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Turnaround Talk at Aspen Institute Policy Forum

Pete Gorman, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Jonathan Travers of ERS headlined the Aspen Institute’s Policy Forum on Turnaround. ERS has worked closely with Charlotte on resource strategies since 2008.

Dr. Gorman kicked off the conversation by discussing his district’s overarching strategies for improvement. “We think you need a broad variety of strategies—there is no one size fits all,” said Dr. Gorman. He noted that all work must fit into the entire district strategy—from improving the human resources pipeline to professional development to formative assessments.

Dr. Gorman then dove into his district-wide turnaround strategy, “Strategic Staffing,” the basis of the ERS/Aspen case study, "Strategic Staffing for Successful Schools" released Tuesday. Strategic Staffing leverages the district’s talented teachers and administrators by pulling them into the most struggling schools and supporting the entire faculty to succeed. Charlotte’s plan is based on five tenets:
  • A great leader is needed, a principal with a proven track record of success in increasing student achievement. Also, great teachers will not go to a troubled school without a great leader as a principal.
  • A team needs to go to the school so a person is not alone in taking on this challenging assignment.
  • Staff members who are disruptive and not supportive of reform need to be removed from the school.
  • Principals must be given the time and authority to reform the school.
  • Not all job assignments are equal in difficulty and compensation should be varied to match.
ERS’ Jonathan Travers, Dept of Education’s Brad Jupp, senate policy advisor Celia Sims, and Aspen’s Ross Weiner all jumped into the conversation, examining how this could be applied in other districts and how it might impact the current turnaround movement. “There are a growing number of examples of turnaround happening outside the district context,” Travers explained. “But if we expect to see turnaround happen on the scale we need, it has to start happening because of districts not despite them.”

While it was agreed that this strategy might not be right for all districts, Brad Jupp noted, “As policy leaders, we need good examples like Charlotte to see us through the debate on turnaround.” To learn more about ERS' work with Charlotte, click here.
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