In school turnarounds, leading indicators can provide early evidence about whether a school is on track – and if not, how to intervene to increase the odds of success. In this report, we summarize the research and experience from other settings in which leaders have long relied on leading indicators to enhance the likelihood of success. From these lessons, we identify key principles and processes to guide the design and use of leading indicators in education. We also present a starting list of leading indicators and a proposed monitoring timetable for district, state, and other education leaders to use in turnaround schools.
Key lessons include:
- Start with known success factors. In turnaround schools, this includes the competencies of the turnaround leader, the leader’s actions, steps that all staff members take to achieve goals according to plan, and common routines that must improve in any school seeking learning gains.
- Use frequent and first-hand monitoring. Most districts and states need to monitor turnaround schools much more often than they do, collecting and analyzing data on a monthly or quarterly basis. Monitoring should also involve hands-on, active engagement such as weekly site visits and collaboration by district, state, or partner staff.
- Act on early indicators of success or failure. Where leading indicators show that an effort is not on track, states and districts must be willing to provide targeted intervention and, if that fails, pursue dramatic change.Early indicators of success in turnaround schools might prompt decreased monitoring, performance rewards, or opportunities for highly capable leaders to extend their reach to more students.
- Collect mountains of data, and narrow to the most predictive over time. Because success factors in school turnarounds are just beginning to be understood, district and state leaders should begin with expansive data collection on numerous possible leading indicators, and narrow the list over time to those indicators that have the strongest and most persistent connections to student success.