In his recent remarks at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan focused on chronically underperforming schools. “They’re often unsafe, underfunded, poorly run, crumbling, and challenged in so many ways that the situation can feel hopeless,” he said. And they’re a full 5 percent of our nation’s schools — some 5,000 in total.

Education reformers offer two strategies for redeeming these schools: turnaround and fresh start. Turnaround...

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