Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel: Improving Chronically Low-Performing Public Schools: The Role of Public Policy Interventions

Thursday, November 12, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Tequesta (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  John Papay, Brown University
Panel Chairs:  Jane Lincove, University of Texas, Austin
Discussants:  Elaine M. Allensworth, University of Chicago and Ron Zimmer, Vanderbilt University

The Impact of Mandated Interventions in Low-Performing Schools Under ESEA Waivers
Shaun Dougherty and Jennie Weiner, University of Connecticut

Can States Takeover and Improve School Districts? Results from Lawrence, Massachusetts
Beth Schueler, Joshua Goodman and David Deming, Harvard University

Over the past five years, policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels have undertaken the challenging task of “turning around” schools with chronically low performance. Through additional resources, staffing changes, and even school closures, policymakers have sought to radically improve the performance of these schools. The most prominent effort in this regard comes in the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, which provided incentives to states to implement more aggressive policy prescriptions. The papers in this panel explore multiple policy approaches to improving outcomes for students attending such schools in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Orleans. The first paper investigates the impact of the latest, and as yet unexamined, federal educational accountability policy aimed at school improvement, the waivers to the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Using a regression-discontinuity design and data from Rhode Island, the authors conclude that requirements for schools to implement many new interventions may indeed suppress student achievement. The second and third explore turnaround efforts in Massachusetts, at the school and district level. The second paper used several quasi-experimental approaches to estimate the effect of being labeled as a low-performing school, and being eligible for SIG funding, on student achievement. The third paper uses similar methods to examine a whole-district turnaround strategy in Lawrence, MA. Both papers find strong evidence that turnaround approaches – at the school and district level – improved student achievement. Finally, the fourth paper explores a different type of turnaround approach, studying the impacts of charter restarts and closures on student performance in New Orleans. Taken together, by examining school turnaround efforts across the country, this panel will a) draw lessons regarding promising approaches to school improvement, and b) identify important unresolved questions for future research on improving outcomes for students in under-performing schools.
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