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Report: Colorado needs more, better turnaround leaders

Finding principals to successfully lead turnaround efforts in Colorado schools is proving difficult, according to a report issued this week by the Donnell-Kay Foundation.

The report suggests that the state’s districts, Department of Education and lawmakers should make policy changes such as: revamping district hiring and support practices; providing annual reports on how many turnaround leaders the state needs; and funding partnerships with organizations that can provide training to leaders to ensure Colorado’s lowest-performing schools have the kind of leadership needed to improve.

More than a dozen districts and nearly 200 schools are classified “turnaround” or “priority improvement” by the state’s annual assessment, or performance framework. Those districts and schools have five years to manifest drastic improvement in student proficiency and other factors or face state intervention. The “accountability clock,” as it is often referred to, is about to run out on some.

Some of the reports key findings include:

  • Principals are not developing the required skill set needed for turnaround during their preparation programs.
  • Principals in turnaround schools do not have access to professional development support.
  • Principals are rarely offered incentives for their performance at turnaround schools.

There are, however, promising trends the report cited:

  • A growing body of research is identifying the kind of skills turnaround leaders need.
  • More training facilities, dedicated to developing turnaround leaders, are popping up across the nation.
  • A better understanding of the kind of climate and relationship schools need to develop, in partnership with its district or charter authorizer, is crystallizing.

The report, second in a series on school leadership opportunities in the Centennial State published by the Foundation, is based on a 2012 survey of 56 superintendents and charter management organizations.

(Disclosure: The Donnell-Kay Foundation is a funder of Chalkbeat Colorado.)