—for serving the same students under new management.
In a restart, a district or state contracts with a charter school provider to operate one or more schools, while leaving the students in place. This prevents disruption of students’ lives while inserting dramatic change in instructional approaches into schools that need substantial improvement.
Public Impact’s team has deep experience working with states, districts and charter school networks on restarts. We provide system design for those implementing school restarts, data dashboards and evaluation of restart initiatives, case studies, video-documentation, and policy crafting for states launching or improving restart efforts.
Contact us for training and consulting to help your school(s) transition to instructional excellence using turnarounds.
- Public Impact launched the idea of restarts nationally in 2003 with Starting Fresh: A New Strategy for Responding to Chronically Low-Performing Schools.
- In 2016, we published the definitive resource for states, districts and other entities overseeing restarts: www.SchoolRestarts.org.
- Starting Fresh: A New Strategy for Responding to Chronically Low-Performing Schools
This 2003 report, co-authored by Bryan Hassel and Lucy Steiner and funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation, outlines a new approach states can use to respond to schools that continue to struggle despite interventions and accountability measures. Under the “starting fresh” strategy, the state or district essentially opens a new school within the walls of the existing schools. The report discusses why states and districts should add this approach to their toolboxes, and examines the practical challenges of implementing a starting fresh strategy.
- Tough Decisions: Closing Persistently Low-Performing Schools
Despite the challenges, some districts have taken the decisive step of closing low-performing schools. This paper, written by Lucy Steiner for the Center on Innovation and Improvement, discusses the lessons district officials in four urban districts learned about the school closure process. Recommendations include the need to: 1) consider school closure in the context of a larger reform effort; 2) develop a supply of higher-performing school options; 3) clearly explain to the public how current students will benefit; 4) provide support to families and students during the transition; and 5) provide staff members with clear information about next steps.
- Starting Fresh in Low-performing Schools
Public Impact worked with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers on a series of publications specifically on “starting fresh” – the chartering and contracting options. The series includes A New Option for School District Leaders Under NCLB, which identifies the need for a new beginning at a school and describes the options of initiating a charter school or hiring an outside school manager, and Engaging Parents and the Community in Starting Fresh, which highlights strategies for bringing key stakeholders to the table.
- New Orleans-Style Education Reform: A Guide for Cities
Public Impact teamed up with New Schools for New Orleans to develop a guide for cities interested in dramatically growing their charter school sectors as part of an effort to turn around persistently low-performing urban school systems. This Guide builds on dozens of interviews with education and community leaders in New Orleans, insights from national experts who have supported the rebuilding efforts, and research and reporting on New Orleans’ education reforms. Centered around three key strategies: 1) strong governance and accountability, 2) building human capital pipelines to fuel the growth of schools and 3) incubating new schools and growing proven schools into networks, the Guide illustrates recommendations with vignettes of work done by bold school leaders and reformers. The Guide also looks toward long-term sustainability of this new system, exploring topics such as building community demand and support for school reforms, developing a fiscally-balanced system that doesn’t rely long-term on philanthropy, and planning ahead for the new types of challenges that face a decentralized system of schools in areas such as transportation, equitable access, and transparent system oversight.
- The Role of Charter Restarts in School Reform: Honoring our Commitments to Students and Public Accountability
The report, prepared by Daniela Doyle and Tim Field for NewSchools Venture Fund, explores a variation on school closure where a charter school’s operator and governance (board) changes, while the school continues to serve the same students — charter school “restarts.” The report examines how charter restarts fit within the larger context of charter school quality and accountability and describes how restarts have played out at five charter schools. It concludes with a series of recommendations for board members and charter authorizers interested in pursuing a restart strategy.
- Expanding District Capacity to Turn Around Failing Schools: An Evaluation of the Cameron Middle School Charter Conversion
After several unsuccessful turnaround efforts and years of chronic low performance at Cameron Middle School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) decided to try something different to dramatically improve student outcomes: gradually convert operation of the school from the district to a charter management organization. This 2014 report for MNPS tells the story behind the conversion, evaluates its successes and challenges, and extracts lessons learned for MNPS and other districts working to build their capacity to better support their lowest performing schools.
- Ten Years in New Orleans: Public School Resurgence and the Path Ahead
Marking the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this report describes the transformation of public education in New Orleans and considers needed improvements for the next decade to create an excellent system of public schools in New Orleans. The report highlights how the shift to a decentralized system of public charter schools combined with a relentless effort to replace failing schools has produced remarkable gains in student academic achievement and fundamentally changed the role of government in education, the local labor market for educators, and the relationship between New Orleans communities and schools. The report also considers how the pace and magnitude of change presented many challenges to parents, educators, and community members, and discusses what needs to happen next to propel the city to even higher levels of achievement.
- The Achievement School District: Lessons from Tennessee
Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) was modeled on Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD) but has forged its own path that offers useful insights for other states. The ASD has focused its effort on Memphis, which has the state’s highest concentration of low-performing schools. The ASD has collaborated with high-performing charter operators to conduct school turnarounds in neighborhood schools; collaborated with philanthropic leaders to build a sustainable educator talent pipeline for the bottom 5 percent of the state’s schools; engaged neighborhood communities in the process of matching charter operators to schools selected into the ASD; and influenced district-led turnaround efforts. This case study, commissioned by New Schools for New Orleans and the Achievement School District, examines how these and other ASD’s strategies have resulted in a state turnaround school district distinct from the RSD.
- Growing a High-Quality Charter Sector: Lessons from Tennessee
From 2010 to 2015, Tennessee’s charter sector grew from 29 schools serving 5,500 students to 98 schools and 29,000 students, including 24 multi-school networks operating in the state. This report describes how the convergence of favorable policy conditions, political leadership, and public-private grants accelerated the growth of high-quality charter schools committed to underserved communities in Memphis and Nashville. The report also examines strategies that the Tennessee Charter School Incubator and the Charter School Growth Fund used to identify and develop promising new school leaders and to start and expand high-performing charter organizations. The Tennessee story provides a lesson for education leaders in how to create the conditions conducive to growing a high-quality charter sector.
- School Restart Authorization Process Guide
Authorizers and support organizations can use the School Restart Authorization Process Guide and related database to increase the success and sustainability of restart interventions in low-performing schools, with step-by-step guidance for designing or refining the restart process. The guide’s recommendations are based on the experiences of authorizers, school operators, education support organizations, and community leaders with experience in restarts nationwide. The process guide is complemented by the Restart Authorizer Resource database, with searchable tools and resources collected from authorizers and support organizations. These resources offer practical examples of the materials that support each step of the restart process. The restart process guide and authorizer resources are available at www.schoolrestarts.org.