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#AskExcelinEd: What are the 4 state policy levers for school turnaround?

• Adriana Harrington

School turnaround is hard—arguably one of the hardest things to do in education. Just last year, states identified 5,664 schools across the nation as Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) schools—meaning that thousands of students attended schools that performed in the bottom 5% of their state’s accountability framework and/or had a graduation rate below 67%.

States, parents, educators, principals and communities across the nation are working tirelessly to support students within these schools, but they need state-level guidance and support to enact significant, lasting change.

Policy Recommendations & Levers to Support School Turnaround

The brief presents three recommendations that provide a framework to think about how to strengthen the main state-level policy levers to support school turnaround.

  1. Integration: Ensure school turnaround funds and initiatives are integrated in existing structures and across workstreams.
  2. Coherence: Guarantee there is coherence to select priorities in funding and support.
  3. Guardrails: Implement guardrails on statewide systems and more rigorous turnaround initiatives.

State education agencies also have four main policy levers to support school turnaround. They must consider each lever and how it works in tandem with the others to create a comprehensive approach. Pulling too firmly on one, without strengthening the others can result in an incomplete support structure.

Learn More

Check out the brief to learn more and to explore detailed examples of how states are using these policy levers. For questions about school turnaround policies in your state, please contact

About the author

Adriana Harrington @AdrianaHarrin17

Adriana Harrington is the Director of Innovation Policy. Prior to joining ExcelinEd Adriana worked at the Tennessee Department of Education, most recently serving as the Director of Project Management for the Division of Consolidated Planning and Monitoring and the Division of School Improvement. In this role, Adriana lead the department’s statewide school improvement initiatives to increase student outcomes in schools performing in the bottom five percent. She previously served as the Program Manager, Student Readiness for the Division of College, Career and Technical Education. Adriana was also a high school social studies teacher in Memphis for several years and a Teach for America Corps Member. Adriana earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in History from the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters of Public Policy from Duke University.