Turnaround Pretenders

Sam Dillon had another important turnaround piece in yesterday’s NYTimes.  The gist is something I’ve been talking about on this blog for a while, namely that turnaround is hard work and the vast majority of organizations that peddle “turnaround” wares are not equipped to transform an entire school.  I make this point subtly in the piece, but Rudy Crew goes in for the kill:

Rudy Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor who has formed his own consulting company, said he was astonished to see so many untested groups peddling strategies to improve schools.

“This is like the aftermath of the Civil War, with all the carpetbaggers and charlatans,” Dr. Crew said.

The flip side of the problem is that we currently lack the capacity – as a nation – to tackle this problem, which means that we inevitably must take some calculated risks on untested organizations and strategies.  (Emphasis on calculated!)  AUSL is a successful turnaround organization, as is mentioned in the article, but there was a time when Chicago Public Schools had to give them a shot at running a first school.  KIPP is a successful charter school operator, but a charter authorizer somewhere had to give them an opportunity to run a first school.

Naturally, for me this comes back to measuring outcomes.  It’s one thing to hire an unproven organization to turn around a school.  It’s an exponentially more risky thing to not hold that unproven organization accountable for student results.

One Response to Turnaround Pretenders

  1. N. Williams says:

    Thank you for acknowledging that every consultant and school improvement organization began with some agency examining and trusting the capacity of the organization rather than the years in service. Even Rudy Crew’s organization – Global Partnerships – is acquiring their first whole school turnaround contracts this year. While his individual success may be established, the organization itself is newly formed and is not. I am therefore disappointed that he would characterize his fellow colleagues in this manner. This is important and significant work that is being embraced around the nation and it is exciting that so many individually competent educators have chosen to lend their knowledge and expertise toward this effort in the formation of new school improvement firms. Inequitable distributions of power and resources are what got us into this conundrum in the first place and I wholly support the current administration’s efforts to foster innovation and reform – from whomever has the passion, integrity, capacity and skills to accomplish it.

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