School board members who attended NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., Monday were briefed on the latest research and status of the turnaround reform model embedded into many federal and state reform laws and requirements, including federal Race to the Top grants.
“These strategies are in all the major federal programs at this point,” said Katherine Shek, a legislative analyst with NSBA. She outlined the four reform models of the turnaround program, including turnaround (replace principal and at least 50 percent of staff); conversion to a charter school or giving the governance to private management group; closuring the school and sending students to higher performing schools in the district; and transformation, which requires replacing the principal and putting in a number of reforms and supports.
By far the most popular option for school board members and state leaders is transformation, which gives the district the most flexibility in making decisions and changes.
Jim Hull, senior policy analyst of NSBA’s Center for Public Education told the audience about an upcoming research report from CPE that shows that the research on the effectiveness of these turnaround strategies is mixed. Several strategies are clearly meant for urban schools – rural schools don’t have the labor pool to fire half of their teachers and it is difficult for them to recruit new principals.
Hull said, “For federal and state law to be so prescriptive doesn’t match with the research. Flexibility is needed. It should be up to local school officials to decide.