The Turnaround Trap


Kipp Schools New Hope?

A prominent member of ASCD recently did a blog discussing the Turnaround Trap.  He describes Turnarounds as “[a] cheery faith that substitute a cherry faith in the transformative power new leaders or good intentions for the real work of creating conditions where excellent new providers can emerge and thrive.” I would go one step further and it is explained a little in my response to his blog post. In order to create this conditions CEOs, Superintendents, Chancellors, etc. must realize that a school is part of a community. You must buy take into account the stakeholders of the community and that includes the parents, teachers, and the students.


AUSL has some successes? Should it be the model for all schools?

In the book Breakthrough: Transforming Urban School Districts, John Simmons says that “despite the fact that, for decades, research and common sense have shown how important parents are in improving student performance in schools, in city after city little is done to tap the single most underutilized assets for school improvement that the school district has.” (pg. 51) This comes from many program’s notion that they will “fix the situation.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that easy. You must get all the stakeholders to buy in what you are trying to do to “change” the situation. While, I think that programs like Kipp, Noble Street (here in Chicago), and AUSL (a little) has help stem the tide in poor communities, their success comes from the desperation of parents in the community. Desperation is NOT ubiquitous across all urban school districts and all schools.

Noble Street

What has Noble Street done to be successful?

Many school leaders, parents, teachers, and students are looking for precisely what Mr. Hess from ASCD is saying “a condition where excellent new providers can emerge and THRIVE.”

Here is my response to the blog post.

“I would completely concur with the writer’s assertion also. I think that Arne Duncan and President Obama are mirroring what many urban school districts have done for a long time. They grab hold a piecemeal glimmer of hope and the change that it may work to change the course of education. However, they fail to really sit down and develop a clear strategy to turn schools around. Turnaround programs typically are typically thrown onto communities with the guise of “saving/changing students.” However, it is incomprehensible to believe that any program (without involvement of the current teachers/community members) is going to change/save children. There is a well established value system present, and you will NEVER get a buy in from the teachers, principals, parents or students without a proper acknowledgment of the stakeholders.In response to Niki Hayes, while I agree with most of her response (including the successes of KIPP schools) I believe that de-unionizing schools is not the answer. I believe that one of the priorities of Arne Duncan should be trying to reform the unions so that they can become partners of school reform with the school administrators and not adversaries. At the end of the day, teachers need to feel like they are protected and that someone can speak on their behalf when they are bullied by administrators, held accountable for unattainable goals, and put under strict scrutiny for reason beyond the increased performance of the students. I am sure  that Niki has not been guilty of these things, but I am confident that it exists in schools throughout the country. “

If you would like the read the blog post by Mr. Hess please click here.


About mpal219
Educator, Student, Reader, Reformer, & Activist

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