Although school failure and school improvement are complex challenges that look different in different contexts, patterns and trends associated with schools in distress are emerging. This brief describes the characteristics of schools when they show signs of early distress from the perspectives of school leaders and governing board members.
The findings in this report can support school leaders, governing board members, charter school support organizations, and authorizers in creating and sustaining high-quality schools by recognizing the various signs of early school decline before schools spiral into failure. Identifying schools in distress affords schools, and the ecosystem supporting them, the opportunity to intervene earlier, before failure is too deep, systemic, or extensive to recover. With this new understanding of school failure—now more than ever—we have the opportunity and the imperative as a field to identify schools in distress while improvement is still feasible.
This is the third publication in a series on indicators of distress in charter schools. This research brief builds on Part 1: The Role and Perspective of Charter School Authorizers, which identified common indicators of distress among schools in decline from the authorizer point of view. It also follows Identifying Indicators of Distress in Charter Schools: Tools to Support Authorizer Data Collection, a self-guided resource for authorizers to identify indicators of distress, audit their current data collection methods for evaluating indicators of distress, and assess whether and to what extent the schools in their portfolio are showing indicators of distress.