Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts? Evidence from Lawrence, Massachusetts

44 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2016

See all articles by Beth Schueler

Beth Schueler

Harvard University

Joshua Goodman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

David Deming

Harvard University; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: January 2016

Abstract

The Federal government has spent billions of dollars to support turnarounds of low-achieving schools, yet most evidence on the impact of such turnarounds comes from high-profile, exceptional settings and not from examples driven by state policy decisions at scale. In this paper, we study the impact of state takeover and district-level turnaround in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Takeover of the Lawrence Public School (LPS) district was driven by the state’s accountability system, which increases state control in response to chronic underperformance. We find that the first two years of the LPS turnaround produced large achievement gains in math and modest gains in reading. Our preferred estimates compare LPS to other low income school districts in a differences-in-differences framework, although the results are robust to a wide variety of specifications, including student fixed effects. While the LPS turnaround was a package of interventions that cannot be fully separated, we find evidence that intensive small-group instruction led to particularly large achievement gains for participating students.

Suggested Citation

Schueler, Beth and Goodman, Joshua and Deming, David, Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts? Evidence from Lawrence, Massachusetts (January 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w21895. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2717306

Beth Schueler (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Joshua Goodman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/joshua-goodman/

David Deming

Harvard University ( email )

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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