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Indiana Turnaround Schools: Model for U.S.

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
December 5, 2012

In testimony before the Indiana State Board of Education today, Jeanne Allen, Founder and President of the Center for Education Reform lauded the move by Indiana lawmakers to turn over failing schools to new management and shared the progress she noted in the three “turnaround schools” she visited this week. The schools are now given over on a performance contract, which grants the operator, Charter Schools USA, four years to improve. The 2011 contract was made possible by legislation supported and signed by Governor Mitch Daniels.

“The schools I visited this week are orderly. Educators are in command of their classes,” said Allen. “Students are focused on their work, a stark contrast to the chaos and violence that plagued these schools before the takeover.”

This is a direct result of the provider being granted authority to replace most of the staff and implement their own programs. While the turnaround model has come under scrutiny, with skeptics wondering whether such restructuring of schools will stem the tide of school failure, it’s clear that a key ingredient is the absence of fixed labor contracts and an easing of cumbersome bureaucracy.

Charter Schools USA President Jon Hage also addressed the State Board of Education, saying, “The parents and community are seeing real results already and are highly supportive of our efforts. It’s amazing how quickly students respond to a highly supportive and engaged learning environment.”

Allen concluded, “It was a pleasure to visit these schools and see their great work firsthand. These schools were among the worst in the state. It is early in this process, but we know from research that strong discipline and high behavioral expectations of the sort I witnessed are vital factors in achievement. In addition to dramatically improved environments, I also observed a sense of hope and promise where there was once despair. It is no surprise that Indiana, consistently evaluated as the ‘reformiest’ state in the nation, is leading the nation, providing a model for turning around schools.”