Institute of Education Sciences study: States lack capacity to improve failing schools

10 May

There is no magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. There is only what works to produce academic achievement in each population of children. That is why school choice is so important.

Lyndsey Layton wrote in the Washington Post article, Most states lacked expertise to improve worst schools:

The Obama administration handed out more than $3 billion to the states and the District of Columbia to help them turn around their worst-performing schools as part of the federal stimulus spending that took place after the 2008 recession.

But most states lacked the capacity to improve those schools, according to a new analysis by federal researchers.

Although turning around the worst schools was a priority for nearly every state, most did not have the staff, technology and expertise to pull those schools out of the bottom rankings, according to a brief released Tuesday by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Education Department.

With funds allocated by Congress under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Obama administration spent $3.5 million on School Improvement Grants to states, directing them to focus the money on their lowest-performing schools.

School Improvement Grants had been part of No Child Left Behind, the 2002 federal education law. But stimulus spending increased the budget for the grants sixfold.

Under the Obama administration, schools could receive up to $2 million annually for three years. The money was divided among the states and D.C. according a federal formula. About 1,500 schools received grants.

Any school accepting a grant had to agree to adopt one of four strategies favored by the administration: Replace the principal and at least 50 percent of the staff; close the school and enroll students in another, better-performing school; close the school and reopen it as a charter school; or transform the school through new instructional strategies and other techniques.

While 84 percent of states told the researchers that improving the worst schools was a top priority, 58 percent said it was one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. Eighty percent of states and the District told federal researchers that their states had at least one significant gap in expertise needed to significantly improve the worst schools….
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/most-states-lacked-expertise-to-improve-worst-schools/2015/05/05/0eb82b98-f35f-11e4-bcc4-e8141e5eb0c9_story.html

Here is the abstract:

State Capacity to Support School Turnaround

One objective of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) School Improvement Grants (SIG) and Race to the Top (RTT) program is to help states enhance their capacity to support the turnaround of low-performing schools. This capacity may be important, given how difficult it is to produce substantial and sustained achievement gains in low-performing schools. There is limited existing research on the extent to which states have the capacity to support school turnaround and are pursuing strategies to enhance that capacity. This brief documents states’ capacity to support school turnaround as of spring 2012 and spring 2013. It examines capacity issues for all states and for those that reported both prioritizing turnaround and having significant gaps in expertise to support it. Key findings, based on interviews with administrators from 49 states and the District of Columbia, include the following:

• More than 80 percent of states made turning around low-performing schools a high priority, but at least 50 percent found it very difficult to turn around low-performing schools.
• 38 states (76 percent) reported significant gaps in expertise for supporting school turnaround in 2012, and that number increased to 40 (80 percent) in 2013.
• More than 85 percent of states reported using strategies to enhance their capacity to support school turnaround, with the use of intermediaries decreasing over time and the use of organizational or administrative structures increasing over time.
• States that reported both prioritizing school turnaround and having significant gaps in expertise to support it were no more likely to report using intermediaries than other states but all 21 of these states reported having at least one organizational or administrative structure compared with 86 percent (25 of 29) of all other states.

View, download, and print the report as a PDF file (2.8 MB)
http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20154012/pdf/20154012.pdf

Here is the press release:

Press Release

New Brief by AIR, Mathematica Experts Examines States’ Capacity to Support Turnaround in Low-Performing Schools

A new research brief released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) documents states’ capacity to support school turnaround as of spring 2012 and spring 2013. The brief found that at least three-quarters of states reported having “significant gaps” in expertise to support turning around low-performing schools.

Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) May 05, 2015

A new research brief released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) documents states’ capacity to support school turnaround as of spring 2012 and spring 2013.
The study found that at least three-quarters of states reported having “significant gaps” in expertise to support turning around low-performing schools.

The brief resulted from collaboration between experts at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Mathematica Policy Research. It is the fourth brief in a large-scale evaluation of School Improvement Grant (SIG) and Race to the Top (RTT) programs
.
“Improving low-performing schools does not happen overnight,” said Courtney Tanenbaum, a senior researcher at AIR. “Turning them around is a complex and challenging endeavor. So it is not surprising that states would feel a need for more support in this area.”
Through structured telephone interviews with administrators in 49 states and the District of Columbia, the study found:

• More than 80 percent of states made turning around low-performing schools a high priority, but at least 50 percent of all states found turnaround very difficult.
• Thirty-eight states (76 percent) reported significant gaps in expertise for supporting school turnaround in 2012, and that number increased to 40 states (80 percent) in 2013.
• More than 85 percent of states reported using strategies to enhance their capacity to support school turnaround. The use of intermediaries decreased over time, and the use of organizational or administrative structures increased over time.
• Twenty-one states reported prioritizing school turnaround and having significant gaps in expertise to support it. Although these states were no more likely to use intermediaries than other states, all 21 reported having at least one organizational or administrative structure to improve their capacity to support turnaround, compared with 86 percent (25 of 29) of other states.

“States can play an important role in tackling the challenges of school turnaround, for example, by arranging external support to address barriers to improvement,” said Susanne James-Burdumy, Mathematica senior fellow and director of the evaluation. “For this reason, SIG and RTT provided resources to improve state capacity to support turnaround, but concerns linger about state capacity to continue that support once SIG and RTT funding runs out. Our brief sheds light on the specific capacity constraints states are facing and where additional supports could be warranted.”
To view the full report, go to http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20154012/.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit http://www.air.org.
About Mathematica Policy Research

Mathematica Policy Research seeks to improve public well-being by conducting studies and assisting clients with program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data analytics and management. Its clients include foundations, federal and state governments, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company is headquartered in Princeton, NJ, with offices in Ann Arbor, MI; Cambridge, MA; Chicago, IL; Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC. For more information, visit http://www.mathematica-mpr.com.
Andrew Brownstein
American Institutes for Research
+1 (202) 403-6043

Andrew J. Rotherham wrote in the Time article, Can Parents Take Over Schools? http://ideas.time.com/2012/03/08/can-parents-take-over-schools/#ixzz1ygVQ5kIA
The point is, there is no magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. There is what works to produce academic achievement in a given population of children.

Related:
Teacher Cooperatives
http://educationnext.org/teacher-cooperatives/

Can Teachers Run Their Own Schools?
http://charlestkerchner.com/

Can Teachers Run Schools?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-vander-ark/can-teachers-run-schools_b_803312.html

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