EXAMINING THE KEY DRIVERS OF SUCCESSFUL SCHOOL TURNAROUND: A CROSS COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THREE SCHOOL LEADERS
Background: Effectively improving the educational outcomes for students attending a persistently low-performing school is difficult work even for the most skilled and experienced school leaders. This need to increase the number of skilled turnaround school leaders is critical given the fact that across the country, nearly 70% of school turnaround attempts result in failure. The purpose of this study was to examine the specific factors that enabled three low-performing elementary schools - Claireville, Williams and Ryan Elementary to record the top three most dramatic academic gains within a large, urban school district. Purpose: To this end, the study was guided by three questions: (1) How do urban school leaders use the establishment of clear purpose to initiate school turnaround? (2) How do urban school leaders use data-informed decision making to initiate school turnaround? and (3) How do urban school leaders use culture of collaboration to initiate school turnaround? a. Methods: This was a qualitative study in which the rich story of three turnaround leaders who led three successful school turnarounds was used to answer these questions. Data were collected though semi-structured interviews with nine participants who each played a part in the three schools’ improvement. Results: Based on the analysis of the study result, the three turnaround leaders employed the three strategies but with slight adaptations to the contextual needs of the school their own unique natural leadership attributes. Conclusion: There is much to be learned from the nuances with which these leaders employed the three broad categories of strategies highlighted in this study. Knowledge must be captured and disseminated to prevent the current statistic claiming upwards of 70% of school turnarounds are unsuccessful (Smarick, 2010; Kutash et al., 2010). This is concerning at the national, state, and local levels. Moreover, this data is upsetting because of the thousands of students who, by no fault of their own, attend a school that inhibits their right at accessing an equitable education. This study and others similar to it provide hope where there is often much despair in terms of the future of school turnaround.