This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
School "turnaround" is not a new concept. Faced with evidence that schools weren’t working well, especially for impoverished Black and Latino students, educators here have tried many things to "turn them around."
Over the past 40 years, as racial conflicted roiled and poverty deepened — and as pressure grew to turn out a better educated workforce — school leaders in Philadelphia proposed and enacted a long list of "reforms." They revamped school governance. They overhauled curriculum and schedules. They created entirely new schools. They tried to start over with all new teachers in particularly problem-ridden buildings.
Almost all these initiatives courted controversy and left their mark. A few showed impressive results. All were limited by constantly tight budgets, and many faced either internal or external resistance.
We collected a brief history of some watershed reforms in Philadelphia that can be broadly described as having their roots in "turnaround."