School Improvement and Reform: A Study of Student-Related Factors in Priority School Turnaround Efforts

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to investigate turnaround reform by identifying student factors from the perspective of successful turnaround leaders in Virginia that hinder or aid the process and the supports in place to address learning issues. It was determined, through a literature review, that research focused on the school culture, leadership, teacher and parent factors concerning turnaround reform efforts, but there was little mention of students beyond the scores they produce on end-of-the-year standardized tests. The central research question investigated the student-related factors that impact a school's ability to increase academic achievement within the turnaround process.

Interviews were conducted with four successful turnaround principals in Virginia. The results of the study indicated the student factors thought to impact learning were reading issues, teacher competency issues, students' personal needs, attendance issues, and discipline issues. While the first inclination of school leaders in a failing school may be to find the 'quick fix' to turn scores around, the principals in this study focused on three fundamental goals: get the students to read more, keep students in the classroom, and meet students' needs.

Research in the area of turnaround strategies and implementation is useful for school boards and principals as they endeavor to raise the achievement of their students. This study of successful turnaround organizations focusing on how student-related factors impact academic performance would be beneficial in determining whether the organizational structure supports or hinders Priority School reform. This examination of how student-related factors contribute to an organization's capability to turn around low performance informs administrators and policy makers on strategies to overcome the learning barriers that may exist.

school turnaround, school reform, accountability, No Child Left Behind, Priority Schools, student performance