround’s Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: A Systems Framework.
As they prepare for initial implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), many state and local education agencies across the country have been taking the opportunity to redefine how best to support improvement in their lowest-performing schools. ESSA requires districts to play a larger role in the improvement process, with SEAs continuing to provide supports and monitor improvements. This report provides an example of how one district has done so — by strengthening leadership, providing better student support, and implementing effective instructional and data practices to decrease achievement gaps among students. It begins with an introduction of the context, followed by a description of the district’s improvement process. The brief concludes with an analysis of the district’s impact and a discussion on how to sustain the results.