Panel Paper: The Role of Governance in School Turnaround Policies: The Case of Tennessee's Achievement School District

Thursday, November 3, 2016 : 8:15 AM
Columbia 3 (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ron Zimmer1, Gary Henry2 and Adam Kho1, (1)Vanderbilt University, (2)University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

In recent years, the federal government has invested billions of dollars through Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants to address chronically low performing schools. These grants required prescriptive reforms including the option of a “restart” approach, which required a replacement of the management of schools, often with outside providers such as charter management organizations. In some cases, districts spearhead the reform, but in others, the state may intercede, taking over schools and changing governance from the local school district to the state. This latter restart approach assumes that districts neither have the capacity nor the will to gain meaningful improvement. In this paper, we examine Tennessee’s use of the Race to the Top grant to implement reform models that included both a change in governance—i.e., state takeover of schools with management of schools outside of the district—and maintaining governance and management of reforms within the district. Our analysis tests the theory of whether it is necessary to have the governance of schools outside of the district in order to have a meaningful change in performance. We find that schools managed by districts are both capable of and more successful at improving schools without outside governance.