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An Evaluation of Turning Around North Carolina

The proposed study has five aims: to (1) estimate the impact of North Carolina Transformation (NCT) program to turnaround the state’s lowest achieving schools on student academic outcomes; (2) examine the effects of NCT on the lowest achieving students within the lowest achieving schools; (3) explore potential mediators, such as pedagogical effectiveness and engagement, for the main and moderated effects; (4) assess implementation fidelity in NCT and comparison schools and obtain detailed information on transformation processes and practices in NCT schools; (5) implement a formal process for the iterative exchange of information between partners to facilitate timely feedback on program implementation and effectiveness. Setting: North Carolina operated a state court-ordered turnaround program for 128 schools between 2006 and 2010 and a federal Race to the Top funded District and School Transformation (DST) program in in 118 schools from 2011-2015. Both state court order and policy mandate target a new group of low performing schools in 2016. The partnership for the proposed study includes a well-established team of individuals who have worked collaboratively on the evaluation of the state’s prior turnaround efforts. In addition, North Carolina has a proven longitudinal data system, which links students, teachers and schools by rosters, and the team has extensive experience in utilizing the data. Sample: The population consists of students, teachers, and leaders in schools that do not meet the state’s growth standards. We plan to sample the lowest performing schools based on the three-year average proficiency rate for inclusion in NCT. Program/policy: North Carolina’s turnaround program to date has been comprised of three main components: 1) development of school improvement plans based on comprehensive needs assessment, 2) a centralized program of professional development for school leaders; and 3) onsite coaching and school-specific professional development. In 2015-16, the state will begin implementing a new approach to school turnaround that is based in part on lessons from the previous evaluations. The new approach differs from previous efforts in that: based on newly available data sources, the intervention will (1) target the areas of highest need for each school that will have the largest and quickest benefit; (2) implement a three tiered system of support in each school that targets academic and behavioral outcomes; (3) align teacher professional development with the needs of individual schools; and (4) assist principals in low performing schools in connecting statewide professional development with changes needed in each school. Implementation data collected for this study through the evaluation and annual outcome analysis will be used for continuous implementation improvement. Comparison condition: The comparison condition will include schools in North Carolina that did not meet the state’s growth standard and just missed the cut-off for the NCT. Research design and methods: The study will use two designs: (1) the impacts will be estimated using a sharp regression discontinuity design that relies on the assignment of state’s schools not meeting growth on the basis of a three year average proficiency rate to the NCT; (2) an interrupted time series design with a non-equivalent comparison group (difference-in-differences) to test for moderated effects for the lowest achieving students and explore potential mediators. Key measures: Outcome measures for this study include: student achievement; school proficiency and graduation rates; and grade retention. Intermediate outcome measures include student survey constructs such as pedagogical effectiveness and engagement and teacher retention rates. Implementation measures include teacher and principal surveys, school observations and interviews, and implementation fidelity checklists Data analytic strategy: For the outcome analysis, parametric (OLS) and non-parametric local average treatment effect estimates will follow accepted practice for sharp regression discontinuity designs and validity of estimates will be examined by applying the What Works Clearinghouse standards. Difference-in-difference and school fixed effects estimators along with structural equation models will be implemented to examine moderation and explore mediation.

Grantor: DOE/IES

Expected completion date: 07/31/2020

Project or Grant: Grant
Date Span: July 01, 2015 to July 31, 2015
Principal Investigators: Gary Henry
Academic Department: Leadership, Policy, and Organizations