The case of turnaround schools is like a fairy tale of schools. However, in this Cinderella story, the miracle happens in the reality of schools all over the world.
Transforming a school from low to high performing is not an impossible feat. It is an undertaking of sheer will power and impressive organizational skills.
The case of low-performing schools
Describing the performance of a school requires certain standards. Obviously, these standards are set by certain boards. On the other hand, these could be as simple as logical discretion.
To be more objective, student achievement usually quantifies a school’s performance. Based on grades attained by students, these could be from internal or external examination. Any school can simply claim high performance according to internally assessed work. However, through standardized exams, schools get to establish themselves as high-performing schools due to impressive results.
For example, schools from Shanghai and Singapore have established themselves as top schools based on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results in reading, maths, and science.
In the United States, proficiency tests enable assessors to determine the performance of a school and even a district.
Aside from grades, school performance based on student achievement also includes graduation rates and the ability of the students to go to colleges or universities.
On top of these quantitative factors, the quality of infrastructure and instructional practices come into play.
Logically, low performing schools usually score below the acceptable standards in all or most of these factors.
The case of turnaround schools
The study of Klugman et al. (2015) on turnaround schools in Illinois brings this ugly duckling tale into reality. In 2013, the University of Chicago conducted a statewide survey involving school stakeholders. The data from this research lead to findings on turning low to high performing schools.
Firstly, socio-economically disadvantaged communities and rural schools lack the support system they need. In effect, these schools are at risk of lower student outcomes.
Now, what should be done to these schools?
Due to this inadequacy, providing the essential support system could provide a chance for these schools to transform. More importantly, the following essential support factors should be considered:
- Effective leadership
- Collaborative teachers
- Involved families
- Supportive environment
- Ambitious instruction
If schools could look into these factors, then change may take place. Perhaps, a strong support system could lead to better student outcomes. Therefore, school leaders and district supervisors must meet these essential supports to improve the system.
Finally, current studies on school improvement and leadership establish the correlation between the two. Hence, school transformation would require supportive leadership that fosters strong, effective instructional principles and practices.
Klugman, J., Gordon, M. F., Sebring, P. B., & Sporte, S. E. (2015). A first look at the 5Essentials in Illinois schools. RESEARCH SUMMARY.