According to Laura Pappano (2010), turnaround is a rapid and dramatic improvement in student achievement, as well as in the culture, attitude, and student aspirations beyond traditional, incremental school improvement. Schools that need a turnaround approach have very low student achievement levels and may suffer from a multitude of complex issues around student poverty, poor facilities, teacher abilities and attitudes, school-district relationships, and many others.

Decades of educational research and MSU's extensive experience working with underperforming schools has led us to the realization that turnaround requires deep capacity in organizational and instructional leadership. Indeed, it is the linchpin to all other aspects of rapid turnaround. The articles and videos in this category explore the complexity of school turnaround as well as the steps involved in the process, and how to build school and district capacity to make deep changes that lead to dramatic improvements in culture, instruction and, ultimately, student achievement.

Over the past few years, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan State University Office of K-12 Outreach, the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, and other partners worked to create the MI Excel Statewide System of Support (SSoS). In their role with MI Excel, MSU brought together a cadre of experienced and highly trained educators to mentor and guide Priority and Focus school and district personnel in their pursuit of higher achievement. The work was grounded in the research of nationally known scholars, including Joseph Murphy, William Parrett and Kathleen Budge, Franklin Campbell Jones, Lynn Sharrat, Rick Hess, Brett Lane and Bruce Wellman, all of whom were brought in by MSU to train the specialists and work with school and leadership teams from MI Excel schools and districts.

collaborative school improvementBook Author: Trent Kaufman,  Emily Grimm, and Allison Miller

Data-based decision making is standard practice in districts and schools across the globe. Often, school-level personnel find data-based inquiry to be challenging for a variety of reasons, many of which are beyond their control. Collaborative School Improvement is an examination of three districts' efforts to reform and support teaching and learning in their schools through an increased emphasis on building capacity at the school level to employ data-based inquiry into instructional reform strategies. The authors identify eight practices that districts can use in connecting with schools toward improving instructional performance.

zavadskyBook Author: Heather Zavadsky (2012)

Efforts to improve school performance and student outcomes have traditionally focused on initiatives and strategies at the individual school level. Concerned about limitations of scalability and sustainability when focusing solely on one school, Heather Zavadsky’s School Turnarounds: The Essential Role of Districts explains the benefits of gaining a complex system vantage in addressing the priority functions of school turnaround. Zavadsky explores turnaround measures from a systems approach through examination of case studies of districts in Philadelphia, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Denver, Sacramento, and Long Beach. These case studies provide individual and collective support for the potential impact of involving central office in school turnaround efforts. In addition, the case studies provide analysis for diverse organizational structures and the manner in which they engage with state and federal policies. In School Turnarounds, readers will find how:

Cultivating a focused and collaborative learning environment requires healthy and collegial relationships among teachers and administrators. These relationships are built upon trust, and enable school personnel to stay focused on fostering a dynamic learning environment for their students (Parrett & Budge, 2012). As a result, “trust building is a necessary component of school improvement” (Parrett & Budge, 2012, p. 102).

Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy is a rural school located on the Potawatomi Reservation in the Upper Peninsula. Nah Tah Wahsh was founded in the 1970s to improve the high dropout rates among Potawatomi students by providing a schooling option that was closer to the reservation, and incorporating a deeper awareness and appreciation of the Potawatomi culture. Since opening its doors in 1976, the school has served a large number of Native American students, as well as non-Native students from outside of the reservation. Teachers and administrators alike describe Nah Tah Wahsh as a school that is deeply committed to fostering student academic success. Operating under this belief, the school has worked tirelessly to improve the learning opportunities for their students by offering a number of programs around early childhood education, as well as extracurricular and academic support activities. Additionally, Nah Tah Wahsh created a strong community-based school that fosters a sense of pride and belonging among students, their families and staff members.

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