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Limitations in Methodology Mar Report on School Turnarounds

BOULDER, CO (February 14, 2017) – A new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education states its goals as strengthening the evidence base on state-initiated turnarounds and providing guidance to help states use turnaround strategies more effectively. But given multiple methodological limitations, the report fails to elevate either the research base or the policy discourse.

Betty Malen and Jennifer King Rice, professors at the University of Maryland, reviewed Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

The report draws on multiple sources of information to accomplish three related goals: (a) to develop a conceptual framework and profile of state-initiated turnaround strategies, (b) to array the evidence on the effectiveness of turnaround initiatives, and (c) to identify key elements of a successful turnaround strategy. But the report suffers from methodological limitations that severely undermine its usefulness.

Specifically, the methods used to carry out the original research are neither well-described nor justified. This unexplained research involved analysis of state policies, interviews with stakeholders, and illustrative cases. Likewise, the methods employed in the eight evaluations selected to assess the effectiveness of turnaround approaches are not described, and the evidence base produced by these evaluations is insufficient to support the sweeping claims made in the report.

Equally important, explain Professors Malen and Rice, the report neglects to consider relevant research on the specific mechanisms (e.g., school reconstitution, intensive professional development, and private management systems) that states use when they employ the broad turnaround strategies discussed in the report. As a result of these problems, the report neither enhances the evidence base nor provides the substantive guidance state policymakers require to make informed decisions about the use of various school turnaround strategies.

Find Betty Malen and Jennifer King Rice’s review at:

Find Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds, by Ashley Jochim, published by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, at:

NEPC Reviews ( provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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