Evidence on State Takeover and District Turnaround from Lawrence, Massachusetts

April 13, 2016
 
Beth E. Schueler (Harvard Graduate School of Education) Joshua S. Goodman (Harvard Kennedy School) and David J. Deming (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Turning around chronically underperforming schools and districts has long been an elusive goal, despite prioritization at the highest levels of government. Researchers have examined school-level turnaround, but studies of district-wide improvement are more limited. Most of the evidence that does exist on district-level turnaround comes from exceptional settings rather than examples driven by state accountability policy. Massachusetts’ Lawrence Public Schools (LPS) provide a unique opportunity to examine an accountability-driven state takeover and district-wide turnaround effort. A recently released working paper compares changes in Lawrence students’ achievement before and after the turnaround to changes in the achievement of similar students in districts not experiencing any turnaround efforts.

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Research Excerpt

Students exposed to the first two years of the turnaround appear to have made substantially larger mathematics achievement gains then demographically similar students in other majority low-income school districts across Massachusetts.

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