Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP, ERS Outline 7 Tenets for Sustainable School Turnaround Under the Every Student Succeeds Act
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP, ERS Outline 7 Tenets for Sustainable School Turnaround Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

Washington, D.C. — Enacted in December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA—which replaced the law known as No Child Left Behind—gives states greater autonomy to support their lowest-performing schools, as well as the opportunity to direct more Title I dollars to school turnaround initiatives than in previous years. The Center for American Progress and Education Resource Strategies, or ERS, released a new report today, aimed at state education leaders, that outlines seven tenets for successful school turnaround under the new education law.

“While school turnaround happens most directly at the local level, state-level policies and system-level reforms are key for supporting successful and sustainable school turnaround,” said Scott Sargrad, Managing Director of K-12 Education Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “The tenets outlined in this report reflect best practices from education leaders who have successfully implemented school turnaround in their districts and states.”

“All low-performing schools exist within a district context that can either support or hinder turnaround efforts,” said Karen Hawley Miles, president and executive director of ERS and fellow co-author. “Now that states have significantly more discretion over accountability and direct intervention in low-performing schools, we want to be sure that any turnaround strategy helps districts take the steps they need to ensure that turnaround efforts will be successful and sustained.”

In January 2016, CAP and ERS convened state and local leaders with expertise in school turnaround to develop this set of design tenets for state policymakers, and the report released today uses evidence from the field to impact local, state, and federal law and policy. Education leaders from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Colorado, and Louisiana participated in the discussion and contributed research and best practices that led to the development of the state-level turnaround tenets. The tenets outlined by CAP and ERS are:

  1. Grant districts and ultimately the state the authority to intervene in failing schools.
  2. Provide significant resources to support planning and restructuring and leverage competitive grants.
  3. Treat the district as the unit of change and hold them accountable for school improvement.
  4. Create transparent tiers of intervention and support combined with ongoing capacity building and sharing best practices.
  5. Promote stakeholder engagement.
  6. Create pipeline programs for developing and supporting effective turnaround school leaders.
  7. Embed evaluation and evidence-based building activities in school implementation.

The report also recommends the appropriate roles for the federal government, states, districts, and schools to play in supporting successful turnaround efforts.

Click here to read “7 Tenets for Sustainable School Turnaround” by Scott Sargrad, Samantha Batel, Karen Hawley Miles, and Karen Baroody. Click here to read a fact sheet, “7 Tenets to Sustain Successful School Turnaround,” on the report.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at or 202.478.6331.