An Institutional Perspective on School Turnaround

Published In

School turnaround in secondary schools : possibilities, complexities, and sustainability

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Educational change, School improvement programs


When the de Blasio administration took charge of New York City schools, they reversed a decades-long policy of closing schools that failed to show adequate student growth. They embarked on an ambitious strategy called "School Turnaround" and promised increased investment, resources, and holistic school support. School turnaround centered on cultivating effective instruction, bringing behavioral support, and selecting school leaders who could implement improvement plans grounded in managerial philosophy of clear goals, action plans, and aligned strategies. This chapter analyzes this new policy, one that has almost been uniformly unsuccessful, from an institutional perspective. This is a different view because it assesses schools and their functioning on the bases not of individuals, teams, and their rational plans but on the dimensions of legitimacy, authenticity, and community responses. Institutions are a collection of both formal and informal norms, rules, and values. When school management is guided by centralized plans or models of improvement designed from other contexts, even the force of bureaucratic power cannot impose order when it is not viewed as legitimate. Authority cannot be asserted without consent; it can only be granted by stakeholders. With this view, essentially a cultural interpretation of schools, it is argued that efforts at "institutional monocropping" will most often lead to failure without attending to the needs of a community.


© Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Persistent Identifier