NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

School Turnarounds: Evidence from the 2009 Stimulus

Thomas Dee

NBER Working Paper No. 17990
Issued in April 2012
NBER Program(s):   ED

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) targeted substantial School Improvement Grants (SIGs) to the nation's "persistently lowest achieving" public schools (i.e., up to $2 million per school annually over 3 years) but required schools accepting these awards to implement a federally prescribed school-reform model. Schools that met the "lowest-achieving" and "lack of progress" thresholds within their state had prioritized eligibility for these SIG-funded interventions. Using data from California, this study leverages these two discontinuous eligibility rules to identify the effects of SIG-funded whole-school reforms. The results based on these "fuzzy" regression-discontinuity designs indicate that there were significant improvements in the test-based performance of schools on the "lowest-achieving" margin but not among schools on the "lack of progress" margin. Complementary panel-based estimates suggest that these improvements were largely concentrated among schools adopting the federal "turnaround" model, which compels more dramatic staff turnover.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17990

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