Our Approach

The urgent need for a dramatic and innovative solution

US Department of Education has mandated that all states identify and intervene in their bottom five percent of public schools. Many more schools than the bottom 5 percent are in need of significant support. These schools face challenges that cannot be solved by modest forms of assistance—this level of persistent failure demands swift, dramatic intervention.

The theory behind our work

Why Schools Fail

These schools fail because the challenges they face are substantial; because they themselves are dysfunctional; and because the system of which they are a part is not responsive to the needs of the high-poverty student populations they tend to serve. The school model our society provides to urban, high-poverty, highly diverse student populations facing 21st century skill expectations is largely the same as that used throughout American public education, a model unchanged from its origins in the early 20th century. This highly challenged student demographic requires something significantly different—particularly at the high school level.

Turnaround: A New Response

Standards, testing, and accountability enable us, for the first time, to identify with conviction our most chronically under-performing schools. Turnaround is the emerging response to an entirely new dynamic in public education: the threat of closure for underperformance. Dramatic change requires urgency and an atmosphere of crisis. The indefensibly poor performance records at these schools—compared to achievement outcomes at model schools serving similar student populations—should ignite exactly the public, policymaker, and professional outrage needed to justify dramatic action.

The Benchmark

A small but growing number of high-performing, high-poverty (HPHP) schools are demonstrating that different approaches can bring highly challenged student populations to high achievement. How do they do it? Extensive analysis of HPHP school practice and effective schools research revealed nine strategies that turn the daily turbulence and challenges of high-poverty settings into design factors that increase the effectiveness with which these schools promote learning and achievement. These strategies enable the schools to acknowledge and foster students' Readiness to Learn, enhance and focus staff's Readiness to Teach, and expand teachers' and administrators' Readiness to Act in dramatically different ways than more traditional schools.