Ignite ‘14 to Feature Turnaround Principals

Is your school currently in ‘turnaround mode’? For all but a very few high-performing schools the answer is a resounding yes.

Schools are in the center of a vortex consisting of three major, long-term change initiatives; 1) new, higher standards with accompanying assessments and accountability measures, 2) new teacher evaluation systems, which include data from student test scores, 3) new state data systems for holding schools more accountable, which include attendance, school discipline, and graduation rates.

To further complicate matters, many schools have faced multiple years of tight budgets and are being asked to do much more with larger class sizes and less experienced teachers. At the same time school leaders are being asked to address a twenty-five year low in teacher satisfaction brought on, in large part by the ‘fire our way to Finland’ reformer mindset, an all-time high student poverty rate, and an increasingly diverse student population.

This so-called ‘perfect storm’ of school reform places dramatically increases pressures on school leaders to enter into ‘turnaround mode’ to improve student achievement by increasing rigor, changing staff expectations, and enhancing teaching practice. It is not surprising that 75% of principals say their job has become too complex.

Turning around a school—simultaneously raising student achievement in the face of more rigorous standards, changing attitudes and expectations, and improving teaching requires a “different kind of leadership.” In keeping with NASSP’s commitment to supporting school leaders, the Ignite ‘14 National Conference will include practitioners who have successfully turned around low-performing schools.  In fact, all three are currently in their second turnaround school.

Not only have these schools dramatically improved test scores, but they have reduced course failures, improved attendance, reduced student referrals and discipline incidents by more than 70%, and significantly improved reading and writing scores.

What do these leaders and their schools have in common?

  1. Clear Vision
  2. A laser-like Focus
  3. High expectations resulting from a growth Mindset
  4. Collaboration and Shared Leadership
  5. Strong Staff and Student Relationships
  6. High levels of Student Engagement
  7. Dramatically improved student Behavior
  8. Sizeable increases in student Attendance
  9. A schoolwide Commitment to Learning for all students
  10. Consistent Instruction resulting from a Defined Set of Instructional Practices
  11. A long-term emphasis on Schoolwide Literacy
  12. A strong Culture of Accountability

In addition to my own presentation titled Instructional Leadership: From Inspectors to Builders, school leaders from the three schools with whom I have worked over the past several years will be presenting in separate concurrent sessions:

  • Eric Jones and Teresa McDaniel, J.O. Johnson High School, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Brad Perkins, Muskegon High School, Muskegon, Michigan
  • Kasey Teske and Amy McBride, Twin Falls, Idaho

In addition, Dan Duke, author of Differentiating School Leadership, will discuss what his research has uncovered about the keys to long-term school improvement and turnaround. Dan and I will also be presenting together in a second session, Differentiated Leadership (Part II), on the practical applications of his findings.

Improving schools requires readily available, low-cost, research-based resources for teachers. Former National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling, and I will discuss the resources available from The Teaching Channel and how I have used those resources to enhance classroom practice. As I have done for the past two years, I will continue to emphasize how I used the Doing What Works resources to help schools successfully implement school wide literacy initiatives as well as to reduce dropouts and improve graduation rates.

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