School Turnarounds: Sharing Successes

As we get deeper into the school year, OESE in particular is focusing on supporting schools and districts as they implement turnaround models, using our school improvement grants.

I wanted to share this video of a particularly inspiring example of a successful turnaround school: George C. Hall Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama. OESE’s deputy assistant secretary, Dr. Carl Harris, tells me that he shared this very example at a turnaround event held just yesterday in North Carolina. I think it’s really helpful to share success stories with one another, and to create these communities of practice.

If you have success stories, please do share them with me – email me at

School Turnarounds: Learning from Practice and Research

I mentioned how busy it was last week for the Department – it was also a busy week for me personally, as I traveled to California to take part in several conferences and events!

In particular, I had the privilege of attending a conference on school turnarounds, which brought together school, district, and state leaders from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. The conference focused on sharing research available on school turnarounds, and provided valuable information on how to apply these research-based practices on the ground. This sharing and learning from one another will be critical as states and districts move forward with the important work of turning around low-achieving schools to better serve our students.

I really enjoyed the panel of superintendents, who discussed their work in turning around schools in their districts. It was truly inspiring to hear about the great work that is happening on the ground! I particularly want to acknowledge two superintendents who are doing incredible things with their schools: Heath Morrison, of Washoe County School District in Nevada, and Marcus Johnson, from the Sanger Unified School District in California. I know everyone in attendance appreciated the opportunity to learn from these leaders, and I would encourage others to seek out these superintendents and others to create communities of learning and practice!

In other school turnaround news, we released our second issue of the School Turnaround newsletter not too long ago, and it’s available online. The newsletter aims to connect states and districts to school turnaround resources that are available online and through various publications.

We hope these resources are useful to states, districts, and schools. As always, if you have any suggestions and feedback, please don’t hesitate to email me at

Reflections on Successful Schools

As I mentioned in my first post, I recently visited schools and celebrated back to school time out west.

I had the pleasure of visiting a school in Tacoma, Washington – Lincoln High School – on its first day of school. Specifically, I toured the high school’s Lincoln Learning Center program – a small program in its 3rd year that offers its students extended learning time and a strong dose of college-prep support. Any Lincoln High student who wants to be a part of Lincoln Learning Center is accepted into the program, and both Lincoln High and Lincoln Learning Center serve populations that are high minority and high poverty.

The program is amazing. I met some wonderful students and top-notch instructors. The academic progress students are making at the Lincoln Learning Center is impressive. Above all, I experienced a moment I’ll never forget: I asked the students in an English class to raise their hands if they planned on going to college. And, all the hands in the room went up.

This made my day, if not my week! Classrooms like this one – and programs like the one at Lincoln – are what is going to get us to President’s Obama 2020 goal: for this country to have the highest rate of college completion in the world. I applaud the incredible students, teachers, and school leaders at the Lincoln Center, as well as all of the students, teachers, and school leaders across the country doing similarly amazing work. You serve as models for others by preparing our students for success.

Dr. Meléndez