Turning Around Low-Performing Schools: District and State Strategies

Reading List: State Role in Turning Around Low-Performing Schools

California Programs

**Bitter, C., Perez, M., Parrish, T., Gonzalez, R., & Socias,M. (2005). Evaluation study of the immediate intervention/underperforming schools program of the Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999: Final report. Palo Alto, CA: American Institutes for Research. Available at http://www.air.org/sites/default/files/downloads/report/IIUSP_Report_FINAL_9-30-05_0.pdf

We have included two excerpts from this report:

The executive summary provides an overview of the conclusions and recommendations from the second phase of the state-mandated evaluation of the II/USP. The study revealed that II/USP participation had a negligible impact on student achievement in the long term, yet did appear to have an impact on growth in some schools. The study noted the important role of the district in influencing school improvement and raised concerns about the presence of multiple accountability programs (state and federal).

As part of the evaluation of II/USP, AIR examined the SAIT process in its early stages. Chapter 5 presents findings from this preliminary examination. While the researchers found that the SAIT providers complied with the state-outlined process for school monitoring, the actual role the providers played varied among schools. In addition, while the state-monitoring process and implementation of the nine Essential Program Components (EPCs) provided a basis for change, they were considered insufficient for long-term meaningful change as they did not address the quality of interventions. The study also found that the role of the district in SAIT varied among schools.

Bitter, C. & O’Day, J. (2003). California’s Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA): Evaluation findings and implications. Palo Alto, CA: American Institutes for Research. Available at http://www.nga.org/files/live/sites/NGA/files/pdf/0404PSAA.pdf

This brief presents findings and recommendations from the first phase of the state-mandated evaluation of the Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA), including II/USP. The researchers found that PSAA increased attention on the improvement of student achievement and low-performing schools. However, analyses of state test data revealed a negligible effect of II/USP participation on student achievement. The authors noted a significant influence of the district on achievement outcomes in both II/USP and comparison schools and recommended enhancing the role of the district in future programs through required involvement and district-level incentives for improvement.

McCarthy, E., Li, L., Tabernik, T., & Casazza, G. (2008). Evaluation study of California’s school assistance and intervention team process. Berkeley, CA: Hatchuel Tabernik & Associates. Available at http://www.ocde.us/SchoolImprovement/Documents/eval%20study%20of%20ca%20school%20assistance%20and%20intervention.pdf

We have included two excerpts from this report:

The executive summary outlines the main findings from the state-mandated evaluation of the SAIT program. The evaluation addressed the impact of SAIT on student achievement as well as the effectiveness of the nine Essential Program Components (EPCs) that are used to guide the SAITs’ work. Analyses revealed that SAIT was effective in improving classroom instruction and student achievement in low-performing schools. The study also found that the EPCs, particularly when implemented all together, are effective in improving low-performing schools. Other important factors for school improvement within SAIT included principal leadership, district support, and the individual SAIT provider.

Chapter 5 addresses the impact of district support and participation, including the role of the district/school liaison team (DSLT), on the success of the SAIT process. The researchers found that the structure of and level of support from the DSLTs, as well as general support from the district, varied among schools. Some factors identified as facilitators for school success included early involvement of the DSLT in developing a school action plan, hands-on involvement in SAIT from district administrators, use of the urgency of SAIT to motivate schools, and district support for particular EPCs.

Harr, J., Parrish, T., Socias, M., & Gubbins, P. (2007, September). Evaluation study of California’s High Priority Schools Grant Program: Final report. Palo Alto, CA: American Institutes for Research. Available at http://www.air.org/resource/evaluation-study-california%E2%80%99s-high-priority-schools-grant-program-reports

This executive summary provides an overview of the findings from the state-mandated evaluation of the High Priority School Grants Program (HPSGP). The evaluation revealed that schools participating in HPSGP made gains in student performance during participation; however, these gains were comparable to those at similar schools that did not participate in HPSGP. The authors recommend the state move away from short-term intervention programs like HPSGP and focus on long-term improvements in administrative and resource support to low-performing schools statewide.

Timar, T. (2006). Evaluating state intervention: The High Priority Schools Grant Program. In Crucial Issues in California Education 2006: Rekindling Reform. Berkeley, CA: Policy Analysis for California Education. Available at http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED510155

This article examines California’s state-level efforts to improve instruction in its lowest performing schools through the High Priority Schools Grant Program (HPSGP). The author examines schools participating in HPSGP and identifies factors facilitating improvement and impeding improvement for these schools.

State Support Systems

**Carlson LeFloch, K., Boyle, A., & Bowles Therriault, S. (2008, September). AIR research brief: State systems of support under NCLB: Design components and quality considerations. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Available at http://www.air.org/resource/state-systems-support-under-nclb-design-components-and-quality-considerations

This research brief describes trends in the implementation of state systems of support for schools identified for improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Based on a nationwide survey of state administrators, the brief summarizes trends in key components of state support, including tools to support the school improvement process, support providers, support activities, funding for school improvement, and the content of improvement strategies. The brief also offers a research-based framework to assess the quality of design and implementation of state support. Proposed indicators of quality include coherence, comprehensiveness, stability, responsiveness, intensity, prescriptiveness, fit, and timeliness of support.

Mass Insight. (2007). The turnaround challenge: Executive summary. Boston, MA: Author. Available at http://www.massinsight.org/publications/turnaround/50/file/1/pubs/2010/04/15/TheTurnaroundChallenge_ExecSumm.pdf

We have included two excerpts from this book:

The executive summary outlines the goal for dramatic, transformative change in consistently under-performing schools. It highlights the limitations of piecemeal approaches to reform that achieve incremental results, emphasizing the need for dramatic change achieved over a compressed timeframe. The report promotes the concept of a “turnaround zone” in which schools have the authority to act, and identifies changing conditions, building capacity, and clustering for support as key elements for successful turnaround at scale.

Chapter 5 of the guide introduces a framework for state action to turn around chronically under-performing schools, incorporating the “three C’s” of conditions, capacity, and clustering for support. These approaches, along with new support structures at all levels and new commitment among leadership groups, form a framework for a statewide initiative.

Bitter, C., & O’Day, J. (2006). California’s accountability system. In Crucial Issues in California Education 2006: Rekindling Reform. Berkeley, CA: Policy Analysis for California Education. Available at http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED491698.pdf

This article documents the evolution of results-based accountability in California under the Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) of 1999 and the federal No Child Left Behind Act The authors describe the establishment of standards, assessments, and public reporting; the introduction of targets, assistance, and consequences; the focus on the state’s lowest-performing schools; and state accountability within the federal context. The authors identify three major goals for strengthening the state accountability system and offer recommendations for meeting them.

**This document is considered a priority reading.