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School Turnaround Research Alliance

Research Alliance Quicktabs

Research alliances connect practitioners, researchers, and policymakers around regional education challenges. Alliances are tasked with addressing these challenges through regional research, technical assistance, and dissemination projects. Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest supports eight alliances.

Taishya Adams

Alliance Lead
Taishya Adams, Senior Technical Consultant at AIR
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Please connect with us for more information about the alliance or to get involved.

Alliance GoalsAlliance Goals

The School Turnaround Research Alliance builds capacity among its SEA members to identify and address school turnaround challenges related to policy and practice through regional research, technical assistance, and dissemination projects. The School Turnaround Research Alliance’s research informs the development of evidence-based tools, processes, and policies to help states, districts, and schools support school improvement efforts.

Guiding Research QuestionsGuiding Research Questions

  1. What methodologies most precisely and consistently identify BTO schools?
  2. What strategies and practices differentiate BTO schools from demographically similar schools that are persistently low performing?


Taishya Adams

Alliance Lead
Taishya Adams, Senior Technical Consultant at AIR
View Bio

Please connect with us for more information about the alliance or to get involved.

Alliance MembersAlliance Members

Chad Bailey, Michigan Department of Education

Shari Bernstein, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Teresa Brown, Indiana Department of Education

Ann Clark, Minnesota Department of Education

Toni Cox, Minnesota Department of Education

Joe Curiel, Minnesota Department of Education

Andrea Faulkner, Ohio Department of Education

Lisa Grundstrom, Minnesota Department of Education

Greg Keith, Minnesota Department of Education

Dan LaDue, Michigan Department of Education

Carolyn Paulaitis, Iowa Department of Education

Mike Radke, Michigan Department of Education

Karen Ruple, Michigan Department of Education

Jennifer Vargo, Ohio Department of Education

Jo Hannah Ward, Ohio Department of Education

Jonas Zuckerman, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction


Alliance MembersAlliance Researchers

Monica Bhatt, Researcher


Technical Assistance ProjectsTechnical Assistance Projects Develop systems, surveys, and other tools to help stakeholders apply data to their work

Evaluation Plan Development for the Minnesota Centers of Excellence (2012–14)

Goal: To support the Minnesota Department of Education in its efforts to support and evaluate the Regional Centers of Excellence, part of the state’s system of support. These centers are supported by the Minnesota Department of Education and assist districts and schools in raising student achievement and reducing the achievement gap in the state’s lowest performing schools.


  • REL Midwest produced an evaluation plan for the Minnesota Department of Education to use as a guide for evaluating its statewide system of support.

Beating the Odds Survey Development (2012–14)

Goal: To provide information that will inform efforts in Michigan to create and implement practices and policy levers that are designed to improve student achievement in low-performing schools.


  • REL Midwest assisted the Michigan Department of Education in developing a survey to examine practices, policies, and organizational variables in Beating the Odds (BTO) schools (schools that perform better than statistically expected for their level of poverty) and low-performing schools that are demographically similar to BTO schools.

Validating the BTO Survey of Teachers and Administrators (2014–15)

Goal: To validate the BTO survey that will assist the Michigan Department of Education in identifying potential organizational and policy differences between BTO schools and demographically similar low-performing schools.


  • Implement several steps to validate the survey, including conducting cognitive interviews with teachers and principals, establishing a sampling design, analyzing the survey data from a pilot administration by the Michigan Department of Education, and revising the survey instrument.

A Review of Statistical Decisions Made to Create Lists of High-Performing Schools (2015–16)

Goal: To examine how other state education agencies, researchers, and policymakers identify BTO or similarly designated schools.


  • Conduct a literature review to provide the School Turnaround Research Alliance with a better understanding of the variables it might consider for identifying BTO schools and reassess the choices of variables used to measure community wealth.

Building a Continuous Improvement Model for School Turnaround in Michigan

Goal: To support the Michigan Department of Education in improving the statewide system of supports to Focus schools, which are schools with the greatest achievement gaps.


  • REL Midwest convened a networked improvement community consisting of school, district, and state education staff in monthly meetings to diagnose a problem of practice contributing to achievement gaps in Focus schools, design an intervention, and engage in Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles to measure change over time.

Improving Minnesota’s Statewide System of Support: Identifying How State Education Agency Personnel Can Better Support the Implementation of Regional Centers for Excellence (2015-16)

Goal: To assist the Minnesota Department of Education with establishing and sustaining a networked improvement community (NIC) focused on improving the supports that it provides to the state’s six Regional Centers of Excellence, which provide supports for schools with large achievement gaps.


  • Collaborated with leaders at the Minnesota Department of Education to recruit NIC members, developed a survey instrument and interview protocols to learn about areas for improvement, reported survey and interview findings to NIC members, facilitated conversations about where to target improvement efforts, and provided the department with a final report.


Research ProjectsResearch Projects Collect and analyze data and summarize information for dissemination

How Methodology Decisions Affect the Variability of Schools Identified as Beating the Odds (2012–15)

Goal: To examine how a list of beating the odds (BTO) schools might change depending on the methodological choices and selection of indicators used in the BTO identification process.


  • Different sets of BTO schools were identified even when similar specifications were applied across statistical methods.

  • The lists of BTO schools varied with the choice of indicators for each statistical method used.

  • Fewer than half of the schools were identified as BTO in more than one year. 

Identifying Practices of BTO Schools (2014–15)

Goal: To identify practices and policies that are unique among BTO schools and can transfer to other lower performing schools.


  • Analyze survey data to determine likenesses and differences between a representative sample of BTO and non-BTO schools on factors potentially linked to school success.

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