Panel Paper: The Effects of School Turnaround Strategies in Massachusetts

Thursday, November 8, 2018
8206 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

John Papay and Molly Hannon, Brown University

We study the impact of being identified as a low-performing school in need of improvement (Level 4) on school and student performance in Massachusetts. In Spring 2010, 35 schools in the state were identified as Level 4 based on their performance and improvement over the past four years. Identified schools underwent so-called “school turnaround,” receiving intensive support and increased accountability, and were eligible to apply for additional funding. We leverage two complementary but distinct sources of variation to estimate the impact of Level 4 identification using both difference-in-differences (using variation within-school over time) and regression-discontinuity designs (using variation within-time across schools). Using both approaches, we find quite large impacts on student achievement, on the order of 0.40σ in mathematics and 0.20σ in English language arts after 4 years. Estimates suggest that these improvements resulted from improved human capital policies, strategic resource investments, and improved performance of existing teachers.