What Does It Take to Turn a Struggling School Around?

Adult man helping group of girls at school

Every child deserves to receive a quality education that will prepare him or her to become a well-adjusted, productive member of society. But countless students struggle, and sometimes, the reason for a less-than-adequate education is a poorly performing school. As an administrator in K-12 education, you may one day go to work for a struggling school that hasn’t been meeting state or federal standards. The knowledge you’ll gain from your doctoral research at Grand Canyon University can help you rise to meet these challenges.

Turn school underperformance into an opportunity

Some of the most effective leaders—in any industry—reached the height of their profession because they were able to see windows of opportunity in any situation, no matter how dire that situation seemed. Effective administrators can use a school’s underperforming status as the basis to apply for large infusions of grant money from nonprofit, state and federal entities. It takes a lot more than money to turn around a struggling school but funding provides a necessary foundation for positive change.

Hire resilient and passionate teachers

Teachers are typically evaluated on the basis of their students’ grades, but this doesn’t necessarily provide a complete picture of an educator’s abilities. During the hiring process, look for key characteristics of remarkable educators who can help transform an underperforming school. Great teachers are passionate about the work they do, and they genuinely care about their students’ success and well-being. If a teacher’s resume looks solid, but he or she can’t convey passion for education during the interview, then pass on that candidate and keep looking. At the same time, you also need to maximize opportunities to develop the teachers already at the school. Encourage collaboration among the staff—not with clichéd team-building exercises, but with opportunities to share thoughts on specific students and how to help them. As much as possible, provide flexibility for greater classroom autonomy.

Turn students into stakeholders for their own education

Turning an underperforming school around doesn’t require that you turn every child into a genius overnight. Any child can succeed if he or she is given the right tools, resources and guidance. In order to get kids truly engaged with the curriculum, they need to develop a sense of ownership over their own education. One way to develop this is to create mentorship programs. Reach out to community leaders. Match as many students as possible to good role models in the community. Show the students what they can achieve with an education. And then provide opportunities for students to achieve new heights with programs such as these:

  • After school enrichment programs
  • After school homework support clubs
  • Small group, intensive, “high-dosage” tutoring programs
  • Scholarship incentive programs for students who graduate

Don’t neglect to fund arts education with your newfound grant money, either. Students who participate in fine arts, music and performing arts tend to do better academically, behaviorally, emotionally and socially.

Leaders in education choose Grand Canyon University because of our modern approach, emphasis on servant leadership, and Christian values. The College of Doctoral Studies invites you to click on the Request More Information button. Begin the next phase in your career with a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in K-12 Leadership.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.