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The Paradoxical Logic of School Turnarounds: A Catch-22

by Tina Trujillo - June 14, 2012

In the 1955 classic novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller chronicles the absurdity of the bureaucratic rules and constraints to which a conflicted Air Force bombardier and others are subjected. Each character lives under the absolute, yet illogical, power of these policies. The Obama administration’s current school turnaround policy is a catch-22. This policy mandates that low-scoring schools fire principals and teachers and change schools’ management. Such reforms engender the exact conditions that research has linked with persistent low performance—high turnover, instability, poor climate, inexperienced teachers, and racial and socioeconomic segregation. In this way, the policy presents potential turnaround schools with certain impossible dilemmas, or catch-22s, because implementation is likely to lead schools back to the original problems that the turnaround was supposed to solve.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 14, 2012
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16797, Date Accessed: 11/25/2020 12:11:11 AM

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About the Author
  • Tina Trujillo
    University of California, Berkeley
    E-mail Author
    TINA TRUJILLO is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of California at Los Angeles and an M.A. in education from the University of Colorado Boulder. She uses mixed methods to study a range of school improvement phenomena, including the political dynamics of urban district reform, the unintended consequences of educational policies and reforms for students of color and English learners, and trends in educational leadership.
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