Gathering Input for California’s Race to the Top: Seizing the ARRA Opportunity

Reading List: Turnaround Guides

The research on successful turnarounds, where schools have experienced dramatic changes in student achievement as a result of transformative change, is limited. However, a handful of organizations have developed practice guides for turning around chronically-low performing schools. This section includes two of these guides.

**Herman, R., Dawson, P., Dee, T., Greene, J., Maynard, R., Redding, S., and Darwin, M. (2008). Turning around chronically low-performing Schools: A practice guide (NCEE #2008-4020). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Available at

This document offers a brief review of the rationale for and evidence supporting turnaround efforts of chronically low-performing schools. The authors note that the level of evidence for effective strategies is low. The report provides four recommendations for achieving dramatic improvement in low-performing schools.

Mass Insight. (2007). The turnaround challenge. Boston, MA: Author. Available at

We have included two excerpts from this book:

The executive summary outlines the goal for dramatic, transformative change in consistently under-performing schools. It highlights the limitations of piecemeal approaches to reform that achieve incremental results, emphasizing the need for dramatic change achieved over a compressed timeframe. The report promotes the concept of a “turnaround zone” in which schools have the authority to act, and identifies changing conditions, building capacity, and clustering for support as key elements for successful turnaround at scale.

Chapter 5 of the guide introduces a framework for state action to turn around chronically under-performing schools, incorporating the “three C’s” of conditions, capacity, and clustering for support. These approaches, along with new support structures at all levels and new commitment among leadership groups, form a framework for a statewide initiative.

**This document is considered a priority reading.