School Turnaround and District Improvement Experience

CTAC has successfully partnered on turnaround efforts in school districts throughout the country, including:

Albuquerque Public Schools, New Mexico. CTAC provided assistance to the Albuquerque Public Schools, the 25th largest district in the U.S., developing and implementing a landmark system of site-based reform across 120 schools, engaging and training parents as equal partners with the teachers’ union and district leadership and providing human services collaboration. Academic achievement at all levels increased markedly during this time—including 70% of elementary schools, 100% of middle schools, and at the high school level national recognition for achieving the highest ACT scores of any large district in the country. These efforts also resulted in increased attendance, family involvement, early problem identification, and reduced dropout rates.

Christina School District, Delaware. In the Christina School District, the largest in Delaware, CTAC conducted an assessment of readiness and capacity and then provided assistance through a systemic initiative, New Directions in Christina, based on our Standard Bearer Schools framework. A key success factor was the active engagement of thousands of parents in school planning and assessing reform effectiveness. These efforts resulted in increased student achievement for all student sub-groups as measured on three major independent assessments. Moreover, African American and Hispanic students showed the greatest growth—for the first time ever in the district. Outcomes also include marked strengthening of district capacities in data, research, instructional support, organizational development, professional development, fundraising and corporate involvement, as well as extensive improvements in teaching and learning conditions, organizational support and alignment, school planning, and human resource practices.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Ohio. In one of the earliest examples of turnaround work nationally, CTAC provided assistance to the public schools in Cleveland, Ohio, during a time that included a state takeover of the district. This was the first site-based, school reform initiative in Cleveland that showed sustained performance improvements. Schools participating in CTAC’s Standard Bearer Schools process outperformed the rest of the district in three out of four state testing areas and had student suspension rates more than 100% lower than the rest of the district. CTAC assisted the district to implement the groundbreaking Principals’ Performance Support System that linked principal evaluation to student success. We also guided the reorganization of the central administration.

Decatur Public Schools, Illinois. The Decatur School District 61 in Decatur, Illinois used CTAC’s assessment of readiness and capacity as a catalyst for major systemic reform. The district strengthened organizational capacities based on the assessment. The resulting reform initiative improved standards alignment and academic rigor, with a demonstrable effect on student achievement. Following the assessment of readiness and capacity, CTAC implemented the Standard Bearer Schools process, providing data analysis, technical assistance and training to elementary and middle schools in “needs improvement” status. Reflecting a targeted area of substantial student need, students made significant gains in mathematics.

Duval County Public Schools, Florida. Working with school and district leaders, CTAC assisted the Duval County Public Schools in implementing comprehensive school improvement at the school and district levels. This included providing training and technical assistance to twenty-seven schools in the implementation of our Standard Bearer Schools process. These efforts resulted in increased student academic achievement and improvements in school ratings made by the Florida Department of Education. Most notably, one school’s rating improved from an F to a B.

Lowell Public Schools, Massachusetts. CTAC worked with the Charlotte M. Murkland Elementary School, identified as one of the lowest performing schools in Massachusetts. CTAC helped implement the Standard Bearer Schools improvement model to identify and address the root causes of the school’s underperformance. The school met its three-year improvement goals in a single year and achieved the greatest gains in state test scores of all 35 of the state’s “Level 4” schools, including significant gains in both English and mathematics. Moreover, after sustaining its academic success for three years, Murkland is now recognized as one of only four schools to go from worst to first, from Level 4 to Level 1 (top 20%).

Newark Public Schools, New Jersey. CTAC conducted a systemic school reform initiative in Newark Public Schools. CTAC helped the district involve more than 9,200 parents in school reform, and trained principals, school leadership teams and central administrative staff on organizational assessment, analyzing data, and school-based planning. Further, CTAC assisted a pilot group of schools to identify non-educational needs and create a prototype Comprehensive Health and Human Services Collaborative to coordinate and reconfigure available school and agency resources to address these needs. CTAC also worked directly with the state-appointed superintendent to refocus district attention on the needs of children and schools. This initiative became one of the few examples in the United States in which a school district under state takeover increased student achievement.

