School Turnaround Policies Unlikely to Improve Student Performance, According to Report

Last Updated: October 29, 2012

This article appeared in the October 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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A new report from the National Education Policy Center analyzes nearly 30 years of research on high-stakes testing and school improvement strategies and concludes that many current reforms are not likely to be effective and may prove counter-productive.

The report, “Pursuing Equity and Learning from Evidence,” issued October 1, specifically addresses “turnaround” strategies mandated for low-performing schools that receive federal School Improvement Grants. These strategies include major changes in staffing and a variety of technical interventions. Their success is measured exclusively on the basis of test scores.

“Pursuing Equity” argues that wholesale staffing changes are destabilizing, that test-based measures are too narrow, and that the knowledge and contributions of parents and communities are not included in the development and implementation of reforms. Further, the report argues that claims of turnaround successes are often selective and based on methodologically flawed research approaches.

As an alternative to these approaches, the report references additional research, including research on community organizing, to suggest that educational improvements are more likely to result from investments that support teachers and create adequate and stable financial support for schools. It also argues that engagement of parents and communities is critical to sustainable educational improvements and better serves the democratic purposes of public education.

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You can find the policy brief along with a legislative brief here:


Read more from the October 2012 Rural Policy Matters.