Student Voices: Implications for School Turnaround in Urban High Schools
Olson, Jennifer D.
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This study draws upon planned organizational change theory to better understand how students experience school turnaround in urban high schools. An exploratory sequential mixed methods research design was employed to examine how students experienced turnaround policy and explore student perspectives of how the policy promoted or inhibited positive change within their schools. Senior students at two turnaround urban high schools were surveyed in order to gain the perspectives of as many students as possible. Individual interviews followed to gain a deeper understanding of students’ experiences. Student focus groups were then utilized to give students the opportunity to refute or support initial findings and add further insights. Used together, these data sources provided a comprehensive picture of students’ experiences. Students’ perspectives suggest turnaround is unlikely to happen as rapidly as policymakers expect. Students recognized initial improvements within their schools such as increased security, strong leadership, and an improved school culture. At the same time, they questioned the necessity of wholesale staff replacement, recognized the need to address the broader societal context of their schools, and called for a more rigorous curriculum. In considering students’ experiences and acknowledging student voice as an important component in the school turnaround process, this study offers a perspective on school change that can support and improve school turnaround policy.
urban school reform