July 20, 2016

Tina Trujillo, (510) 517-0874, trujillo@berkeley.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, 517-203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Policymakers and Practitioners Will Find Little Worthwhile Guidance from School Turnaround Report, Academic Review Finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jul. 19, 2016) — A report produced by Public Impact for WestEd's Center on School Turnaround asserted that because there is a lack of a shared definition of school turnaround success for states and districts, it is difficult for school districts to learn from one another. The report claimed to provide a model for defining school turnaround success. However, an academic review finds the report deficient in several key areas.

Tina Trujillo, University of California Berkeley, and Marialena Rivera, Texas State University, reviewed the report, Measuring School Turnaround Success, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice is produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report bases its model framework for determining turnaround success on three school-level measures: (1) proficiency in reading and math on state assessments; (2) growth in reading and math on state assessments; and (3) graduate rate (for high schools).

Unfortunately, Trujillo and Rivera find following shortcomings:

  • Sufficient research evidence for the claims made is not presented in the report;
  • It lacks sound methodological techniques; and
  • It omits several rigorous, peer-reviewed studies that contradict a majority of its proposals.

Despite the report's claim that it provides model that goes "beyond student achievement," Trujillo and Rivera found that it actually focused largely on standardized test scores. The reviewers explain that focusing primarily on standardized test scores distracts from other school goals, including: civic, social, emotional, and broader academic ones.

Despite the shortcomings present in the report, the reviewers do acknowledge that the report does move the conversation toward a new theory of action for school turnaround, but falls short of achieving its goals.

The review concludes that the proposed model continues the trend of relying on flawed, test-centered strategies: "Unfortunately, policymakers and practitioners looking for guidance on measuring turnaround success will not just find little worthwhile recommendations in this report, they will encounter several misguided ones, such as focusing heavily on standardized test scores and using percentile ranks, that are contradicted by solid evidence."

Read the full review at:

Find Measuring School Turnaround Success 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.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/