May 11, 2015

Tina Trujillo, (510) 642-6272,
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

CAP turnaround report bold, seductive on the surface, lacks evidence-based foundation

EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 11, 2015) – A recently released report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) advocated for implementation of evidence-based best practices for turning around low-performing schools through the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. It concluded that five dramatic actions are necessary to bring about dramatic school improvement. Unfortunately, an academic review finds the rationale for its assertions to be narrow, incoherent, and misleading.

Tina Trujillo, assistant professor at the University of California Berkeley, reviewed Dramatic Action, Dramatic Improvement: the Research on School Turnaround for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report asserts that it offers clear lessons about the most effective, research-based methods for turning around low-performing schools through the federal SIG program.

In her review, Trujillo notes that the analysis is primarily limited to the findings of twelve documentary sources, and four anecdotal snapshots from schools identified as successful turnaround models.

Trujillo further finds that the report essentially ignores large bodies of research on high-stakes accountability, school improvement, and emerging evidence on school closures and federally funded turnarounds.

Specifically, Trujillo cautions that a more inclusive review of extant research "reveals that the federal SIG program's turnaround policies are based on unwarranted claims and are contradicted by the empirical evidence."

Trujillo's review identifies that the report failed to meet standards for evidence and analytic transparency, and is of little use to policymakers or practitioners.

According to Trujillo, "In the end, schools, district, and states that follow the report's advice stand only to reproduce the unequal conditions that have led, in part, to their need for dramatic turnaround in the first place."

Read his full review at:

Find Dramatic Action, Dramatic Improvement on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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