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Ask Dr. Lynch: Sustaining School Reform

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader Susan K. asks:

Last month, I was appointed to a task force that was charged with creating a viable school reform plan for my district. We recently convened our first meeting, and the biggest question that came up was “What is the most important ingredient in sustaining school reform?” Can you shed some light on this subject? 


Thanks for the question, Susan. As a school reformer, I am asked this question over and over. I tell people that the most vital part of sustaining school reform is retaining staff members to implement the reforms and improvements. Why? Because the success of any given reform often depends on the consistency of its implementation.

Of course, the implementation of reforms can withstand a certain level of leadership or staff turnover, but it is more difficult to sustain reforms when new faces are being introduced all the time.

A shared vision is challenging to create and maintain without stable leadership and a supportive culture from the staff. It is a simple fact of life that high staff turnover can create instability and have a negative impact on efforts to establish a consistent learning environment for students. High staff turnover is also quite costly, particularly when the recruitment of teachers—and then the training of new teachers in the intricacies of the reform effort—are considered. 

As schools and districts initiate reform efforts, support needs to be given to the recruitment process for teachers. Hiring teachers who “fit” reform goals will likely reduce teacher attrition. Still, more support needs to be available for new teachers. Even teachers who ostensibly have skills and attitudes that align with reform goals will need mentoring and other supports as they begin their jobs.

Every attempt must be made to reduce the debilitating rate of turnover. If you apply my suggested strategies to your situation, you should have no problem sustaining school reform in your district.


About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.


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