Ch. 2 - A Cautionary Tale: School Turnarounds and Charter Leadership (HFR '09)

January 2010

In this chapter, Terry Ryan of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation looks into charters as a school turnaround strategy. It’s a cautionary tale, based on Fordham’s experience with sponsoring a charter school in Ohio. One of Ryan’s messages: no one really knows how to do this at the scale required. When Fordham mounted a turnaround effort after its Omega Academy ran into trouble, it hired the wrong new leader and the mistake proved catastrophic: “The damage caused to the school’s reputation by its inheritance of troubled academics and turnaround setbacks at the outset could not be overcome.” A clear take-away from the experience is that the right leadership in turnaround efforts is not simply important, it is essential.