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The Forum > Article Comments > Five steps for school turnaround > Comments

Five steps for school turnaround : Comments

By Ben Jensen, published 25/2/2014

Instead, policy should also measure the amount of change occurring in schools in each of the five steps and hold school leaders to account for these changes.

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This report brings together many of the critical studies about school "turnaround". Many of the stories are similar to those described in the extensive studies by the University of Chicago. (See for instance Stephen W. Raudenbush, ‘The Brown Legacy and the O’Connor Challenge: Transforming Schools in the Images of Children’s Potential’, Educational Researcher, 38 (3), 169-180 (2009), Penny Bender Sebring et al, ‘The Essential Supports for School Improvement’, Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago Research Report, September 2006 and Anthony S. Bryk et al, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2010.)

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the five steps and the work just cited does not require school principals to first have responsibility for budget management, it does not involve trimming the curriculum to approved content. But it does involve principals focusing on ensuring high teaching standards and encouraging cooperation and and so on. In other words they are outside the nonsense promoted by Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

These changes can take place in public schools and do not require making public schools independent, as is promoted via the Western Australian model.

The Grattan Institute Report is a further contribution to improving Australian schools, a program increasingly under threat from the federal government contrary to their undertakings at the time of the election when Mr Abbott proclaimed he was on the "same page" as the then Labor government in respect of the Gonski reforms!

Reviews of other examples can be found at and particularly in Education Reform: The Unwinding of Intelligence and Creativity (Springer, 2014) at
Posted by Des Griffin, Tuesday, 25 February 2014 9:55:57 AM
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While constructive Mr Griffin’s references to US studies should be cautiously evaluated to ensure Australia doesn’t slavishly adopt US conclusions as was the fetish with New York school outcomes and Chancellor Klein’s views some years ago.

Similarly caution should be shown in simply modelling Shanghai’s school turnaround program noting the differing cultural and family conditioners involving schooling in many south-east Asian countries.

Presumably Dr Jensen will consider Professor Fullan’s whole system analyses implemented in certain Canadian school systems which would seem to more closely align with Australia’s school operational climate.

Fullan’s approach stresses close and continuing interaction between personnel and schools and sectors where comparative analysis is freed from the numbing bureaucracy of educational administration. Presumably this is where true learning independence will be discovered.

Measuring ‘the amount of change’ in each of the five steps also needs process evaluation whereby improvements – as well as negative outcomes – are shared between professional educators, across institutions and between sectors. For too long the politics of school funding have dominated and destabilized education reform.
Posted by bennery, Tuesday, 25 February 2014 11:13:00 AM
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The idea of schools learning from each other and teachers observe each other's classrooms is not new and radical, it is a standard part of what teachers do. I suggest we need some more radical measures to improve Australia education, which can come from the existing practices of one sector of Australian education: Distance Education. The NT and Queensland education departments have centres which support remote students. This is not so radical as it is a modern Internet version of the School of the Air. However, in addition to supporting individual distance education students at home, they also supports teachers in Commusity Schools in remote areas and students in larger regional schools which can't have a teacher for each specialist subject. The centres provide online materials and remote teaching to support to the local classroom teachers. This blended mode of education provides the student with a local teacher and a class, plus remote specialist support. I suggest this approach could be applied more generally, to support both the students and the teachers. We should get away from the idea of an isolated classroom with one teacher:
Posted by tomw, Wednesday, 26 February 2014 9:05:31 AM
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