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School Turnaround After Five Years

In 2012, Tennessee began a series of bold new initiatives to turn around its lowest performing five percent of schools, known as Priority schools. Building on previous research, this brief examines student achievement gains five years into the implementation of the two largest school turnaround efforts - the state-run Achievement School District and district-led iZones. Results are consistent with past evaluations of these two initiatives, with iZones sustaining positive gains in student achievement throughout the period, while ASD schools did no better or worse than other low-performing schools.

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Key Findings
Teacher improvement  
  • Overall, through five years of implementation, iZone schools have positive and statistically significant effects on reading, math, and science test scores relative to Priority schools receiving no interventions. The size of the gains in iZone schools is comparable to other successful school turnaround interventions across the U.S.

  • Overall, ASD schools did not gain more or less than Priority schools receiving no interventions during the five years of implementation.

  • Across each of the five years, iZone schools show mostly positive effects on student test scores, though these results are not always statistically significant. These results suggest that iZone schools have been relatively successful in sustaining the positive results they were able to achieve early on.

  • ASD schools did not gain more or less than comparison schools in any of the five years of turnaround intervention, including after four or five years of turnaround interventions. 


This analysis uses a difference-in-difference (DID) approach to compare the changes in test scores from the baseline year in the ASD and iZone schools to the scores after they initiated reforms with the changes in test scores during the same period in the other Priority schools that did not receive a reform. The data include student- and teacher-level demographic characteristics, student test scores from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), End of Course Exams (EOCs), and TNReady, and school enrollment data from 2006-2007 to 2016-2017. 

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