Wednesday | April 12, 2017

What can we learn from efforts to improve struggling schools? A recently published Mathematica study found that the $7 billion school “turn around” program initiated by the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan had been unsuccessful in significantly upgrading student achievement. Some advocates have argued that this failure means that all efforts at school improvement are bound to disappoint, without taking into account that their preferred solutions – school closures and replacement by charters – were among the ineffective models in the department’s program. Others suggest that it was the top-down and highly prescriptive nature of the program, severely limited what schools could do and excluded educators from decision-making, that doomed it. And still others point to the fact that the program’s mandated “turn around” strategies failed to address the impact of poverty on education. What should educators and policy makers conclude?

Our panel of researchers and practitioners will address this question by examining both the current state of research and on-the-ground efforts at school improvement that have worked.


Nina Esposito-Visgitas, President, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers

Melissa Irby Marshall, Senior Turnaround Consultant, American Institutes for Research

Jenny Nagaoka, Deputy Director, University of Chicago Consortium on School Research

John Papay, Assistant Professor of Education and Economics, Brown University

Moderator: Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Assistant to the President for Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers