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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

Do School Districts Benefit When the State Jumps In?

A growing number of school districts are being taken over by state governments, largely to remediate inferior academic performance or to deal with fiscal challenges, according to a late-October report from the Brookings Institution.


According to the research paper, by Beth Schueler, Melissa Arnold Lyon and Joshua Bleiberg, “these state takeovers have happened in all major regions of the country across states that differ in their political leanings, demographics and educational contexts.” That said, a disproportionate share of the takeovers has taken place in communities of color.


How effective have the states been at running schools? Not very, report the authors who write that “Ultimately, we found no evidence that takeovers, on average, improved student academic performance in math or reading. In fact, we found suggestive evidence that they were disruptive to reading achievement in the early years of reform.” 


While there was variation among districts in the impact on academic performance, “on average, takeovers were more harmful to student achievement when undertaken in majority-Black communities (and more beneficial when enacted in majority-Latino districts).” 


On the positive side, reported Brookings, “takeovers led to increased state revenues and expenditures per pupil in the targeted districts, primarily by increasing payments on legacy costs (employee benefits and debt retirement). In doing so takeovers appear to have improved district budgetary and long-run solvency on average.”



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