A new working paper by Calder analyzes whether federally funded school turnarounds in North Carolina have impacted student outcomes.
The study uses achievement, demographic and descriptive data about teachers and principals for K–8 schools in the 2010–2014 school years, as well as teacher survey data from North Carolina’s biannual Teacher Working Conditions Survey. The data set includes eighty-five elementary and middle schools that were subject to the state’s school turnaround program, which was funded by federal Race to the Top funds. Most schools used a “transformation model” of turnaround that required replacing the principal, along with other instructional interventions like increasing learning time (but no teacher terminations).
The analysis uses a regression discontinuity design, wherein assignment to the treatment and control groups are based on a school falling right above or below the cut point for placement into the turnaround program. The idea is that whether a school is just above or just below the cut is essentially random.
The key findings: The program had a mostly negative effect on test scores in math and reading—especially so in math. It decreased average attendance by between 0.4 and 1.2 percentage points in 2012 (the first full year after the program was...