21 Dec 2015

Keys to School Turnaround

Keys to School Turnaround

Change is the greatest individual and institutional barrier to the ability of individuals and organizations to pivot and meet rapidly emerging changes.  School turnaround is part of the game in all schools around the country.  The Center on School Turnaround at WestEd has been leading research and practical implementation in this area and has developed keys to school turnaround.

In the WestEd article “The Big U-Turn” they cite several keys to school turnaround.  In the article they describe two approaches to school turnaround;  “The instrumentalists hold that meaningful improvement can only happen slowly, with soul-wrenching culture change leading to instructional change and eventually student success.  The Clean Slate club believes the only way to fix failing schools is to shut them down and start fresh, with entirely new rules, staff and leadership.”  The problem is neither approach works for long-term sustainable change without additional keys to school turnaround embedded in the process.

Leaders in these situations need the “big yes” from the decision makers within the school system.  Without the backing and support to make appropriate and collaborative changes to processes any “reform” will be an event and not long-term sustainable change.  There has to be a “plan” to assess the present situation the school or district faces, use of relative data, collaboration, communication, vision and most of all- execution.

To make any change happen there must be organizational fortitude to change.  Change brings out fear in people for a variety of reasons.  Mostly it is the fear of the unknown even if the known is not ideal.  The ways things have been done has to be examined and addressed with courage as a the most fundamental key to school turnaround.

Change must be well researched, planned and implemented in a rapid fashion.  West Ed states it is imperative to “get the right staff and right the remainder” of the staff.  No impactful and sustainable change can occur with out the entire staff fully immersed in a distributive leadership.

Schools must be more like private sector businesses.  Since the recession of 2008 only those businesses with the ability to follow similar keys to successful turnaround, as outlined above, have been able to pivot quickly to avoid their demise.  Successful businesses have learned to focus on mission, processes and people to continue to thrive in a world that is changing by the day.  Successful school turnaround efforts can and should do the same.


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