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Driving Improvement in Low-Performing Schools: Lessons From Five Years of Research on Turnaround Effects

Beginning in 2012, Tennessee implemented new school improvement policies aimed at the bottom five percent of schools. Five years later, the Tennessee Department of Education considered updates to its reform strategy, particularly its two most prominent efforts, the Achievement School District (ASD) and iZone schools. This brief summarizes key findings from TERA research on student achievement, teacher and student mobility, and community engagement. 

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Key Findings:

driving improvement chart  

  • Evidence of success emerged earlier in iZone schools than in ASD schools.

  • The ASD and iZones both were able to recruit high-quality teachers, but the ASD struggled to keep them

  • ASD operators faced new and unexpected challenges and tended to solve them as individual operators. Collective learning and sharing processes have not yet emerged.

  • The ASD currently faces a crisis of legitimacy and historically rooted community tensions.