Chisum, Jamie Brett, Anna Carollo Cross, Jill S. Geiser, and Charles Alexander Grandson IV. “Turning Around Schools”. EdD, Boston College, 2014. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/3812.
This single case study examines how stakeholders of a local education agency (LEA) understand and implement state turnaround policy for its chronically underperforming schools. While there is ample research on how to improve chronically underperforming schools, that research becomes limited when looking at turnaround implementation actions that are in response to policy mandates. This qualitative study uses the theory frame of policy sense-making to identify how implementers come to understand turnaround policy and to explore how that sense-making impacts their implementation decisions. The study findings were that teachers recognized three main stages of turnaround. In the first stage building principals used directive leadership to build a unified vision. Implementers reported that this unified vision was partly brought about by the removal of any teaching staff not in line with the principal's turnaround plan. The second stage of turnaround centered on building teacher capacity through internal and external professional development. Internal professional development meant creating multiple meeting configurations where teachers could stay in touch with the turnaround process, offer input, and continually learn from each other. External professional development involved developing teacher skills to more effectively and more rapidly raise student achievement. Findings from across four different implementer groups pointed to the importance of building teachers' ability to understand and use data to improve their instruction as well as student learning. Time for both types of professional development came largely from the introduction of extended learning time (ELT) that was paid for through state and federal grant monies. In the third stage teachers worried about the sustainability of turnaround once the resources from state and federal grants were gone. Hope for sustainability was found most present within the bonds formed by teachers who grew to rely on and trust one another during the arduous work of school turnaround.