'Tough love' needed to turn around low-performing schools: Study finds small, incremental efforts seldom succeed

Feb 14, 2013
Credit: Jacque Montgomery

Few positive results have been documented from school turnaround models that rely on coaching, increased educator training or focusing on new programs, a report from the Buechner Institute for Governance at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver has found.

The report, which was commissioned by the Turnaround Study Group, a coalition of foundations and advocacy groups working toward education reform, found the more incremental models of turnarounds have limited data and none show dramatic success.

Instead the report, "Turnarounds in Colorado: Partnering for Innovative Reform in a Local Control State," found that to turn around low-performing schools, a "fundamental disruption in the culture and practices of the school" is required.

The authors of the report, Paul Teske, dean of the School of Public Affairs, and Kelly Hupfeld, associate dean, analyzed school turnaround strategies in Louisiana, Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, Connecticut and Delaware. They presented their findings Wednesday to the Colorado Board of Education.

"Turning around schools that have been failing for years is a huge challenge for Colorado and its school districts," said Hupfeld, "but it's the necessary final step if schools are to be truly held accountable for serving students."

An estimated 14,000 students in Colorado attend schools that the Colorado Department of Education has assigned its lowest category of performance, "Turnaround Plans." Another 67,000 students attend schools in the second-lowest category, "Priority Improvement."

The department also assigns performance ratings for districts and 26 percent of Colorado students are in districts that have received the two lowest ratings. The report notes that lack of funding poses a major challenge for Colorado schools and concludes, "To reverse the trend of chronically low-performing schools, Coloradoans must muster the political will, make the financial investment, and brace for the tough love that is necessary to successfully turn them around."

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: An executive summary also is available online.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Green schools and students' science scores are related

Feb 29, 2012

A nationwide survey shows a positive correlation between Green School practices and student achievement in science. The study was conducted by the University of Colorado Denver's Department of Geography and Environmental ...

Schools lose records; English learners pay

Apr 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Poor recordkeeping keeps California schools from getting all of the funding that they have coming, a failing that especially hurts English learners, according to research from the University of California, ...

Charter schools no cure-all for black students, says study

Apr 12, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Despite being promoted as a viable alternative to traditional public schools, privately owned charter schools in Texas have higher attrition rates for black students than comparable urban public schools, says ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

3 hours ago

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 14, 2013
When sports teams perform poorly, the coach is often fired. The new, incoming coach often gets rid of many of the players and gives a very strenuous training camp prior to the season starting to the remaining and new players. This methodology has proven extremely successful time and time again. Why should education be any different? Many universities employ much the same tactic to both undergrad and graduate students to make sure that they're quality students. Altering this slightly to where students aren't thrown out of school would likely be worthwhile.

Children have sponges for brains and can soak up immense amount of information in very short periods of time. If they're behind, they must be forced to catch up. The world isn't going to give them an easier life just because they had poor teachers. A little 'tough love' is likely all they need... that and firing a bunch of bad teachers!

More news stories

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...