Leading Charlotte foundations formed a funding collaborative to support a five-year district turnaround initiative to dramatically improve educational outcomes for students in the West Charlotte High School corridor, one of the city’s lowest-performing feeder zones. The “Project L.I.F.T.” initiative involves four areas of education intervention: increasing teacher effectiveness; extending learning time; increasing access to and use of technology; and engaging parents and the community in schools. This report examines the genesis of the Project L.I.F.T. initiative, the partnership between the district and private and corporate philanthropists, and strategies to achieve improved graduation rates, student performance, and student growth in the Project L.I.F.T. learning community. Just past the midway point in implementation, the report also considers Project L.I.F.T.’s early successes, impact on the district, and lessons learned. Download the Full Report or the Executive Summary.
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.
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.
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.
“Extraordinary authority districts”—turnaround districts in which states gain legal authority to take over and operate chronically underperforming schools and/or districts—can fundamentally transform school structures and practices. In this brief, Public Impact, in partnership with America Achieves, compiles common challenges and lessons learned from early-implementing EAD state leaders who met for a wide-ranging discussion in 2013. Many of the takeaways are relevant no matter where a state stands in the process of pursuing a successful school turnaround strategy.
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.
In this 2012 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.