Turnaround for Children (“Turnaround”) strives to fulfill the promise of public education by helping high-poverty, low-performing public schools create positive learning environments that foster healthy intellectual, social, and emotional growth in every student. Turnaround partners with these schools to provide mental health, social, and instructional supports that improve each school’s culture, learning environment, and capacity to support students.
The key to Turnaround’s approach is addressing, in measurable and targeted steps, the predictable effects of poverty on teaching and learning. Turnaround understands that children living in poverty bring to school the disadvantages of their communities and the challenges of their homes. Teachers often arrive unprepared for the level of disruption and need in their classrooms; even the best school leaders and teachers may feel unequipped to handle these challenges or engage external services in an integrated way.
Over a three-year period, Turnaround provides extensive professional development for teachers and leaders in instructional and behavioral strategies, sets up behavioral and academic intervention systems for the highest-need students, and supports the principals in key school leadership issues. Additionally, Turnaround helps schools establish effective partnerships with community-based mental health providers and other child-serving agencies.
The Turnaround Intervention is rooted in a powerful organizational change strategy for meeting the highly predictable needs of students in high-poverty schools. The goal of this methodical, disciplined change process is a fundamentally redesigned school in which:
- All adults are prepared with the skills they need to succeed and are committed to and accountable for the successful development of all students;
- High academic and behavioral expectations are the rule; and
- There is ready access to the services that are vital to the success of many students living in poverty.
Across their work in over 60 schools, Turnaround’s model of Pathway to Care—the system of behavioral and emotional supports that aims to identify, intervene, and treat the mental health issues of the highest-need students in each school—has increased productive time in classrooms by reducing behavioral disruptions due to unaddressed student mental health issues. As a result, there were significant increases in access to appropriate services for high-need students and strong improvements in the environment for teaching and learning. In schools with strong instructional leadership, this resulted in academic gains. Other schools became safer and calmer, but academic improvement was flat or minimal. In response, Turnaround spent much of the last eighteen months enhancing its model and piloted this expanded approach with selected partners. In the 2012-2013 school year, Turnaround will implement the fully enhanced model to all partner schools, including its six DC partner schools: Cesar Chavez Parkside Middle School, Davis Elementary School, Malcolm X Elementary School, Miner Elementary School, Orr Elementary School, and Wheatley Education Campus.