Office of Planning and Research
ESE Research Update, November 2016
Research and Reports from ESE
ESE contracted with AIR to evaluate turnaround practices in Level 4 schools, which AIR released as two related studies. In their Evaluation of Level 4 School Turnaround Efforts in Massachusetts - Part 1: Implementation Study, researchers from AIR analyzed data from interviews, focus groups and classroom observations to evaluate the extent to which school communities implemented effective school turnaround practices, comparing strategies employed by Level 4 schools that improved over time versus those that did not. The strategies that distinguished improving schools included:
- Strategic use of staffing and scheduling autonomy
- Culture of open, two-way communication
- Establishment of clear, consistent, and aligned instructional foci and expectations
- Regular use of classroom observations to improve instruction
- Consistent implementation of a well-defined multitiered system of support
- Provision of nonacademic student supports, including social-emotional supports
- Consistent implementation of a schoolwide student behavior plan
- Focus on offering expanded learning opportunities
- Commitment to engaging families in student learning.
The report includes specific examples of how schools implemented these practices. The second part of the study, Evaluation of Level 4 School Turnaround Efforts in Massachusetts - Part 2: Impact of School Redesign Grants, examined the impact of receiving School Redesign Grants (SRG) on student achievement on MCAS in math and ELA. The study compared schools receiving the grants with other similar schools in the same district that did not receive these grants. They found that students in SRG schools achieved statistically significantly higher test scores in ELA and math than did students in comparison non-SRG schools during each year of SRG implementation. After one year, students in SRG schools had advanced one full year in learning more, on average, than students in non-SRG schools. Overall, by the end of three years of receiving School Redesign Grants, student learning gains in SRG schools had doubled relative to students in non-SRG schools. The SRG study results were consistent across elementary, middle and high school in both subject areas, except for high school students in English language arts. In SRG schools, the achievement gaps narrowed to a greater extent for English language learners and low-income students than in non-SRG schools.
Research on Massachusetts Education Policy
In September, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report, Public Education Funding in Massachusetts: Putting Charter Schools in Context, that examined the impact of charter school aid on school district finance. The foundation analyzed aid and spending data over the last five fiscal years to determine the extent to which charter school funding affected school district finance for non-charter students. The authors highlighted that the vast majority of the recent growth in charter school enrollment have occurred in only eight districts (Boston, Chelsea, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford and Springfield). They found that the growth in charter school enrollment in these districts has been similar to charter tuition increases, but has had varied impact on spending on students staying in the district. In general, though, spending per charter student is closely aligned with spending per non-charter school students These eight districts all spent more per non-charter student in fiscal year 2016 than in fiscal year 2011, and their spending has increased at very similar rates over the last five years for both charter and non-charter students. State aid has also generally increased for these districts over this time period. However, state aid for Boston has decreased substantially in recent years, which the authors largely attribute to features of the Chapter 70 formula rather than trends in charter school enrollment. Overall, most other school districts have too few charter school students to have substantial impacts on school district spending.