Veteran superintendent brings turnaround model to schools nationwide

The district has secured funding for the first year, but “if we feel good and it’s working,” the district might extend the project to as long as three years, White said.

He said the district will judge the project’s efficacy based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative data—whether factors such as staff development efforts, changes to infrastructure, and efficiency of operation improve.

DiMarco acknowledged that after a major reformer like Vallas leaves, some changes might become undone and new problems might emerge.

Zimny noted that the Vallas system attempts to minimize these long-term problems by integrating its consultants and procedures into local school administrations already in place.

The abrasive “hiring and firing” that has brought notoriety to some other turnaround stories—such as the District of Columbia Public Schools—“is not a part of what we do,” Zimny said.

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When Vallas arrived in Philadelphia, he “brought together” a team of local education experts, many of whom were already working individually on pieces of the problem, DiMarco said. Vallas made their efforts more cohesive under his vision.

White said his staff have been “very receptive” to the Vallas/Voyager intervention.

“They understand they need added support,” he said of the teachers and administrators in his district. “They understand that the problems they deal with are comprehensive problems, and they need a comprehensive approach.”

He added: “We’ve demonstrated improvement, but we feel this project will elevate and escalate our efforts to help us move faster and get greater gains in a shorter period of time.”

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