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District Changes in Student Achievement and Local Practice under Georgia’s District and School Flexibility Policy

Region:
Southeast
Description:

Georgia instituted a flexibility policy in 2007 that provided districts with waivers from state education rules, provisions, and guidelines. Granted waivers and annual accountability targets are agreed upon in district performance contracts with the state. The performance contracts are meant to encourage districts to implement innovative practices to increase achievement for all students in Georgia. Between 2008/09 and 2016/17, 178 of Georgia’s 180 districts entered into performance contracts with the state. The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) asked Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast to analyze how districts’ achievement changed after the start of their performance contracts and factors related to those changes. GaDOE also requested information on districts’ implementation of and experiences with the state’s flexibility policy, focusing on how districts have used their performance contracts to prioritize local innovations in practice. Overall, the study found little evidence of that changes in academic achievement coincided with performance contract adoption but significant variation in changes in achievement across districts, after adjusting for other factors. Changes in achievement were largely unrelated to district characteristics, including urbanicity, timing of performance contract adoption, and district type, as well as features of the performance contract. District leaders indicated prioritizing innovations related to college and career readiness, teacher certification requirements, instructional spending, and funding for school improvement. Leaders perceived broad benefits from the priority innovations they identified, especially in relation to staff and school climate, but they also indicated that, in many cases, waivers were not required to implement the innovations they identified as priorities. Despite the perceived benefits, changes in achievement were largely unrelated to the academic, human resources, and financial innovations that districts indicated prioritizing after implementing their performance contracts.

Publication Type:
Descriptive Study
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
December 2020