State-to-District Assistance in Underperforming Districts Experience

CTAC has provided technical assistance within a number of state-to-district interventions, including:

Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Ohio. In one of the earliest examples of turnaround work nationally, CTAC provided assistance to the public schools in Cleveland, Ohio, during a time that included a state takeover of the district. This was the first site-based, school reform initiative in Cleveland that showed sustained performance improvements. Schools participating in CTAC’s Standard Bearer Schools process outperformed the rest of the district in three out of four state testing areas and had student suspension rates more than 100% lower than the rest of the district. CTAC assisted the district to implement the groundbreaking Principals’ Performance Support System that linked principal evaluation to student success. We also guided the reorganization of the central administration.

Newark Public Schools, New Jersey. CTAC conducted a systemic school reform initiative in Newark Public Schools while the district was under state takeover status. CTAC helped the district involve more than 9,200 parents in school reform, and trained principals, school leadership teams and central administrative staff on organizational assessment, analyzing data, and school-based planning. Further, CTAC assisted a pilot group of schools to identify non-educational needs and create a prototype Comprehensive Health and Human Services Collaborative to coordinate and reconfigure available school and agency resources to address these needs. CTAC also worked directly with the state-appointed superintendent to refocus district attention on the needs of children and schools. This initiative became one of the few examples in the United States in which a school district under state takeover increased student achievement.

In addition, CTAC conducted a longitudinal study of the impact of the state’s takeover of the district. This involved interviewing more than 200 individuals, examining survey responses from nearly 10,000 teachers, parents, students and administrators, and analyzing extensive student and school performance data. The culminating report describes the process that led to the state takeover, delineates the core elements of reform, and details strategies that states should adopt if they are contemplating school district takeovers.

California. CTAC was selected by the State of California to assist schools in two districts—Grant Joint Union High School District (now known as Twin Rivers Unified School District) and Vallejo City Unified School District—through the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming School Program (IIUSP). Through this program, CTAC assessed student achievement, current conditions, instructional strategies, and parent involvement. We then assisted each school to develop a plan to address issues identified and to increase student achievement in the subsequent year. In the planning year, the most recent year for which data are available, 80% of the schools working with CTAC in the first round of IIUSP showed gains in their Academic Performance Index ratings.

CTAC was also engaged by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) to assess and monitor pupil achievement in the Berkeley Unified and Vallejo City Unified school districts, districts coming under state supervision due to district fiscal conditions. Following the standards and criteria developed by FCMAT, CTAC conducted a full audit of pupil achievement and related student services, including assessment, student behavior services, special and categorical programs, and teacher professional development. Based on the audit findings, CTAC made recommendations for improvement and subsequently conducted follow-up evaluations of the degree of implementation of recommendations. Audit recommendations and follow-up recommendations were based on data collected in interviews, student assessments, demographic analysis, artifacts, and classroom observations. The authority and funding for these interventions was provided to FCMAT by the California legislature.

National. CTAC regularly serves as a policy resource to state departments of education, state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Department of Education on issues related to state-to-district and state-to-school interventions. Also, CTAC has trained leadership teams from more than 40 states on state-to-district interventions.