School Turnaround


The Division of School Turnaround (DST) supports Tennessee’s highest-opportunity schools and districts with developing and implementing strategies directly aligned to the Best for All priorities of Academics, Student Readiness, and Educators. Through ongoing planning, technical assistance, and data collection, DST ensures that schools and districts utilize evidence-based programs and supports that contribute to sustained improvements and set all students on a path to success.


The Division of School Turnaround (DST) provides school improvement planning support, grant funding opportunities and school turnaround resources for the state’s highest opportunity schools and districts designated as Priority/Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI), and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) based on prioritized needs.

  • DST supports Tennessee’s highest opportunity schools and districts with developing and implementing improvement plans that include the use of high-quality instructional materials to ensure that all children have access to the best academic resources. This includes providing school improvement grant funding to assist with the structure and development of turnaround supports.
  • DST assists schools and districts with developing strategies to support student readiness. Strategies include but are not limited to supporting high-quality programs for students with exceptionalities as well as addressing chronic absenteeism, mental health supports, trauma-informed practices, and wrap-around services.
  • DST supports districts with professional learning opportunities to build educator and leadership capacity in the design, implementation, and monitoring of school improvement strategies to assist in developing, retaining, and recruiting highly effective teachers and leaders in our highest opportunity schools. 

School Designations

Priority schools are identified at a minimum of every three years, but are eligible for yearly exit according to the department's District and School Accountability criteria. Priority schools are identified at a minimum of every three years, but are eligible for yearly exit according to the department's District and Accountability criteria. Focus school identification includes two categories of federal school designations: Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI). Both ATSI and TSI are considered focus schools and are designated as such due to the underperformance of one or more subgroups. The department identifies TSI schools each year and ATSI schools every three years, coinciding with the CSI/priority cycle. For more information on school designations see the 2021 Accountability Protocol.

Funding Criteria

DST awards both federal and state grant funds on a competitive and non-competitive basis. The DST regional directors work with districts to ensure that grant funds are spent on evidence-based turnaround strategies that improve student outcomes.

  • Federal Grants

Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of economically disadvantaged students to help ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate in a high quality education.  The School Improvement Grant program, authorized under section 1003(g) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, allocates funds to states to enable the awarding of grants to school districts for the purpose of providing assistance to schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring under section 1116, to meet accountability requirements.

  • State Grants

The Governor and General Assembly have invested a significant amount of funding to support Priority schools. The allocation of these funds varies from year to year and are awarded based on the availability of funds.

School Turnaround Grant Awards

Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) Grant

Turnaround Action Grant (TAG)

School Turnaround Pilot Program

The School Turnaround Pilot Program Act (Public Chapter 578, now codified at T.C.A. § 49-6-3601, et. seq.) requires the department to create and develop a four-year school turnaround pilot program beginning in the 2021-2022 school year for five schools that are in need of intervention. Under this bill, the department will select five schools in need of intervention that are diverse geographically and diverse in grade levels for the pilot program. These schools will partner with an approved outside vendor to conduct a comprehensive school analysis.  The schools, along with the vendor and a School Turnaround Committee, will develop a School Turnaround Plan.  The School Turnaround Plan will be implemented in years two through four of the pilot. The progress of schools in the pilot program will be compared to progress of priority schools not in the pilot program to determine success.   

In compliance with state procurement laws and rules, the department conducted a formal competitive request for qualifications (RFQ) process to identify and approve the school turnaround experts for the School Turnaround Pilot Program.  This RFQ was conducted to ensure that each qualified school turnaround expert possesses the following qualifications:

  • Has a credible track record of improving student academic achievement in public schools with various demographic characteristics, as evidenced by statewide assessment result
  •  Has experience designing, implementing, and evaluating data driven instructional systems in public schools
  • Has experience coaching public-school administrators and teachers on designing and implementing data-driven school turnaround plans
  • Has experience collaborating with the various education entities that govern public schools
  • Has experience delivering high-quality professional development and coaching in instructional effectiveness to public school administrators and teachers
  • Is willing to travel to a school in need of intervention regardless of the school's location

The approved school turnaround experts for the School Turnaround Pilot program and their contact information are here.

Resource Allocation Review

The Resource Allocation Review (RAR) is a federal requirement that helps to ensure districts with school(s) that have a Priority/Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) designation and/or school(s) that have an Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) designation are identifying the needs of the schools, prioritizing those needs, and addressing the needs with resources that are equitable across high opportunity schools as cited in the Every Student Succeed Act (§ 1111(d)(3)(A)(ii) and § 200.23(a).

The Division of School Turnaround has committed to a periodic review of resource allocations to ensure sufficient support for school improvement in each district serving a significant number of schools identified as CSI/Priority/and or ATSI. Districts will participate in the RAR on a three-year cycle.

School Turnaround Contacts

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)