Reporter Guide

What Studies Say About School Turnarounds

Efforts to overhaul struggling schools have existed for decades, but it wasn’t until President Obama fortified the process with $3.5 billion in 2009 that the term school turnaround became etched in the public consciousness. While there is a lack of empirical studies on turnaround practices that result in improved student achievement, it is possible to work backward—to examine successful turnarounds, in the world of education and elsewhere, and determine what characteristics they have in common.

This brief draws on a review of over 50 research studies or syntheses, as well as scholarly articles and interviews with scholars involved in the many aspects of school turnaround research.