An Extended Evaluation of Tennessee's Achievement School District and Local Innovation Zones

Grants and Contracts Details


While research is beginning to emerge evaluating various turnaround policies for low performing schools, it is premature to pass judgment as previous research suggests that reforms can take three to five years before substantial improvements can be observed. Therefore, it is important not only to examine the initial effects of these initiatives, but the effects as these schools mature. For the past few years, our research team from Vanderbilt and the University of Kentucky has been conducting research on the effects of two turnaround strategies in Tennessee, the state Achievement School District (ASD) and local iZones. The ASD targets schools that are persistently low performing, known as Priority Schools. These schools are then either directly run by the ASD or run by Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), but in contrast with other similar reforms in places like New Orleans, the ASD schools remain neighborhood schools. In addition, the state allowed a subset of priority schools to remain under the governance of local school districts through innovation zones (iZones). These iZone schools were managed by separate units in their local districts and are given greater autonomy over school operations and greater resources to recruit and retain high quality teachers. Because many states continue to adopt or are considering similar approaches (e.g., Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina), we believe that our findings from our ongoing study are important. However, the currently funded analyses will not be able to examine the effects of the ASD and iZone schools as they mature. Therefore, we are requesting additional resources for an extension to the current to answer questions of performance, principal quality, the effects the reforms have had on other low performing schools, and how teacher and student mobility is similar or dissimilar to the larger charter movement in Tennessee. In addition, with a number of researchers examining turnaround approaches across several locations (Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Orleans, Rhode Island, North Carolina) the time is right to convene researchers to synthesize the results across different locations and to facilitate a time for interacting and developing lessons learned across the various locations, including lessons about how to effectively evaluate turnaround initiatives. Finally, we believe the scope of the project could be expanded a bit to broaden our understanding. For instance, through the revised ESEA, a new set of schools are being identified as priority schools within Tennessee. We could further examine the latest edition of these reforms on a new set of schools and compare and contrast to the results of the ongoing analyses.
Effective start/end date9/13/176/30/18


  • Laura and John Arnold Foundation: $184,868.00


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