Partnership for Leaders in Education

UVA-PLE - Research & Resources

Research & Resources

Take a Deep Dive Into How UVA-PLE Has Benefitted Other Communities

  • Evidence of Impact

    Evidence That In-Service Professional Learning for Educational Leaders Matters

    Educator leadership requires continuous development, including extended professional learning opportunities for principals in the field. This is also true for district leaders who likely have even fewer robust opportunities to grow professionally. We conducted a comparative interrupted time series of publicly available student achievement data from New Mexico to analyze the impact of a university-based organization that partners with district leaders to provide intensive professional learning opportunities for district leaders and school principals. We found positive impacts on student achievement in math and for English learners in English language arts. Implications for educator preparation and in-service programs are considered.

    From 2010 through 2015, UVA-PLE began partnerships with 11 New Mexico districts, four of which partnered (or enlisted new schools) multiple times. In total, 56 schools began working with UVA-PLE during the five year window. We compared achievement trends of UVA-PLE schools with their matched comparison schools to derive evidence of impact from our partnerships with the State, Districts, and Schools. 

    Buyer Beware: Using External Providers to Improve Schools 

    Whether they’re seeking to improve instruction, revamp their curricula, or provide more social-emotional support, schools with limited staff time and resources often turn to outside experts for help. These organizations — also known as external providers — differ considerably with respect to the services they provide, how they provide them, and the extent to which they have evidence that their services are effective.

    Assessing School Turnaround: Evidence from Ohio

    While NCLB and the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program have devoted significant time and attention to turnaround, very little empirical evidence substantiates whether and how these efforts work. This study employs a comparative interrupted time series (CITS) to examine a sample of 20 Ohio schools that participated in a school turnaround program (UVA-PLE) and finds participating schools experienced meaningful improvements in student achievement after completing the two-year program, which persisted and grew in the two years subsequent to the completion of the program.

    Missouri and Ohio Schools Make Significant Improvement Through UVA Turnaround Program

    This study follows 34 elementary and middle schools in Missouri and Ohio throughout the course of their participation in the University of Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program (STSP). Our evaluation of the STSP employs a triple differences model, comparing participating schools to nonparticipating schools within the same district as well as comparable schools in different districts. On average, participating schools experienced statistically significant improvements in student achievement after completing the two-year STSP.

    School Leadership Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence Review

    The RAND Corporation conducted a synthesis of the evidence base on school leadership interventions to better inform the use of school leadership interventions under ESSA. RAND Corporation's review of evidence uncovered two school reform models — the KIPP model and the UVA-PLE School Turnaround Specialist Model — with significant (tier I, II or III) evidence of impact on school performance.

    So Many Educational Service Providers, So Little Evidence 

    This study is an initial effort to begin to better understand the turnaround industry’s supply side. The researchers use qualitative research techniques to analyze the websites of 151 school-turnaround providers that have been endorsed, either directly or indirectly, by 13 state education agencies with publicly available lists of providers. In addition, they conduct a systematic review of the research evidence behind each provider, finding that the types of providers and the services that they purport offering vary considerably.

  • Case Studies & News

    Fired up in Fulton: Benjamin Banneker achieves torrid transformation in complex district

    Fulton County Schools district leaders decided in 2014 to take a bold and strategic approach to transforming Benjamin Banneker High School and its feeder schools south of Atlanta. They knew the district faced serious systemic challenges, and overcoming them would be key to the transformation’s success. Leadership had been one of the original concerns driving the transformation effort. Over the four years prior to Dr. Bradley securing the principal position, the school had been led by three different administrators.

    Rocky Mountain Heights: Colorado School District Finds Path to Improvement through UVA-PLE

    In the 2015- 2016 school year, APS’s Northeast zone, also known as Community P, contained five schools with the dreaded priority improvement label. It was after that year the district first engaged University of Virginia Partnership for Leaders in Education to help turn things around. The PLE proved to be the most effective initiative the district employed. 

