State Takeovers: No Silver Bullet for School District Improvement
State takeovers of struggling school systems represent some of the most contentious policy decisions in education. The transfer of decision-making power from a locally elected school board to the state is often undertaken with the goal of dramatically improving student academic achievement in districts that have been persistently low performing over many years. The results of such reforms have important equity implications, as the districts targeted for takeover often serve high concentrations of low-income students of color.
What is known about how this significant shift in education governance affects children and their learning? A recent paper, which I coauthored with Joshua Bleiberg, sheds light on this question. In short, we find no evidence that state takeover benefits student academic achievement and some evidence that it can be disruptive to student reading performance in the early years of reform.
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Savvy boards can increase the odds their plans will live, breathe, and have measurable impact.
On average, takeover fails to improve achievement measures, but how it is done matters a lot.
State boards should lean into education data and work to overcome challenges to doing so.
As states seek to bring coherence to the disparate systems that have a hand in early education and care, state boards have key roles to play.
While relationships with school leaders were contentious in places, many districts benefited from collaborative ones.