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Mixed Feelings About “Turnaround For Children”


Joe Nocera has a column today in The New York Times titled Addressing Poverty in Schools. In it, he speaks highly of the work by Turnaround For Children, an organization that places a team of four staff in some New York City schools to focus on the most at-risk students. I’ve previously posted postively about the organization — see “How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything.”

It sounds like they do good work, though I am concerned by a paper written by its director, which Nocera linked to in his column. It seemed to be remarkably naive in its praise for much of what “school reformers” have done, especially in charter schools, and didn’t give any indication that the Director knew anything about the “creaming”component of charters (see The Best Posts & Articles Analyzing Charter Schools).

In fact, the more I learned about it, the more I wondered: Instead of creating another organization, why not give each school the same amount of money to hire three or four trained school counselors? In my experience, at least, trained counselors do much of what the Turnaround For Children staff do, and what they don’t do now is because there are so few of them in every school. With more of them, there doesn’t seem to me to be any barrier to them taking on all of the responsibilities listed in the job descriptions of the Turnaround staff.

Am I missing something?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. You’re not missing anything, Larry, except the push to explicitly speak your cynicism out loud. 1) NYC DofE could never hire enough counselors for every school, so organizations are used as ways of going into “partner schools,” which I read as those schools where people feel help is desperately needed and will be put to use (close to the boat schools). If the counseling staff was only increased for a few schools, people would be enraged at the inequity. 2) These groups probably don’t have to work within the hiring structure, which is time-consuming nightmare, or the union’s pay scale. 3) A deeper concern would be that the DofE doesn’t trust its own schools to actually do the work, so they have outside agencies manage them instead of building principals.

    That’s all theory, though. Ultimately, I’m in favor of whatever helps the most students the fastest.

  2. Great post…I had just finished the article. Hiring internal staff would have another benefit…stability. The people would be there longer to get to know the precise community and to build longer-term relationships. This program partly reminded me od TFA- no long-term commitment or understanding.

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