Policy Documents

School Turnarounds: Resisting the Hype, Giving Them Hope

Frederick M. Hess, Thomas Gift –
February 1, 2011

Despite hype and hope, turning around any failed institution is “an iffy proposition,” write Frederick Hess and Thomas Gift in an American Enterprise Institute policy study. Lessons from the business world, where turnarounds have a longer track record, suggest the many popular methods for doing so show no statistical record of improvement. This does not mean turnarounds are impossible, the authors say, pointing to several important means for making turnarounds successful. This includes financial and personnel-related freedom for administrators, the ability to drastically change a school’s staff, taking an all-or-nothing rather than incremental approach to reform, and establishing high goals for teachers yet giving them flexibility in how they accomplish them.