Practice Guide iconPractice Guide
This guide identifies practices that can improve the performance of chronically low-performing schools—a process commonly referred to as creating "turnaround schools." The four recommendations in this guide work together to help failing schools make adequate yearly progress.
Signal the need for dramatic change with strong leadership.
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Maintain a consistent focus on improving instruction.
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Make visible improvements early in the school turnaround process (quick wins).
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Build a committed staff.
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Schools should make a clear commitment to dramatic changes from the status quo, and the leader should signal the magnitude and urgency of that change. A low-performing school that fails to make adequate yearly progress must improve student achievement within a short timeframe—it does not have the luxury of years to implement incremental reforms.

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Chronically low-performing schools need to maintain a sharp focus on improving instruction at every step of the reform process. To improve instruction, schools should use data to set goals for instructional improvement, make changes to immediately and directly affect instruction, and continually reassess student learning and instructional practices to refocus the goals.

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These can rally staff around the effort and overcome resistance and inertia.

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The school leader must build a staff that is committed to the school’s improvement goals and qualified to carry out school improvement. This goal may require changes in staff, such as releasing, replacing, or redeploying staff who are not fully committed to turning around student performance and bringing in new staff who are committed.

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  • Administrators
  • Policymakers
  • Researchers

This practice guide was prepared for the WWC by American Institutes for Research under contract ED-02-CO-0022.

  • Rebecca Herman (Chair)
    American Institutes for Research
  • Priscilla Dawson
    Trenton Public Schools
  • Thomas Dee
    Swarthmore College
  • Jay Greene
    University of Arkansas
  • Rebecca Maynard
    University of Pennsylvania
  • Sam Redding
    National Center on Innovation and Improvement
  • Marlene Darwin
    American Institutes for Research

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