Blog Post

Insight: What factors helped the first cohort of Utah’s State Turnaround Program succeed?

By: Marin Christensen

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute has had the pleasure to contract with the Utah State Board of Education to conduct qualitative research uncovering common factors of success from the first cohort of schools that exited the Utah School Turnaround Program.

The Utah School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act was passed by the Utah Legislature in 2015 with the aim of identifying and providing outside resources to Utah’s lowest-performing three percent of schools. Schools were identified to start the program in the fall of 2015.

To “exit” the turnaround program, schools identified in 2015 were required to improve their grade by at least one letter after the three-year turnaround period. The Turnaround Program provides each school an independent, state-approved turnaround consultant to customize an improvement plan and provide training and support to leadership and staff.

The Gardner Institute conducted in-depth interviews with each schools’ superintendent, any principal present during the process, a sample of teachers present for the entire process, the turnaround consultant, and the school board chair. This resulted in 70 conversations where clear factors of success, as we