    Caddo Becomes Highest Performing Large School System in Louisiana

    Caddo Parish set the pace for student growth, becoming one of only two districts in Louisiana to improve in all nine categories of student performance assessed by the state, according to data released Wednesday by the Louisiana Department of Education.

    Four Local Schools Hit Highest State Accreditations

    This week, the Colorado Department of Education released preliminary accreditations for schools across the state, and four Cortez campuses have achieved the highest accreditation plan rating.

    Fulton County Schools Achievement Zone Transformation

    When Georgia’s Fulton County Schools formed its achievement zone, the district hoped to improve a cluster of 10 struggling schools characterized by poverty and low achievement. Now, three years later, strategies forged in the achievement zone are transforming the entire district, thanks to the school board’s willingness to take the calculated risks necessary.

    Gallup-McKinley County Schools, New Mexico

    One of Mike Hyatt’s goals when he became superintendent was to have folks from the district central office spend more time in schools than they had previously. Driving two hours to do a school walkthrough or go on a classroom visit with a principal wasn’t ideal.

    Developing Turnaround Leadership: An Example from Utah's Ogden School District

    With the goal of developing leaders who could turn around low-performing schools in the Southwest, the West Comprehensive Center at WestEd partnered with the UVA-PLE. 

    Fair Park High School, Caddo Parish, Louisiana 

    Using his typical recruiting style, Principal Daigle sought out the best and brightest talent from the area and formed his team.

    Northeast Elementary School, Farmington, New Mexico

    As the staff reflects on the past, they describe Candace’s arrival as shaking everyone to their core. The urgency was clear and they had a leader who was willing to do whatever it takes. 

    Lincoln Elementary School, Ogden, Utah

    Lincoln continues its journey towards becoming the highest performing elementary school in Ogden. After four years of focused reform, Lincoln has advanced from an F to a B (before the shift in cut scores, they had earned an A). 

    Ocotillo Elementary School, Washington, Arizona 

    Distributed leadership and positive behavior incentives were organizing principles for Ocotillo’s new vision, but the focus on tier 1 instruction required transformational change.  

    Assessing School Turnaround: Evidence from Ohio 

    This study examines 20 Ohio schools that participated in the UVA-PLE School Turnaround Specialist Program and finds participating schools experienced meaningful improvements in student achievement. 

    State-Initiated School Turnaround Strategies: Leveraging the State Education Agency to Drive Meaningful Change  

    Eight states partnered with the UVA-PLE School Turnaround Specialist Program to give state education agencies a leadership role in driving, managing and supporting a targeted school turnaround approach. 

    Lift-off: Launching the School Turnaround Process in 10 Virginia Schools

    Lift-off contains the stories of 10 exceptional educators and their efforts to turn around 10 low-performing Virginia public schools.

  • Research that Supports PLE Framework


    Principal Competencies that Make a Difference: Identifying and Validating a Model for School Turnaround

    This study seeks to illuminate principal competencies that support an individual's ability to influence turnaround as evidenced by increased student achievement.

    Hitt, D. H., Meyers, C. V., Zhu, G., & Woodruff, D. (2018).  Journal of School Leadership.

    School Turnaround Principals: What Does Initial Research Literature Suggest They Are Doing to be Successful?

    As the research literature on principals leading school turnaround grows, determining whether or not real differences between good — even effective — principals and turnarounds becomes increasingly important.

    Meyers, C. V. & Hitt, D. H. (2017). Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk.


    Support & Accountability

    No One Way: Differentiating School District Leadership and Support for School Improvement

    This article examines findings from a qualitative investigation of how school district administrators in four mid- to large sized urban school districts (10,000–50,000) identify and address differences in school performance. The analysis explores the interaction between district policies and actions that centralize and standardize expectations for teaching, learning and leadership, and those that lead to the differentiation of district support to schools depending upon their identified needs.

    Anderson, S. E., Mascall, B., Stiegelbauer, S., Park, J. (2012). Journal of Educational Change.

    Six Districts Begin the Principal Pipeline Initiative

    The initiative’s theory of change holds that when an urban district and its partners provide aspiring principals with training, evaluation and support following these specifications, the result will be a pipeline of principals able to improve teaching quality and student achievement.

