Panel: Building Human Capacity in Low-Performing Schools: Evidence from School Reform Models across the Country

Friday, November 8, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 14 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Lam Pham, Vanderbilt University
Panel Chair:  Adam Kho, University of Southern California
Discussants:  Andrew McEachin, RAND Corporation and Betheny Gross, University of Washington

Reform efforts aimed at improving chronically low-performing schools are often concerned with recruiting, supporting, and retaining effective teachers, because teachers contribute more than any other school-based factor to student achievement and low-performing schools often have difficulty attracting effective staff. Together, the four papers on this panel utilize evidence from distinct models at different stages of the reform process to describe how policymakers and educational authorities build human capacity in the nation’s lowest-performing schools.

The first paper examines a new reform model in Michigan: the Partnership Model of School and District Turnaround. This recently created model has an underlying theory of action that focuses on supporting low-performing schools and districts rather than relying on punitive consequences. Using statewide administrative and survey data, this study provides insight into how this new model supports schools and districts in their effort to recruit and retain teachers. Additionally, this paper contributes insight into teacher perceptions of the reform in its early years of implementation.

The second paper provides a complementary perspective by examining the long-term effects of a more established reform model: school turnaround under the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Using data from two large urban school districts and two states, this paper examines long-term effects of SIGs on student achievement and investigates how capacity-building efforts in SIG schools helped sustain improvement after the grant funding ended. By investigating longer-term effects, this paper contributes insight into how the reform process played out over multiple years.

The third paper uses novel data on state takeover of school districts to examine effects on teacher and student outcomes. By collecting data on state takeover in every state, this paper leverages cross-state comparisons to examine the effects of takeover on student achievement and within-district teacher retention. With nationally representative data, this paper compares how contextual differences across states and districts influence capacity building efforts in different school reform models across the country. 

Complementing the wider scope of the third paper, the fourth paper more deeply investigates how capacity building efforts played out one context: Tennessee’s turnaround schools. This paper examines the assumption that high-performing teachers recruited to turnaround schools are equally effective after they move. Using statewide data on school turnaround models in Tennessee, this paper compares changes in the effectiveness of teachers who transfer to turnaround schools relative to teachers who transfer into low-performing but non-turnaround schools.


Together, these four papers utilize evidence from different reform models across diverse district and state contexts to describe capacity building efforts in low-performing schools. Policymakers, educational authorities, and researchers interested in strategies that will improve the quality of staff in low-performing schools will be particularly interested in the evidence presented here. The range of geographic locations and evidence across the different stages of the school reform process will also be particularly useful to a broad audience interested in strategies for improving the nation’s lowest-performing schools.

The Impact of School and District Turnaround on Teacher Labor Markets
Jason Burns, Katharine Strunk, Joshua Cowen and Amy M. Auletto, Michigan State University

The Longitudinal Effects of School Improvement Grants
Min Sun1, Alec Kennedy1 and Susanna Loeb2, (1)University of Washington, (2)Brown University

A Shock to the System: The Effects of State Takeover of School Districts on Student and Teacher Outcomes
Beth Schueler, University of Virginia and Joshua F. Bleiberg, Vanderbilt University

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