Sustaining successful turnaround in a high poverty public high school
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Today’s American public education system faces one of the largest challenges in its history, the pervasive problem of failing schools and the resultant student dropouts. According to Research and Best Practices (2010), “There are 5,000 chronically low-performing schools in this country doing a disservice to hundreds of thousands of students” (p. 2). Focused efforts to rapidly improve failing schools has become known in the research as school turnaround. When successful cases of school turnaround have occurred, the success that is achieved in the initial turnaround is not always sustained over time. Too often, once a school has achieved rapid improvement resulting from turnaround efforts, the initial success levels off or does not sustain. This study investigated the actions taken by a high poverty public high school to successfully turnaround, in a brief period of time, the school’s state accountability rating from not meeting to meeting standard. The study also investigated the actions taken by the school to sustain the turnaround for three or more years. The two research questions that guided this study were as follows: (1) What actions were implemented by the school studied in order to successfully complete school turnaround, and (2) what actions were implemented by the school studied in order to sustain the success of the initial turnaround? Participants consisted of teachers, staff members, campus administrators, and central office staff who have worked with the school as part of the turnaround and sustainability process. The participants were selected using random purposeful sampling. Qualitative research methods were used following a single case design. Data were collected using interviews, archival documentation studies, and researcher journal coding with teachers, administrators, and central office staff who were directly involved with the school’s turnaround and sustainability efforts. Participant findings showed that school culture, instructional infrastructure, data fluency & interventions, talent management, leadership, student & family support, central office support, and safety & security were the major themes that led to and sustained successful school turnaround. In conclusion, this study poses questions for further research in the area of sustaining school turnaround efforts. Findings will add to the body of knowledge related to sustaining successful turnaround in high poverty public high schools
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