No Excuses

As a new SIG impact report was released this week from Washington State, a state that still appears to be a “light touch” disciple, it is worth re-circulating the North Carolina SIG evaluation published last fall from a “No Excuses” state.

A detailed ground level report of SIG impact in 30 schools, the NC evaluation painted a clear picture where comprehensive strategies were underway, including “smart” staff turnover in the improving schools among the 30:

“We found that in the improved schools, the turnaround process began in virtually every case with the appointment of a new principal who replaced a substantial number of teachers [at least one-third] and sparked a series of changes focused on key areas of school operation.”

The WA State report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education is an interesting bookend for the similar policy conclusions from North Carolina – just a different set of on-the-ground results for two states and two levels of political will.  It’s worth noting that even among the small sample in the WA study, there were a few schools that adopted a more comprehensive strategy and saw early improvements.

The NC study conducted by the Consortium for Educational Research and Evaluation looked at 30 low-achieving elementary, middle, and high schools in North Carolina to see what made the difference between the leaders (double digit gains in student achievement) and laggards (little to no gains).

The common takeaways from both studies in addition to the focus on capacity-building and staff:

  • Conditions: Commitment, climate, and culture.  In improved schools, increased accountability coupled with strong school goals and a laser-focus on student achievement produces gains.
  • District roles: Although the NC districts oddly seemed to play a smaller role than the state teams (which should raise concerns about sustainability), some were active partners.  Strong district leadership and support is paramount in any successful, sustainable turnaround.