Turning around schools: it can be done - Grattan Institute

Turning around schools: it can be done

by John Daley

21.02.2014 report

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Some of Australia’s most troubled schools are turning around their performance to achieve remarkable results and serve as a model for low-performing schools across the country.

Turning around schools: it can be done examines two primary and two secondary schools to show that all of them have succeeded by following the same five steps.

They are: strong leadership that raises expectations, effective teaching with teachers learning from each other, development and measurement of student learning, a positive school culture, and engagement of parents and the local community.

These schools disprove the widespread view that turning around a school only happens with superhuman leaders and teachers. Many of these schools have inspirational figures but the lesson of both Australia and overseas is that any school that rigorously follows these five steps can succeed.

Governments have a key role in supporting schools to make behavioural and cultural change, but they must do more than simply focus on the five steps for school turnaround. They must find a way to commit all parties – government, the education sector and schools – to lasting change.

Governments and schools must develop the skills for change in the five steps, then reinforce them with comprehensive evaluation and accountability mechanisms. These mechanisms must focus on achieving change in the five steps, not just on getting higher test scores.

A commitment to continually change behaviour and practices in the school and classroom is a marked change from many Australian policies to date. But if school turnaround is done well, it will make huge dent in inequality and enrich the lives of the students who need it most.

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