Tough Questions for Center on School Turnaround

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced $52M in grants to 23 Comprehensive Centers across the country.  Seven of these centers will be content-based, including one focused on school turnaround.  West Ed, based in San Francisco, won a $1.4M grant for a Center on School Turnaround.

We’ve said it before: states and districts need to be bolder.  Back in March, Mass Insight Education CEO Bill Guenther wrote about his conclusions from a spring Education Writers Association conference, discussing how those states making bold changes are seeing stronger results.  With this funding we hope the center helps states and districts answer questions like:

  •  Are states and districts supporting turnaround school efforts to build capacity?
  • Are states and districts putting the conditions in place to give turnaround school leaders sufficient autonomy over hiring, programs and budgets?
  • Are states setting aside at least some of their turnaround funds to encourage districts to break up central office and create “mini-districts” of school clusters, which create more coherent pathways for students?
  • Are states and districts focusing on how to scale up and replicate the strategies of those turnaround schools that are becoming proof points?
  • Are states setting aggressive goals, founded on strong, metrics-based accountability?
  • Are states insisting that partners (such as Lead Partner units) be embedded inside schools and not just provide more typical consulting from afar?

And finally:

  • Will the West Ed Center on School Turnaround shine a spotlight on states and districts that are being bold — and call out states that are doing more of the same old “turnaround-light” interventions that haven’t worked? Policymakers, educators and the public need to know.

What are your thoughts? What other tough questions should West Ed focus on as it uses these new federal dollars? Leave your ideas in the comments.