Review of The Turnaround Challenge

Seeking to turn around the five percent of U.S. schools that have proven chronically underachieving, a new report from Mass Insight, The Turnaround Challenge, puts forth a proposal aimed at getting these schools and their students on track toward genuine academic achievement. To do so, the authors propose a comprehensive strategy that includes three main elements: conditions, capacity and clustering. Regarding conditions, the report advocates creating a “turnaround zone” within which schools are accorded greater autonomy and given incentives to act. Regarding capacity, the report suggests state-developed programs and policies to bring quality educators into the reform process at all levels while more leadership roles are created at the school site. Regarding clustering, it recommends a network of districts or schools that work in concert to facilitate change. There are many promising aspects to this report and its ideas deserve serious consideration, but this review identifies several concerns. The underlying research base is limited, the proposed timeline for enacting “significant change” in schools (two years) seems unrealistic, the approach is overly punitive, and the report says little about what role students will play in the reform process.

Suggested Citation:

McQuillan, P. (2008). Review of "The Turnaround Challenge."  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from

Document Reviewed:

The Turnaround Challenge: Why America’s Best Opportunity to Dramatically Improve Student Achievement Lies in Our Worst-Performing Schools

Andrew Calkins, William Guenther, Grace Belfiore, and Dave Lash
Mass Insight Education & Research Institute