Turnaround Report is Commendable, Even with Weaknesses

Review praises, but raises concerns with, ambitious proposal for worst-performing schools

Contact: Teri Battaglieri, (517) 203-2940;
Patrick McQuillan, (617) 552-0676;

EAST LANSING, Mich. (April 24, 2008)—A new report recommends a series of sweeping changes to turn around America’s worst-performing schools. A Think Twice review of the report commends it for offering meaningful ideas on school reform, but warns that the proposed plan may be overly optimistic regarding timelines, relies too much on punitive sanctions, may be too costly to support and overlooks active student participation in the reform process.

The report, The Turnaround Challenge: Why America’s Best Opportunity to Dramatically Improve Student Achievement Lies in Our Worst-Performing Schools, was published by the Mass Insight Education & Research Institute. The Turnaround Challenge was reviewed for the Think Twice project by Professor Patrick McQuillan of Boston College.

This new report arrives at a time when schools around the country are facing the most serious sanctions in the No Child Left Behind Act. By the 2009-2010 school year, the report notes, five percent of the 100,000 public schools in the United States are likely to be assigned for “restructuring” in order to increase academic achievement. The Turnaround Challenge proposes one plan for such restructuring.

The report describes a restructuring plan which allows schools more authority and autonomy in such things as hiring, evaluating and replacing staff; implementing proven research-based education strategies; partnership development at the local and state levels; and creating networks of schools and districts to share best practices.

McQuillen credits the report for its thorough review of existing research and school reform which acknowledges both positive and negative findings. However, he raises concerns which include the fact that the report says little about the important role of students as reform participants; that it may be cost prohibitive ($250,000 to $1 million a year per school) as well as require additional government oversight to carry out its recommendations; that it sets an “overly optimistic” goal for “significant achievement gains” within two years of implementation; and that it relies “a bit too much on unproven negative sanctions” alongside its recommendation for incentives for reform.

Find the complete review by Patrick McQuillen as well as a link to TheTurnaround Challenge at:

About the Think Tank Review Project
The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.

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