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Turning Around the Lowest-Performing Schools

Over the past few years, both the Public Charter School Board and DCPS have taken the difficult steps needed to address persistent underperformance, including closing or consolidating schools. Race to the Top will continue these efforts, focusing on taking significant action with the very lowest-achieving schools. The District will direct resources to targeted, intensive support and effective interventions to turn around these schools. Intervening in low-achieving schools and implementing rigorous turnaround models—which could include closure—tackles head-on schools that have persistently failed to adequately prepare their students and gives our children an opportunity for educational success.

Through Race to the Top, the District will continue to utilize intervention strategies to address the unique needs of the lowest-achieving schools and schools with persistently low graduation rates. The District has made school turnaround to be a central tenet of its on-going reform plan. As a result, Race to the Top will allow the District to increase its rate of targeted, significant interventions for the lowest-performing schools:

  • The District has identified the lowest-performing schools, focusing its turnaround efforts on those schools with a multi-year record of low performance. Race to the Top focuses on two types of schools for turnaround: 1) schools with graduation rates below 60% over a two-year period, and 2) the lowest achieving 5% of schools identified for improvement. This led to 10 schools being identified as the persistently lowest-achieving schools in 2009-2010.
  • DCPS will additionally target persistently low-achieving schools from among the bottom 20%, rather than just the bottom 5% of the District’s schools.
  • The District’s efforts will leverage other funds and activities to create conditions of support in the schools through additional funding and school modernization efforts, as well as attracting high-quality teachers, administrations, and school leaders. Each school selected will implement one of four turnaround models that are tailored to address the school’s particular circumstances and needs:

    • Turnaround – Create immediate, dramatic results by implementing strategies to recruit, place, and retain school leaders and teachers to meet the needs of students. The comprehensive approach includes new staff placements, high-quality professional development for teachers, and the use of student data to inform instruction practices.
    • Restart – Reopening a school under new management, either through a charter or other non-traditional group, to change the existing culture within the school.
    • Closure – Closing underperforming schools and making space available in other LEAs for children to attend a high-quality school.
    • Transformation – A phase-by-phase approach to change by replacing the principal, utilizing rigorous teacher and principal evaluation systems and professional development programs, and implementing incentives to recruit, place, and retain school leaders and teachers.
Related Services: 
Service Contact: 
Race to the Top
Contact Email: 
Contact Phone: 
(202) 741-5941
Contact TTY: 
Office Hours: 
Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm
Service Location: 

Education, Office of the State Superintendent of

GIS Address: 
810 1st Street NE