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District-led School Turnaround: Aiming for Ambitious and Equitable Instruction in Shelby County’s iZone

Research Report

District-led School Turnaround: Aiming for Ambitious and Equitable Instruction in Shelby County’s iZone

2020

The Shelby County iZone is a district-led effort to dramatically improve, or “turn around,” 23 of the lowest performing schools in Tennessee in the 15th largest district in the country. Despite circumstances that have proved insurmountable to many past reform efforts, iZone schools have made significant gains in performance in both math and English language arts (ELA).

This report presents the findings of a multi-year research project that sought to understand the iZone’s underlying strategy and the dynamics of implementation as teachers and leaders attempted to maintain growth, expand to more schools, and at the same time move toward more ambitious practices. Our research focused predominantly on math instruction and included a combination of surveys as well as interviews, observations, and focus groups in five case study schools (three elementary and two high schools). The results are particularly germane because, despite the national attention given to experiments like the ASD, the likeliest path to reforming most of the country’s most under-performing schools goes through traditional urban districts like Shelby County (Larbi-Cherif, et al., 2019). For this reason, our analysis has implications not just for the iZone, but also for policymakers, educators, and reformers across the country seeking to tackle similar challenges.

Glazer, Joshua L.; Massell, Diane; Winchell Lenhoff, Sarah; Larbi-Cherif, Adrian; Egan, Cori; Taylor, James E.; Ison, Ashley; Deleveaux, Joelle; and Millington, Zachary. (2020). District-led School Turnaround: Aiming for Ambitious and Equitable Instruction in Shelby County’s iZone.

 

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