Incentivizing School Turnaround: A Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

In
recent months, education reformers have started buzzing about the
reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and
several, including Fordham’s own Checker
Finn
and Mike
Petrilli
, have proposed
substantial revisions. In its latest report, Incentivizing School Turnaround: A Proposal for
Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
, the Center for American
Progress (CAP) lays out its own set of proposals regarding the act’s school
turnaround provisions. The
report names four key recommendations:

  • Dispense School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds
    only to consistently under-performing schools in districts with strong pools of
    teachers, the ability to use student data effectively, widespread support of
    large-scale reforms, and the flexibility required to implement such reforms.
  • Allow schools flexibility in selecting a
    suitable turnaround strategy, but encourage schools to adopt sweeping reforms
    (e.g., extensive staff replacement) based on “data-driven needs assessment.”
  • Evaluate state applications for turnaround
    grants based on demonstrated commitments to empowering State Education Agencies
    (SEAs) to intervene substantially in turnaround schools by clustering them into
    separate districts, expanding school data collection and analysis, and training
    teachers and administrators specifically to work in turnaround schools.
  • Use the provision and withholding of federal
    funds to hold states, districts, and individual schools accountable for their
    success or failure in transforming under-performing schools.

Changes
to ESEA, particularly the SIG provisions, will certainly affect Ohio, which received
$19.5 million in SIG funds earlier this year. Even with the law in its current
form, some Ohio schools have already implemented
large-scale staff replacements, and one
school
will likely be run by an education management organization starting
this fall. However, some schools receiving SIG funds have not made progress in
implementing substantial reforms, as we’ve pointed
out
in the past, one of many reasons an ESEA overhaul is long-overdue.

Incentivizing
School Turnaround: A
Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary
Education
Act

Jeremy Ayers and Melissa Lazarín
Center for American Progress
April 2011

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