What is Restart?
Restart is defined as closing one underperforming school and opening a new school to serve the same students, often in the same building, under new management. Restarts represent a more dramatic intervention compared with internal school turnaround initiatives, and a preferable alternative to closing schools when students do not have access to other quality options. Restarts should not be initiated as a last-ditch effort to avoid closure of a district or charter school, but as a proactive strategy that authorizers can initiate when the conditions are right. The Restart Authorization Process Guide clarifies the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of “restart” to include the following elements:
- District and charter schools. Restart interventions can be implemented for both low-performing district schools and charter schools.
- New school operator: Restart schools are authorized through contractual arrangements that substantially transfer management and staffing of the school to a new organization.
- New school governance: Most restarts will require a change in school governance, although some exceptions occur.
- Serving the same students: Current students in the low-performing school being closed are guaranteed enrollment in the newly established school or schools.
- Single site, subdivided or consolidated schools: One or more low-performing schools may be closed and restarted by one or more new schools; there does not have to be a 1:1 correspondence.
- Same or nearby facility: The facility of the closing school is typically used as the home for the new school, but some restarts can include a transition to a new facility that is near the closing school.
- Whole-school and phase-in restarts: The new school may open to serve all grades at once upon opening (whole-school) or may serve some subset of grades in year one and add additional grades in subsequent years (phase-in).
Restarts have led to swift and dramatic improvements in low-performing schools when a high-performing organization leads the new school, and systems are in place to facilitate a smooth transition and strong community support. In comparison with other school intervention strategies, restart can be the best option to make rapid gains in student achievement.
Authorizers will need to establish restart policies and practices that are best suited for their local operating conditions, such as:
- Supply of Quality Operators. A restart’s success depends largely on the organization that opens the new school.
- Ability to Engage Community. This process guide includes suggestions for how to authentically engage the community so that schools are set up for sustained success.
- School Performance Transparency. School intervention efforts generally and restart work specifically rely on consistent, transparent accountability systems that publish concise, understandable reports on school performance.
- Authorizer authority. State and local policies should provide a clear mandate about the urgency for school intervention and the appropriate authority to implement restarts in chronically low-performing schools.