—for groups of schools with special autonomy to pursue turnarounds or restarts.
Innovation zones (i-Zones) are clusters of schools designated by a state or district that have special autonomy to introduce changes needed to improve instruction and student learning. Innovation Zones are typically used when rapid, dramatic improvements in student learning are needed to close achievement gaps and prior efforts within districts have not led to large enough student learning gains.
But not all i-Zones produce the intended positive effects: Only the right changes that improve teaching and learning, while addressing other conditions that affect learning, get desired results.
Public Impact’s team has deep experience working with innovative schools—both district and charter—that get standout results and devising policies and accountability systems for managing portfolios of schools. We provide system design for those implementing i-Zones, data dashboards and evaluation of i-Zone initiatives, case studies, video-documentation, and policy crafting for states and districts launching or improving i-Zone efforts.
Contact us for training and consulting to help your school(s) transition to instructional excellence using turnarounds.
Public Impact published “Extraordinary Authority Districts”: Design Considerations—Framework and Takeaways in 2014 to better guide decision-makers designing and managing i-Zones at the district and state levels.
- Learning from Project L.I.F.T.: Legacy of a Public-Private School Turnaround Initiative
In 2011, some of Charlotte’s leading private and corporate foundations formed a partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to implement innovative school turnaround interventions affecting use of talent, time, and technology, and engaging parents and communities at West Charlotte High School and its feeder elementary and middle schools. In this report, Public Impact provides an overview of the Project L.I.F.T. strategy and reflects on successes, challenges, and lessons from the initiative. Though L.I.F.T. fell short of its very lofty and highly publicized goals, its legacy includes the launch of Opportunity Culture in district schools and significant insights about how private foundations can work with public school districts to implement innovative ideas that help turn around low-performing schools.
- Autonomous District Schools: A New Path to Growing High-Quality, Innovative Public Schools
This report from Public Impact considers how U.S. school districts increasingly create autonomous district schools to give their schools the flexibility afforded to charter schools, in an effort to provide high-quality, innovative, and diverse public schools at scale. Like charter schools, autonomous district schools are exempt from some policies governing state-funded schools, and they have autonomy over some staffing, curriculum, budget, and operational decisions. They may be operated or supported by external school management organizations, but they remain part of the school district, which holds them accountable for their performance through contracts or alternative governance structures. This report, developed with the support of the Walton Family Foundation, examines autonomous district school models, how they differ from traditional district and charter schools, and design and implementation elements that districts should consider when creating autonomous district schools.
- The Project L.I.F.T. Story: Early Lessons from a Public-Private Education Turnaround Education
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.
- 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.
- Extraordinary Authority Districts: Design Considerations—Framework and Takeaways
“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.