Book Review                                                 Page 38


School Turnarounds 

The Essential Role of Districts   

by Heather Zavadsky, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2012, 264 pp. with index, $49.95 hardcover, $29.95 softcover


Read this book to learn about the school district’s role in reform and turnarounds. In School Turnarounds: The Essential Role of Districts, Heather Zavadsky examines the experiences of five urban districts: Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Philadelphia; Denver; Sacramento; and Long Beach, Calif. Each has established turnaround programs and experienced success at least in some priority schools.

By far, the best part of the book is the excellent summary of the role of districts in reform. Highlighting themes from successful, award-winning urban districts, Zavadsky makes a strong case for the districts to establish systems, supports, alignments and strategies that schools cannot make or sustain on their own.

Those hoping to find secrets to a turnaround may be disappointed. No district had universal success. Each included turnaround strategies in its strategic plan, organized turnaround schools into cohorts and provided focused supervision from the highest central-office levels. They also used their turnaround zones to test ideas and practices that could improve performance districtwide.

Near the end of the book, Zavadsky draws on her experience as director of research and implementation at the Texas High School Project to highlight two dozen promising strategies with broad application.

Reviewed by Larry L. Nyland, superintendent, Marysville Schools, Marysville, Wash.


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