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Study: State Takeover of Tennessee Schools Doesn’t Work.

December 5, 2017

The December 2017 issue of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (an American Educational Research Association–AERA– publication) includes a study entitled, “The Effects of School Turnaround in Tennessee’s Achievement School District [ASD] and Innovation Zones [iZones].”

Below is the TN ASD logo– which ironically represents “impossibility in its purest form.”

TN ASD logo

Interestingly, the study is funded by both Tennessee’s Race to the Top (RttT) grant from the US Dept. of Ed. and the Walton Family Foundation.

The principal finding is that state takeover of Tennessee schools in order to “turn around” such schools is a bust, and it is better to allow the schools to remain with the home district and provide additional resources to the district in order to “raise student achievement” (which, of course, means to raise test scores).

Below is the study’s abstract:

In recent years, the federal government has invested billions of dollars to reform chronically low-performing schools. To fulfill their federal Race to the Top grant agreement, Tennessee implemented three turnaround strategies that adhered to the federal restart and transformation models: (a) placed schools under the auspices of the Achievement School District (ASD), which directly managed them; (b) placed schools under the ASD, which arranged for management by a charter management organization [CMO]; and (c) placed schools under the management of a district Innovation Zone (iZone) with additional resources and autonomy. We examine the effects of each strategy and find that iZone schools, which were separately managed by three districts, substantially improved student achievement. In schools under the auspices of the ASD, student achievement did not improve or worsen. This suggests that it is possible to improve schools without removing them from the governance of a school district.

In their study, researchers examine student data spanning the 2010-11 to the 2014-15 school years. Test scores include the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) (grades 3 thru 8) and End of Course (EOC) exams (high school).

As for the ASD schools’ “not improving or worsening”: Close examination of the ASD schools yielded erratic results:

For the ASD schools, the story was more complex, with [student] cohorts in most years having no effect, whereas other effect estimates suggested a positive and statistically significant effect for particular cohorts, in particular years and subjects, and still other results suggested a significant negative effect in particular cohorts in particular years and subjects. It was also notable that the positive and negative estimates were generally large in magnitude….

Similarly, when the analysis was broken down for ASD schools by CMO-run and ASD-run schools… we again saw inconsistent results as we observed mainly statistically insignificant effects as well as four positive and five negative estimates that were mostly large and statistically significant with more positive and significant effects for the ASD-managed [ASD] schools [as opposed to the CMO-run ASD schools].

Therefore, we generally concluded that the results for schools under the auspices of the ASD, as a whole and disaggregated by management structure [ASD-managed vs. CMO-managed] have been somewhat inconsistent but mainly are not sufficiently precise to conclude that they are different from zero…. We also did not observe a consistent pattern of these schools improving over time.

I have a paper copy of the study (compliments of Laura H. Chapman, thank you, Laura). Thus, I have no free link to offer for the entire study. (This link allows one to purchase a downloaded copy for $36.00). However, for this post, I include pics of the conclusion section of the study (see below).

But first, a couple of conclusion highlights:

Given these results, a number of states currently considering an “ASD-like” approach (including Nevada, North Carolina, and South Carolina) should consider whether it is necessary for schools to be managed by outside providers to experience significant improvement.

And this commentary related to higher teacher turnover at the ASD schools:

Although our findings indicate that turnover among the ASD schools was higher than the iZone and other priority schools and that more effective teachers were more likely to leave the ASD schools, the reasons for the turnover could not be established with the data available for this study. Prior research indicates that particularly in charter schools, turnover appears to be associated with a decline in teachers’ trust in the principal, salary and benefits, and difficult working conditions such as the heavy workload and management of student discipline…. However, the prevalence of Teach for America teachers in schools managed by CMOs, their 2-year service commitment, and their associations with departing from teaching more quickly than most other novice teachers… may be another credible hypothesis.

The Waltons paid for this. Go figure.

Finally, the promised pics of the conclusion of the study:


asd 2


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Telling the truth: … turnover appears to be associated with a decline in teachers’ trust in the principal…” In our district, NCLB brought in not only endless testing but a strategic principal/administrator churn. Those suddenly put in charge of running low-scoring schools were tasked with giving poor evaluations to any who did not follow through with a parade of always changing “fixes,” but were then precipitously moved out of their schools whenever actual accountability came into play. Chaos has been the result.

  2. Of course it is a bust. They knew it was from the first day. Just like its predecessor the LA RSD. The objective was never to improve schools but to transform as many public schools into Charters as possible.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Study Says State Takeover of Low-Performing Schools in Tennessee Failed | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. De Tennessee para Alckmin: fracasso na privatização | AVALIAÇÃO EDUCACIONAL – Blog do Freitas

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