Resources: Successful Leadership for School Turnaround

Public Impact’s School Turnaround website contains many useful resources on developing leaders for School Turnaround efforts. You can download each of the resources described below at

Using Competencies to Improve School Turnaround Principal Success This paper, produced for the University of Virginia’s School Turnaround Specialist Program, describes how using competencies that predict performance can improve turnaround principal selection, evaluation, and development.  Although the term “competency” often describes any work-related skill, in this context competencies are the underlying motives  and habits—patterns of thinking, feeling, acting, and speaking—that cause a person to be successful in a specific job or role.  The primary critical competencies for school turnaround leader are “achievement” and “impact and influence.” Achievement is having the drive and taking actions to set challenging goals and reach a high standard of performance despite barriers.  Impact and influence is acting with the purpose of affecting the perceptions, thinking and actions of others. This report provides guidance for organizations on how to use competencies to select, evaluate, and develop effective school turnaround leaders.

Competencies for Turnaround Success Series. Public Impact has developed a series of resources designed to support school turnarounds. The series includes guides and toolkits that help select turnaround leaders and teachers based on the competencies–or patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting–that enable them to be successful in turnarounds.

Successful School Turnarounds: Seven Steps for District Leaders.One promising strategy to dramatically improve chronically low performing schools is known as a “turnaround” – a quick, dramatic, sustained improvement in performance brought about by a highly-capable leader. This type of change is different from what many have tried in the past: the changes are bigger and faster, and the press for success is relentless.  Turnarounds also require different types of support and flexibility from district leaders. In this Issue Brief, prepared by Public Impact for The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement at Learning Point Associates, seven steps for district leaders to support the dramatic change required to turn around chronic low performance are outlined. Steps include: making a commitment to dramatic change, choosing turnarounds for the right schools, developing a pipeline of turnaround leaders, providing leaders extra flexibility, holding schools accountable, prioritizing teacher hiring for turnaround schools, and proactively engaging the community. A webcast with summary recommendations is available here.

The Big U-Turn:  In Education Next, Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel describe six leadership strategies that recur in successful school turnarounds. Using the NYC Police Department and Continental Airlines, the authors explain the importance of focusing on a few early wins, breaking organizational norms, pushing rapid-fire experimentation, getting the right staff, driving change with data, and running a “turnaround campaign” to build support for change and silence naysayers.

School Turnarounds: Actions and Results by Dana Brinson, Julie Kowal and Bryan Hassel for the Center on Innovation and Improvement, illustrates how the 14 leader actions of successful school turnarounds have played out. This report provides a description of the 14 leader actions, illustrative vignettes, and an annotated bibliography of the case studies included in the report and builds on Public Impact’s prior work entitled School Turnarounds: A Review of the Cross-Sector Evidence on Dramatic Organizational Improvement, a report on education-specific examples of school turnarounds.

At Core Education, we are dedicated to the human capital initiatives that make School Turnaround work. We know that preparing effective leaders is a key element of successful school improvement for persistently low-achieving schools. For more on our services, see