In the spring of 2004, the Virginia Department of Education contracted with the Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education to design and implement the Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program. The program was a key component of Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s landmark Education for a Lifetime Initiative, a set of targeted reforms aimed at improving schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Appreciating the innovativeness of the School Turnaround Specialist Program in combination with the unique partnership existing between Darden and Curry, the Microsoft Corporation, through its Partners in Learning Program, joined forces with the VDOE, the Governor’s Office and the PLE in 2004 through 2006 to support and create a nationally replicable model for the Turnaround Specialist Program.
The PLE has continued to refine its model to ensure its program activities build on lessons learned and tie closely to its theory of intervention around a systemic approach to leadership development. Recognizing success requires broad leadership not just an individual ‘specialist’, the name “Specialist” was dropped from the program’s title in 2013. This strong focus on program enhancement has resulted in increasing the length of the program from two years to three, dramatically increasing the amount of support system leaders receive from our team and aiding our most recent cohorts in achieving the most promising results to date.