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Effects of a District-Managed Restart Strategy for Low-Performing Schools in Texas

This REL Southwest report examines the use of a district-managed restart strategy for low-performing schools in Texas. REL Southwest conducted the study in partnership with the Texas Education Agency and other partners in the Southwest School Improvement Research Partnership.

The Texas Education Agency offers grants for districts to implement school turnaround strategies at low-performing schools. Districts that receive these grants can implement a school turnaround strategy (referred to as a district-managed restart strategy) that includes replacing most of the principals and teachers at schools that the district identifies as struggling and needing additional support. From 2015/16 to 2018/19 in Texas, 29 schools across four urban and suburban districts implemented a district-managed restart strategy in three cohorts: one district began in 2015/16, another in 2017/18, and two in 2018/19.

This study used longitudinal administrative data and interviews with district and school leaders to examine implementation of the restart strategy and its effects on teacher and principal mobility, student achievement, and student attendance.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly 80 percent of the teachers at schools in the year before implementation of the restart strategy left before the beginning of the restart school year.
  • Educators who arrived at restart schools were more likely to have more than three years of experience and to have an advanced degree than those who left or stayed.
  • The restart strategy had a positive effect on student achievement in reading and math and on student attendance, but the effect on attendance was not sustained beyond the first year of implementation.
  • Nearly all restart schools met accountability standards within the first three years of implementation.
  • Interviews with district and school leaders suggested that recruiting high-performing teachers to relocate to restart schools was time consuming and that the grant-funded salary stipend might not have been a large enough incentive for high-performing teachers to relocate.

State leaders in Texas can use the results of this study to make decisions about continuing to offer grants for districts to implement the district-managed restart strategy in their low-performing schools.

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