Gathering Input for California’s Race to the Top: Seizing the ARRA Opportunity

Restructuring Options: Lessons from NCLB

Reading List: Restructuring Options – Evidence from NCLB

The proposed guidelines for the Race to the Top Fund, released in July 2009, identify four specific approaches to turning around the lowest-achieving five percent of a state’s persistently lowest-performing schools. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002 also identifies several “restructuring” options for restructuring schools that have failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for five consecutive years. As outlined in the table below, two of the proposed Race to the Top approaches mirror three of the five options outlined under NCLB:

Intervention Race to the Top NCLB
Replacing Staff “Putting in place new leadership and a majority of new staff, new governance, and improved instructional programs, and providing the school with flexibilities such as the ability to select staff, control its budget, and expand student learning time.” “Replacing all or most of the school staff (which may include the principal) who are relevant to the failure to make adequate yearly progress.”
Converting to Charters “Converting them to charter schools or contracting with an educational management organization.” “Reopening the school as a public charter school.”
Contracting with Education Management Organizations   “Entering into a contract with an entity, such as a private management company, with a demonstrated record of effectiveness, to operate the public school.”
Closing Schools “Closing the school and placing the school’s students in high-performing schools.” Not mandated under NCLB.
Using a Comprehensive Transformation Model “To the extent that these strategies are not possible, implementing a school transformation model that includes…” [see Race to the Top guidance for full text]. Not mandated under NCLB.

NOTE: The fourth Race to the Top option should not be confused with NCLB’s “any other” restructuring option, which is a less specific and prescriptive approach.

This section includes reports on the effectiveness of the restructuring options outlined in the Race to the Top guidance. It begins with two overviews of the NCLB restructuring options that describe the evidence of change that has resulted from pursuing these options. Following these overviews, we include papers that address specific proposed Race to the Top approaches: replacing staff, conversion to charters, contracting with an educational management organization, and school closure. These specific approaches are separated in this binder by sheets of colored paper.

Overview of NCLB Restructuring Options

**Mathis, WJ. (2009). NCLB’s ultimate restructuring alternatives: Do they improve the quality of education? East Lansing, MI: The Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice. Available at http://epicpolicy.org/files/Mathis-SANCTIONS.pdf

This paper reviews the independent research on the restructuring options under NCLB for schools that fail to make AYP for five years. It examines the frequency of use, effect on test scores, and other effects for the four prescribed options and provides a brief overview of the fifth, “any other” option. The author concludes that no evidence exists that any of the restructuring options will result in significantly improved education.

Center on Education Policy. (2008). A call to restructure restructuring: Lessons from the No Child Left Behind Act in five states. Washington, DC: Author. Available at http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED503798.pdf

This report synthesizes findings from research on NCLB restructuring in five states with relatively large numbers of schools in restructuring: California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, and Ohio. The findings are reported at the national, state, and local level. The report finds that the “any-other” restructuring option is the most popular of the five restructuring options outlined in federal law. The report makes several recommendations, including expanding federal options for restructuring and suggesting states refrain from utilizing the option of staff replacement unless certain criteria are met.

Replacing Leaders and Staff

Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. (2005). School restructuring options under No Child Left Behind: What works when? Turnarounds with new leaders and staff. Washington, DC: Learning Point Associates. Available at http://www.centerforcsri.org/pubs/restructuring/KnowledgeIssues4Turnaround.pdf

This paper focuses on the replacement of school leaders and staff as a restructuring option under NCLB. The paper reviews research about the effects of replacing leaders and staff, both within education and in the business, nonprofit, and public sectors. The authors find that within public education, academic progress among these schools is mixed. The authors use the literature review, as well as interviews with national experts, to outline key success factors and challenges associated with successfully improving performance under this restructuring approach.

Converting to Charters

Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement (2005). School restructuring options under No Child Left Behind: What works when? Reopening as a charter school. Washington, DC: Learning Point Associates. Available athttp://www.centerforcsri.org/pubs/restructuring/KnowledgeIssues2Chartering.pdf

This paper focuses on the process of reopening an existing school as a charter school, one of the restructuring options under NCLB. The paper reviews research about charter school openings, including the opening of a new school as a charter and the reopening of a school to replace a low-performing traditional public school. In particular, the report notes that most charter schools are opened as brand new schools, and that research about the impact of charters on student performance is mixed. The authors use the literature review, as well as interviews with researchers and practitioners across the country, to outline key success factors and challenges associated with successfully improving performance under this restructuring approach.

Center for Research in Education Outcomes. (2009). Charter school performance in California. Stanford, CA: Author. Available at http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/CA_CHARTER%20SCHOOL%20REPORT_CREDO_2009.pdf

This report on charter schools in California is supplemental to a larger national assessment of charter school impacts 16 states. The overall results for California are mixed, with the typical student showing more progress in reading and less in mathematics than their traditional public school counterparts. Additionally, the authors report that students in poverty and English language learners in California charter schools do better in both reading and math than their counterparts in traditional public schools. These differences are statistically significant but small in magnitude.

Contracting with Educational Management Organizations

Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. (2005). School restructuring options under No Child Left Behind: What works when? Contracting with external education management providers. Washington, DC: Learning Point Associates. Available at http://www.centerforcsri.org/pubs/restructuring/KnowledgeIssues3Contracting.pdf

This paper focuses on schools contracting with an external management organization (EMO) as a restructuring option under NCLB. The paper reviews research about district experiences with EMOs, noting the mixed impacts on student outcomes. The authors use the literature review, as well as interviews with researchers and practitioners across the country, to outline key success factors and challenges associated with successfully improving performance under this restructuring approach.

Closing Schools

Steiner, L. (2009). Tough decisions: Closing persistently low-performing schools. Lincoln, IL: Center on Innovation & Improvement. Available at http://www.centerii.org/survey/downloads/Tough_Decisions.pdf

This paper offers a preliminary exploration of school closure as an approach to address consistently low-performing schools. The author profiles four districts that have chosen to close schools: Chicago, Denver, Hartford, and Pittsburgh. While the paper does not explore the impact of school closure on student outcomes, it does examine several implementation lessons drawn from the districts’ experiences and offers recommendations for district and state officials to consider.

**This document is considered a priority reading.