FEA: A Research- and Experience-Based Turnaround Process

June 17, 2010

The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) believes it appropriate for Congress to provide greater assistance to the neediest schools and in return require evidence-based, thoughtful steps toward improvement that address each such school’s strengths and weaknesses. To this end, we recommend that the following process for improvement by the lowest-performing schools be included in the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This process should apply to all schools defined as “turnaround schools,” to use the term of the  U.S. Department of Education.

FEA is an alliance of national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent, civic and labor organizations. We base our work on the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB (2004), now signed by 153 national groups, and subsequent statements, reports and papers.  FEA believes that major changes in the federal role in public education are needed in three areas: empowering schools so they can better ensure strong learning outcomes for all students; providing more adequate and equitable resources for all students; and developing an accountability system that focuses evaluation on students' opportunities to learn, processes of systemic school improvement, and student learning outcomes based on multiple types and sources of evidence.

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has proposed four "school turnaround models” in its “Blueprint” for the reauthorization of the ESEA. These same models are required elements in Race to the Top (RTTT) and School Improvement Grants (SIG). However, these models, if implemented according to their terms, lack evidence they will significantly improve education in schools with chronically low test scores (“low-performing” schools). Indeed, research and experience suggest that certain key components of these models are largely ineffective or even harmful. 

However, a growing body of research indicates there are common elements to significant school improvement (Ratner and Neill, 2010). These common elements have been minimized or ignored in the Blueprint. Section I of this document briefly describes the core components of a research- and experience-based school turnaround process. It is designed to focus district and school attention on implementing, in their own ways, those common strategies typically used by low-scoring schools that have significantly improved student learning environments and outcomes. These components form an integrated whole, requiring that all be included in the improvement effort to reach the desired result.


See the full documents:

FEA Recommendations for Successful School Turnaround Efforts

See the FEA statement, "A Research- and Experience-Based Turnaround Process," that focuses on flexible local use of elements common to school improvement, and that Congress should include in ESEA/NCLB reauthorization.

See Ratner and Neill, "Common Elements of Successful Turnarounds: Research and Experience," for analysis and summary of research on successfully improving schools.