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January 2011

From the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE)

New Evaluation Focuses on Transforming Schools and State Capacity

NCEE recently awarded a new 5-year evaluation contract that will seek to understand how states and districts are transforming their lowest performing schools and which strategies appear to be the most effective.

The evaluation will focus on the schools that received money under Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants to implement school turnaround models. The two programs are signature initiatives by the U.S. Department of Education. Race to the Top (RTTT) is a $3.4 billion competitive federal grant program, the largest ever offered by the U.S. Department of Education to advance reform from preschool to postsecondary. School Improvement Grants (SIG) are targeted to persistently low-achieving Title I schools that are in the process of restructuring or other improvements mandated by No Child Left Behind.

The study will address four broad research questions: how well strategies funded by the two grant programs are implemented; whether receipt of SIG funds to implement school turnaround models impacts student outcomes; whether state and district capacity under RTTT affects student outcomes including state NAEP scores; and whether certain school reform model strategies are related to improvements in student outcomes.

"This is an important opportunity to learn from practitioners about their efforts to turn around low-performing schools, including how they are integrating their turnaround initiatives with other education reforms," said NCEE Commissioner Rebecca Maynard.

The $13 million contract was awarded to Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., and the American Institutes for Research.

The SIG school turnaround impact evaluation will involve about 1,650 schools in 170 districts, in states that did and did not receive RTTT funds. Data will be collected over 3 years and will include surveys, interviews, site visits, and achievement test analyses.

Reports on findings are scheduled to be released in March 2014, October 2014, and August 2015.