Turnaround Leaders: Competencies & Actions
In an article for School Administrator magazine, Lucy Steiner and Sharon Kebschull Barrett examine how understanding competencies—the habits of behavior and underlying motivations that help predict how newly hired employees will do their jobs—can help administrators, such as those in Minneapolis, hire the skillful leaders they need to turn around even the most troubled schools. Given that only 30 percent of turnarounds—in education and other fields—succeed, schools need leaders with a clear vision and the ability to make that vision a reality. Minneapolis Pubic Schools used competencies in their newly rigorous hiring process to make promising principal hires and to give the new leaders the support they need to keep turnarounds from becoming just another failed reform effort.
One of the biggest challenges in education today is identifying talented candidates to successfully lead turnarounds of persistently low-achieving schools. Evidence suggests that the traditional principal pool is already stretched to capacity and cannot supply enough leaders to fix failing schools. But potentially thousands of leaders capable of managing successful turnarounds work outside education, in nonprofit and health organizations, the military, and the private sector. If only a fraction of those leaders used their talents in education, we could increase the supply of school turnaround leaders significantly. In this report prepared by Public Impact for the University of Virginia’s Partnership for Leaders in Education, Julie Kowal and Emily Hassel explore lessons about when and how organizations in other sectors import leaders – including how they tempt people away, train them, and foster their success – to inform efforts by state and local leaders to import talent for failing schools.
This paper, produced for the University of Virginia’s School Turnaround Specialist Program, describes how using competencies that predict performance can improve turnaround principal selection, evaluation, and development. Although the term “competency” often describes any work-related skill, in this context competencies are the underlying motives and habits—patterns of thinking, feeling, acting, and speaking—that cause a person to be successful in a specific job or role. The primary critical competencies for school turnaround leader are “achievement” and “impact and influence.” Achievement is having the drive and taking actions to set challenging goals and reach a high standard of performance despite barriers. Impact and influence is acting with the purpose of affecting the perceptions, thinking and actions of others. This report provides guidance for organizations on how to use competencies to select, evaluate, and develop effective school turnaround leaders.
In Education Next Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel describe six leadership strategies that recur in successful school turnarounds. Using the NYC Police Department and Continental Airlines, the authors explain the importance of focusing on a few early wins, breaking organizational norms, pushing rapid-fire experimentation, getting the right staff, driving change with data, and running a “turnaround campaign” to build support for change.
Public Impact has developed a series of resources designed to support school turnarounds. The series includes guides and toolkits that help select turnaround leaders and teachers based on the competencies–or patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting–that enable them to be successful in turnarounds.
[pdf] by Dana Brinson, Julie Kowal and Bryan Hassel for the Center on Innovation and Improvement, illustrates how the 14 leader actions of successful turnarounds have played out in turnaround schools. This report provides a description of the 14 leader actions, illustrative vignettes, and an annotated bibliography of the case studies included in the report and builds on Public Impact’s prior work entitled School Turnarounds: A Review of the Cross-Sector Evidence on Dramatic Organizational Improvement, a report on education-specific examples of turnarounds.
The School Turnaround section of the Doing What Works website, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, features video interviews with Bryan C. Hassel about the leadership strategies that recur in successful turnarounds and the district’s role in supporting turnaround principals. Julie Kowal offers expert advice about strategies for motivating and redeploying staff, and discusses the district’s role in supporting principals’ staffing changes in turnaround schools.
Prepared for the Center on Innovation and Improvement, this updated and expanded version of Public Impact’s 2005 paper reviews the considerable literature from the business, nonprofit, government, and education sectors on what factors make turnarounds most likely to succeed, including the actions turnaround leaders take and the environment in which they work. Click here for a presentation based on this report.
This report, written by Dana Brinson and Lauren Morando Rhim for the Center on Innovation and Improvement, provides five brief profiles of schools that dramatically improved student performance and successfully restructured under federal accountability systems. All five schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for several consecutive years, and—once in restructuring—had to chart a course to overhaul the way their schools operated. Featuring two large-district, urban schools, two small-district urban/suburban schools, and a rural school in a variety of grade configurations, these stories highlight the reasons for persistent low performance, the chosen restructuring options, key actions taken, and the results. Although this report does not provide conclusive evidence for the efficacy of specific restructuring approaches, it does demonstrate that successful improvement of long-failing schools is possible, and contributes to the broader body of school restructuring and turnaround stories that may support future research in effective turnaround practices.