    Turnbull, B.J.,  Riley, D. L.,  Arcaira, E. R., Anderson, L. M., & MacFarlane, J. R. (2013).  Wallace Foundation.


    Talent Management

    Teacher Recruitment and Retention: A Review of the Recent Empirical Literature

    This article critically reviews the recent empirical literature on teacher recruitment and retention published in the United States. It examines the characteristics of individuals who enter and remain in the teaching profession, the characteristics of schools and districts that successfully recruit and retain teachers, and the types of policies that show evidence of efficacy in recruiting and retaining teachers. 

    Guarino, C. M., Santibanez, L., & Daley, G. A. (2006). Review of Educational Research.

    School Turnaround Through Scaffolded Craftsmanship

    The following study provides a unique internal perspective on changes made in schools that “turned around” versus schools that are in the process of “turning around” versus schools that are “stuck.”

    Thompson, C. L., Henry, G. T., & Preston, C. (2016). Teachers College Record.


    Instructional Infrastructure

    Effective Instructional Time Use for School Leaders: Longitudinal Evidence from Observations of Principals

    Scholars have long argued that principals should be instructional leaders, but few studies have empirically linked specific instructional leadership behaviors to school performance. This study examines the associations between leadership behaviors and student achievement gains using a unique data source: in-person, full-day observations of approximately 100 urban principals collected over three school years. 

    Grissom, J. A., Loeb, S., & Master, B. (2013).  Educational Researcher.

    Research Use as Learning: The Case of Fundamental Change in School District Central Offices

    A growing number of school districts across the country have been exploring or initiating reforms that call for major changes in how their central offices support the ambitious equity goal of high-quality teaching and learning for each student and intentionally turning to what they consider “research” to guide the process. 

    Honig, M.I.,  Venkateswaran, N., & McNeil, P. (2017). American Educational Research Journal. 

    Linking the Central Office and Its Schools for Reform

    This study investigates how linkages between a central office and its schools served as administrative controls while fostering professional accountability and organizational learning. 

    Johnson, P. & Chrispeels, J. (2010). Educational Administration Quarterly.

  • Resources

    Four Levers for Transformation

    An Overview of the Levers and Conditions for Transformation

    This overview outlines the organizational conditions most critical for transformation success based on a review of the literature and more than 17 years of practice with over 80 districts from over 20 states. UVA-PLE identified four key levers at the district that drive successful and sustainable school transformation. The levers are: System Leadership, Support and Accountability, Talent Management, and Instructional Infrastructure.


    District Lens

    How Districts and States can Support Instructional Transformation in the Turnaround Context

    This paper includes a synthesis of a series of interviews from 2 UVA PLE district partners, using protocols based on the framework defined in our Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: A Systems Framework, to determine how these districts enacted two key instructional transformation practices: (1) diagnosing and responding to student learning needs, and (2) providing rigorous, evidence-based instruction.

    4 Domains for Rapid School Improvement

    The Center on School Turnaround at WestEd has developed this framework that shares, in practical language, the critical practices of successful school turnaround in four domains that research and experience suggest are central to rapid and significant improvement: turnaround leadership, talent development, instructional transformation, and culture shift.

    A Rubric for Assessing Schools' Plans for Rapid Improvement

    Drawing from the research literature and our extensive practical experience with the University of Virginia Partnership for Leaders in Education, the rubric includes 12 key planning domains that support effective year-long or short-cycle SIPs. 

    District Readiness to Support School Turnaround

    This guide provides state education agencies and districts with guidance about how to assess the district’s readiness to support school turnaround initiatives. 

    Leading Indicators of School Turnaround

    The success of a turnaround strategy in education will depend largely on the speed with which districts and leaders spot schools that are off-track and quickly redirect major change.

    Prioritizing Talent in Turnaround: Recommendations for Identifying, Hiring and Supporting Principals and Teachers in Low-Performing Schools

    Specifically, this report conveys what UVA-PLE researchers and field team members have learned from a project examining how districts prioritizing their lowest-performing schools attract and recruit high-potential candidates for principalships and teaching positions.

