Improving Chronically Underperforming School Settings? Regression-Discontinuity Evidence from NCLB Waivers

Do policies that designate specific levels of functioning and support for schools result in elevated student achievement?

Turning around low-performing schools has become a national priority and features prominently in state accountability systems and requests for No Child Left Behind waivers. Despite these demands for change, research on strategies to accomplish school turnaround is limited. Dee and his colleagues will leverage data from other research projects to examine Michigan’s experience when it was granted a waiver. Of particular interest is whether schools that are designated as Priority (low-performing) and Focus (room for improvement) schools under state No Child Left Behind waivers yield improved trajectories of student achievement and attainment compared to non-identified schools. The researchers will also explore what conditions within schools and classrooms are associated with steeper gains in these outcomes. Also of interest are strategies to improve teacher capacity and efforts to create conditions that support high-quality instruction and learning. The investigators will utilize student, teacher, and school data from Michigan’s state longitudinal data system (SLDS) that followed public school K-12 students from 2002/03 to the present. The investigators will also leverage data from a survey of charter and non-charter public schools about key practices that may affect student outcomes, and will conduct in-depth interviews to better understand how schools responded to their waiver status.