The Federal government has spent billions of dollars to support turnarounds of low-achieving schools, yet most evidence on the impact of such turnarounds comes from high-profile, exceptional settings and not from examples driven by state policy decisions at scale.
This paper studies the impact of state takeover and district-level turnaround in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Takeover of the Lawrence Public School (LPS) district was driven by the state’s accountability system, which increases state control in response to chronic underperformance.
The authors find that the first two years of the LPS turnaround produced large achievement gains in math and modest gains in reading. While the LPS turnaround was a package of interventions that cannot be fully separated, there is evidence that intensive small-group instruction led to particularly large achievement gains for participating students.