Prince William Public Schools, Virginia. CTAC is currently in its second year working with Belmont Elementary School. Many changes were made in the last year, leading to early indications of rapid improvement. Belmont instituted job-embedded professional development with data analysis and long-term planning for every teacher. Belmont has also made a transition in leadership, with the interim leader responsible for successfully reorganizing the school staying on in a mentorship role. As part of the dramatic changes at Belmont, the entire school community has begun engaging in the Standard Bearer Schools process. CTAC provides coaching to teachers, support for the parent liaison and community engagement, and school leadership professional development. The school has made notable progress, focusing on the rigor of tasks across classrooms, engagement of families, and building the capacity of teachers in guided reading, reading strategy groups, and use of math tools.

Richmond Public Schools, Virginia. As a Lead Turnaround Partner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, CTAC is currently providing data analysis, technical assistance and training to three underperforming elementary schools in Richmond Public Schools. Responsible for every facet of turnaround, CTAC conducted school visits, and is guiding school leadership teams through the Standard Bearer Schools (SBS) process, and providing daily on-site support for instruction, leadership and community engagement. CTAC staff members design and deliver professional development tailored to meet the specific needs of administrators, teachers and their students. This includes assisting teachers with strategies to implement highly effective instructional practices in their classrooms and to use formative data regularly to identify and address student learning difficulties. In part, due to this intensive strategy, these schools have seen double-digit gains in both reading and math.

Seattle Public Schools, Washington. In partnership with the Seattle Public Schools, CTAC conducted the project, “No Parent Left Behind,” to strengthen collaboration among parents, school staff and community organizations in support of student achievement and school improvement. CTAC guided a train-the-trainers process to prepare a corps of culturally and linguistically diverse school staff, community organization representatives and parent instructors to train others across the district and community to better understand student, school and teacher data, and assume their roles as partners in school improvement. This initiative engaged parents and community members speaking nine languages (Amharic, Cambodian, Chinese, English, Lao, Somali, Spanish, Tigrigna, Vietnamese) as equal partners in school improvement.

California. CTAC has partnered with numerous school districts and state agencies to implement turnaround efforts in school districts throughout California. CTAC assisted five school districts in Los Angeles County and Santa Clara County to implement the Standard Bearer Schools process and to develop data systems capable of following student achievement at individual classroom, grade, program, school and district levels. All five districts—Campbell Union, Fremont Union and Moreland in Santa Clara County; Walnut Valley and Whittier City in Los Angeles County—met or exceeded California’s Academic Performance Index targets for individual schools and districts.

CTAC was selected by the State of California to assist schools in two districts—Grant Joint Union High School District (now known as Twin Rivers Unified School District) and Vallejo City Unified School District—through the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming School Program (IIUSP). Through this program, CTAC assessed student achievement, current conditions, instructional strategies, and parent involvement. We then assisted each school to develop a plan to address issues identified and to increase student achievement in the subsequent year. Eighty percent of the schools assisted by CTAC showed gains in their Academic Performance Index ratings.

CTAC was engaged by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) to assess and monitor pupil achievement in the Berkeley Unified and Vallejo City Unified school districts, districts coming under state supervision due to district fiscal conditions. Following the standards and criteria developed by FCMAT, CTAC conducted a full audit of pupil achievement and related student services, including assessment, student behavior services, special and categorical programs, and teacher professional development. Based on the audit findings, CTAC made recommendations for improvement and subsequently conducted follow-up evaluations of the degree of implementation of recommendations. Audit recommendations and follow-up recommendations were based on data collected in interviews, student assessments, demographic analysis, artifacts, and classroom observations. The authority and funding for these interventions was provided to FCMAT by the California legislature.