Beth Schueler, Assistant Professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Virginia
Evaluating Education Governance: Does State Takeover Of School Districts Affect Student Achievement?
Local school boards have primary authority for running educational systems in the U.S. but little is known empirically about the merits of this arrangement. State takeovers of struggling districts represent a rare alternative form of educational governance and have become an increasingly common response to low performance. However, limited research explores whether this effectively improves student outcomes. We track all takeovers nationwide from the late 1980s, when the first takeovers occurred, through 2016 and describe takeover districts. While these districts are low performing, we find academic performance plays less of a role in predicting takeover for districts serving larger concentrations of African American students. We then use a new data source allowing for cross-state comparisons of student outcomes to estimate the effect of takeovers that occurred between 2011 and 2016. On average, takeovers had a moderate negative effect on English Language Arts and no effect on math achievement, though we observe considerable heterogeneity of effects across districts. Takeovers were least effective in districts with higher baseline achievement and least harmful in larger districts and majority Latinx communities. Leaders should be cautious about using takeover without considering local context and a better understanding of why some takeovers are more effective than others.
About Beth Schueler
Beth Schueler is an Assistant Professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. She studies education policy, politics, and inequality with a focus on efforts to improve low-performing K-12 schools and districts. She uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to learn which policies are most effective at improving educational organizations and what makes these policies more or less politically viable.