Sustainability and Maturation of School Turnaround: A Multiyear Evaluation of Tennessee’s Achievement School District and Local Innovation Zones

Lam D. Pham, Gary T. Henry, Adam Kho, Ron Zimmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Recent evaluations of reforms to improve low-performing schools have almost exclusively focused on shorter term effects. In this study, we extend the literature by examining the sustainability and maturation of two turnaround models in Tennessee: the state-led Achievement School District (ASD) and district-led local Innovation Zones (iZones). Using difference-in-differences models, we find overall positive effects on student achievement in iZone schools and null effects in ASD schools. Additional findings suggest a linkage between staff turnover and the effectiveness of reforms. ASD schools experienced high staff turnover in every cohort, and iZone schools faced high turnover in its latest cohort, the only one with negative effects. We discuss how differences in the ASD and iZone interventions may help explain variation in the schools’ ability to recruit and retain effective teachers and principals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAERA Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
During its first 3 years, the ASD was funded by part of Tennessee’s RttT grant and with philanthropic support. When RttT funds were depleted, TDOE continued funding the ASD from its budget. When iZones were created, districts received School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from TDOE to support all iZone schools. When SIG funding ended, districts used a combination of philanthropic support, state funds, and portions of their own budget to continue funding current schools and any new schools joining their iZones. Notably, iZone schools used their funding for performance pay incentives to recruit and retain effective teachers. Both the ASD and iZones have continued receiving funding and support, differentiating this article from studies that examine turnaround effects after the active reforms have ended. Furthermore, ongoing funding as part of the TDOE and district budgets show that these models have moved toward building capacity and sustaining the reforms.

Funding Information:
We wish to thank the Achievement School District and Tennessee Department of Education for their feedback and assistance. Funding for this research was provided by John and Laura Arnold Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. Any opinions or errors are solely attributable to us, however.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • difference-in-differences
  • long-term effects
  • school reform
  • school turnaround
  • teacher and principal effectiveness
  • teacher and principal turnover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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