The Challenges and Successes of School Turnaround: Looking Back and Charting the Course Forward


Turning around low-performing schools has been a persistent challenge over the past few decades. This issue has taken on new urgency in recent years against the backdrop of lagging US high school graduation and college completion rates, persistently high dropout rates, and the current administration’s emphasis on having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.  To address this crisis, federal investment is being provided to school districts to turn around low-performing schools.  This forum examined the definition and history of school turnaround, reviewed the range of stakeholders involved, discussed the successes and challenges inherent in turning around chronically underperforming schools, and examined the federal initiatives currently being undertaken to address this crisis.  Warren Simmons, Executive Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, was the presenter.


Click here to view the event video!


Warren Simmons, Ph.D., is a national expert on education policy and K-12 education/school reform.  He directs the Providence-based Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (AISR), a national policy research and reform-support organization that helps urban districts and low-income communities create and sustain excellent and equitable public education systems.  Through its work in district redesign, support for education organizing, and research and policy analysis, AISR currently focuses on three critical areas of urban education reform:  college readiness, extended learning, and teaching and learning.  Simmons is an advocate for “smart education systems” that coordinate educational supports, and school, home and/or community services.
Before joining AISR in 1998, Dr. Simmons was the founding director of the Philadelphia Education Fund a local reform support organization supporting high school reform and the development of new standards and assessments for the School District of Philadelphia. In his 30-year career, he has also held positions at the National Institute of Education, Bank Street College’s Center for Children and Technology, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Prince George’s County Public Schools, and the National Center on Education and the Economy.

Dr. Simmons earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell University and a B.A. from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is also a recent recipient of the Distinguished Citizen’s Award from the National Governors Association and has served on the advisory groups and boards of several prominent national organizations including the National Center on Education and the Economy, the Public Education Network, the Merck Institute, The Time, Learning and Afterschool Task Force, The National Equity Project, and the Campaign for Educational Equity. In addition he has been a member of the California Collaborative and the Pew Forum, and currently he co-chairs the Aspen Urban Superintendents Network.

The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF’s events and policy reports are made possible by the support of a consortium of philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.

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