    State-Initiated School Turnaround Strategies: Leveraging the State Education Agency to Drive Meaningful Change

    This monograph presents findings from an analysis that examined eight states’ approaches to initiating a turnaround model and identified lessons learned to inform future practice for the UVA-PLE and for the field. 


    Leadership Actions

    Coaching and Developing Turnaround Leader Actions

    The goals of the module are to develop understanding of the connection between turnaround leader competencies and the actions of successful turnaround leaders and to learn strategies for coaching and developing turnaround leaders.

    Examples of Actions Taken by Principals Trying to Lead Turnaround

    Not all of the principals highlighted in this report have successfully turned around their schools, but we intend for these examples to be helpful to other principals, teacher-leader teams, and principal supervisors who are looking to approach turnaround work with strategic, but less common actions in an effort to get new, better results.

    Promising Leadership Practices for Rapid School Improvement That Lasts

    The promising practices presented here are derived from a comprehensive review of relevant literature, both within and beyond the field of education, and from the experience of five school principals who not only facilitated school turnaround but also catalyzed considerable ongoing growth in student achievement for at least four years following their school’s initial turnaround.

    School Turnarounds: A Review of the Cross Sector Evidence on Dramatic Organizational Improvement

    The literature regarding effective school practice is broad and deep, and these practices have been documented to be a core aspect of effective turnaround schools. However, these practices do not provide insight into the process of transforming a chronically failing school into a successful school.

    School Turnarounds: Actions and Results

    While School Turnarounds provides a useful conceptual framework of leader actions, education leaders are also eager for compelling examples of how those actions have played out in actual school turnarounds. As a result, this report provides descriptive, real-world vignettes that illustrate for practitioners the actions that successful school leaders have taken to turn around low-performing schools. 


    Principal Section and Development

    Importing Leaders for School Turnaround - Lessons and Opportunities

    Potentially thousands of leaders capable of managing successful turnarounds in public schools work outside education, in nonprofit and health organizations, the military, and the private sector. 

    No Time to Lose: Turnaround Leader Performance Assessment

    As federal and state dollars flow to districts and individual schools charged with embarking upon transformative change efforts, districts must adopt a laser-sharp focus on assessing leaders' performance on an accelerated timeline. 

    Recruit, Select and Support: Turnaround Leader Competencies

    This three-part professional learning module — developed through a partnership between the Center on Great Teachers and Leadersthe Center on School TurnaroundPublic Impact and the University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education — provides state and district leaders with tools to identify and apply turnaround leader competencies to the selection and development of school turnaround leaders.  

    School Turnaround Leaders: Competencies for Success

    This guide aims to help districts attempting turnarounds understand the underlying characteristics of leaders likely to succeed in this unique context, based on the best available research to date. As more schools attempt turnarounds, increasingly accurate, detailed descriptions of leaders who are successful in this context will be possible. 

    School Turnaround Leaders: Selection Toolkit

    The school turnaround leader competencies — or consistent patterns of thinking, feeling, acting and speaking — included here are the best currently known, measurable distinguishers between very high performers and more typical or lower-performing leaders in a turnaround setting. 

    Thought Leadership Forum Brief: Turnaround Leadership and Leadership Competencies

    This brief summarizes the information presented in the January and February 2018 forums, which explored the transformative uses of turnaround leader competencies for supporting existing principals and as a basis for identifying, recruiting, and developing new leaders to serve in complex and challenging settings.

    Using Competencies to Improve School Turnaround Principal Success 

    Two major factors affect turnaround success: the characteristics and actions of the turnaround leader, and the support for dramatic change that the leader and staff receive from the district, state, and/or other governing authority. 

    “What it Takes” For a Turnaround: Principal Competencies that Matter for Student Achievement – A Guide to Thoughtfully Identifying and Supporting Turnaround Leaders

    In this guide, we call upon our practice-based experience, expertise, and insight to provide both technical assistance and thought leadership to districts and systems involved in “school turnaround.”