Blog: The Educated Reporter

Everything old is new again: turnaround edition.

Now that turnaround is the concept of the moment, we need to investigate what it yielded in the olden days when it was called “restructuring.” Last week I suggested journalists keep in context that zero-based staffing, as whole-school firings (or reassignments) are called, is not new.Now we should take the analysis much further.What has gone on at the dozens (hundreds?) of schools that have been zero-based in the last five years or more?Telling readers what has happened to test scores and graduation rates is not enough. I want to know how many of the teachers were hired back, and where did the rest go? Where did the new teachers come from? How were the teachers in the reconstituted schools trained to do better? What other changes were made besides staffing? New curriculum, new discipline rules, new interventions, new culture … what? And how might the new RtTT-sparked turnarounds differ from the ones that came before?

The Center on Education Policy has studied restructuring and offers some perspective on the staffing question, generally concluding that replacing staff has some benefit mitigated in part by issues such as the time it takes to hire and the lack of a good pool to draw from. They point out that staff changes are usually one reform among several. Their analyses are limited to certain states and there is much more to be done, especially by on-the-ground reporters who can show some case studies. It is rare that a huge policy shift is paired with nearly a decade of lessons to draw from. In this case, I am not sure we have much idea what those lessons are.