Research Connections

Significant Findings in the Field

School Turnarounds: Evidence from the 2009 Stimulus

Thomas Dee, a researcher from the University of Virginia, authored this paper which examines the effects of whole school reforms funded by the School Improvement Grants (SIG) on student achievement, particularly through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). In combination with the money already set aside for Title I Section 1003(g) competitive SIG program, ARRA funneled an unprecedented $3.5 billion to the nation’s “persistently lowest achieving” public schools―up to $2 million per school annually over 3 years. Using data from California, the author conducted multivariate regression discontinuity (MRD) analyses around the SIG eligibility and receipt of funding rules of the program: those eligible (and then received funding) by meeting the “lowest achieving” and “lack of progress” criteria. The results based on these MRD analyses indicate that the ARRA-funded whole-school reforms targeting the nation’s chronically underperforming schools have led to statistically significant improvements in school performance in California. The paper provides caveats and a discussion on cost-effectiveness, comparing the initiative to class size reduction. The report is available for a nominal fee ($5.00) from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

School Improvement Grants: Education Should Take Additional Steps to Enhance Accountability for Schools and Contractors

In response to requests from the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, the General Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a broad review of the redesigned SIG program implementation. Data collection involved surveys sent to SEAs, document reviews of materials from the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) and SEAs, interviews with US ED officials, select officials from the state and local education agencies (LEAs) and schools from eight states (California, Delaware, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia), and select technical assistance providers servicing the states. As part of the review, GAO also conducted performance audits. This report discusses results from the review and audit. The report uncovers a number of challenges facing SEAs and LEAs and provides several recommendations. The survey and SEA responses to the survey are available from a supplementary report.

Off the Clock: What More Time Can (and Can’t) Do for School Turnarounds

Extended learning time is among the key approaches being initiated as part of the SIG program, Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive grant program, and flexibility requests from requirements set by the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965. This Education Sector report examines how schools are actually using the extra time. The report discusses the three basic types of extended learning time (ELT) designs and provides their respective benefits and shortcomings. Of outmost concern is how ELT funding can be sustained once SIG funding expires for a school in three years.

Stretching the School Dollar: A Brief for State Policymakers

This policy brief from the Fordham Institute outlines fifteen ways that state policy makers can maximize the power of existing education funding by eliminating ineffective practices such as “last hired and first fired” staffing practices, adopting more cost effective practices such as allocating spending for special education as a percent of the student population, and exploring more long-term, cost-saving endeavors such as teacher pension reform. The fifteen ideas are drawn from a Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute publication, Stretching the School Dollar: How Schools and Districts Can Save Money While Serving Students Best. A companion policy brief for school districts is also available.

Race to the Top: What Have We Learned from the States So Far?

This report from the Center on American Progress offers a state-by-state implementation evaluation to-date on the performance of states that were awarded in the first and second round of RTTT competitive grants. The evaluation and the report address the following questions: 1) what was going well; 2) what was going wrong; and 3) what early lessons could be drawn for future federal education initiatives? RTTT has catalyzed significant school reform efforts, with significant policy changes. Many states are largely on track with their commitments but a few have struggled and face considerable challenges. Based on the results, the report outlines several recommendations.
An American Educational Research Association List