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RELEASE: Targeted but Dramatic School Turnaround Can Successfully Increase Student Achievement, New CAP Brief Shows

Washington, D.C. — Dramatic school improvement efforts are key to turning around underperforming schools and successfully increasing student achievement, according to the available body of research, and powerful examples from schools in Maryland, Kentucky, Kansas, and California demonstrate that school turnaround is most effective when districts take aggressive steps to rescue failing schools, a new brief from the Center for American Progress shows.

“The reality today is that hundreds of schools are chronically underperforming by virtually any standard and are in dire need of significant intervention,” said Tiffany D. Miller, Director for Education Policy at CAP. “The good news is that the research shows that school turnaround is possible when there is a combination of dramatic action and targeted resources.”

CAP’s brief summarizes the existing research on school turnaround and then profiles schools in Baltimore, Maryland; Hyden, Kentucky; Kansas City, Kansas; and Soledad, California. The analysis finds that school turnaround is not only possible, but also is most successful and meaningful when districts take aggressive steps to transform underperforming schools. Aggressive action on the part of school districts, resources and requirements, governance and staffing changes, data-driven decision making, and a focus on school culture and nonacademic supports for disadvantaged students are all part of an evidence-based set of best practices that are key to successful school turnaround.

With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act currently underway in Congress, CAP recommends that federal policy prioritize strong requirements and targeted support that identifies chronically failing schools while empowering states and districts to take bold and significant steps to turn those schools around.

“A new Elementary and Secondary Education Act should require states to identify–at least–their lowest-performing 5 percent of schools and use evidence-based interventions to turn them around,” added Catherine Brown, Vice President of Education Policy at CAP.

Click here to read “Dramatic Action, Dramatic Improvement: The Research on School Turnaround” by Tiffany D. Miller and Catherine Brown.

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

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