Policing the Turnaround World

Want to get Congress’s attention?  Suggest that a multi-billion dollar program is attracting money-hungry charlatans.  Via Politics K-12 we learn that house education Chairman George Miller is launching an investigation of the turnaround space:

“…with increased focus on school reform under this administration, it seems some companies with little or no expertise in education are purporting to be experts in school turnaround to try and take advantage of available federal money … Companies who are hired to help turn around schools as partners should have the best expertise and the best qualifications. I plan to hold a hearing and use the committee’s oversight authority to investigate the process of hiring providers to help turn around schools.”

In general, I’m glad this issue of provider quality is getting a lot of attention.  I’m concerned, though, that the unintended consequences of this scrutiny will be a chilling effect on the development of best practice on the issue.

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One Response to Policing the Turnaround World

  1. This is an interesting phenomenon and slippery slope for many involved in every aspect of the education ecosystem, because many in the so-called turnaround space had to “cut their teeth” at some point. I am reminded of the first so-called turnaround I was a part of in 2003 as a subcontractor to a nationally recognized “turnaround firm” from NYC with NO EXPERIENCE in turning around schools, but with connections. The mechanics of turning around any organization is exceptionally challenging work and as the MassInsight landmark report points out, these skills require a specialized set of skills and experience.

    Does changing the mindset of money hungry oil interests any different from those who want to tap into the education funds available? Are the “general management consulting skills” from a 28 year old (with no education experience per se) from McKinsey valuable to framing the problems at a large urban District? Sure it is. By contrast, does the Superintendent with 30 years experience have any credibility or is she or he skills and decorum not up to snuff to “add value” and push the innovation envelope. The idea of accountability is not new, but to be sure, our lowest performing schools do, in fact require something different. Some might say they need a hug, reassurance that they are somebody, and teachers that care. While others might suggest an integrated online curriculum, using iPad in state of the art classrooms with newly minted teachers from Teach for America.

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