The Turnaround Challenge: The Role of Accountability on School Turnarounds: The Case of Two Major Suburban Texas School Districts
Olivo, Efrain, Jr.
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On January 8, 2002, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 107-110, No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001: Improving the Academic Achievement Of the Disadvantaged. The purpose of NCLB is “to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind” (P.L. 107-110, 20 USC 6301, p. 1, Jan. 8, 2002). Over the next 10 years, schools nationwide faced daily challenges of educating children to meet the rigorous standards of NCLB (Le Floch, Martinez, O’Day, Stecher, Taylor & Cook, 2007; Thim, Hassel, & Redding, 2008). Unfortunately, many states had many schools labeled as low-performing and mired in chronic failure as identified in 5000 United States failing schools (National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2011). In an effort to address this achievement shortfall, the Obama Administration made “turnaround” a major priority by issuing the School Turnaround Learning Community (STLC) program in July 2011, including school improvement grants, alignment of existing federal resources, and ESEA flexibility (Manwaring, 2010; STLC, 2012). There are many studies on school improvement and the effectiveness of school reform (Dana Center, 2002; Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, 2012; Morrison Institute for Public Policy, 2006; Taylor, 2002); however, there are few studies that have examined the long-term successful turnaround scale up efforts of struggling schools in high poverty, high-minority communities (Calkins, A., Guenther, W.H., Hess, F.M., Kendrick, R. H., 2008). There are some case studies on the turnaround successes of elementary schools, but no major studies on turnaround successes in the secondary schools focusing on the role of the principal as a school turnaround leader. While education has created some academic progress for the low-income, the greatest challenge to literacy in the U.S. is how to educate poor and minority children while closing the achievement gap between high-poverty, high-minority students and majority students (Calkins, A., Guenther, W., Belfiore, G., & Lash, D., 2010; Elmore, 2004; Hill, 2006; Reyes & Rodriguez, 2009). A recent study (Branch, Hanushek, & Rivkin, 2012) on the outcome-based estimates of principal value-added to student achievement revealed a significant variation in principal qualities that appear to be larger for high-poverty schools. The purpose of this quantitative study was to explore the role of accountability on school turnarounds in two major suburban Texas public school districts. It explored the relations between Texas accountability status and race, and economic status for the sample schools using 2010-2011 Texas Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS). The relations were explored between state and federal (NCLB) accountability ratings, and economic status and race for the sample schools for 2010-2011. Finally, the study explored relations between principal characteristics and student achievement in two major suburban Texas public school districts. This study addressed correlational research between: 1. Accountability and student characteristics; 2. Accountability and school characteristics; and, 3. Accountability and student achievement. This quantitative study used correlational research to determine the relation between school accountability, the independent variable, and dependent variables of race, and economic status, and student achievement. This study sought to understand which variables relate to turnaround accountability status using Texas Education Agency (TEA) accountability data and the state NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) data (TEA, 2011). A survey method was used to gather school and principal data which were analyzed using simple statistics and frequencies (Babbie, 1990; Fink & Koseoff, 1998; Mellenbergh, 2008; Scheaffer, Mendenhall, & Ott, 1990). The survey was used to collect information on principal and school background characteristics. Archival data for Texas accountability and federal accountability were retrieved from the TEA Accountability Rating System (AEIS). Correlational analyses were conducted between two major suburban Texas public school districts. Correlational relations were analyzed for state and federal accountability ratings, and economic status and race for the sample schools for 2010-2011. For this study, the three most significant relations found to the p < .01 level were: 1. Enrollment percentages of certain student groups related to lower or higher Texas and federal school accountability; 2. Student achievement in math and reading by certain student groups related to lower or higher federal accountability; and, 3. The more economically disadvantaged students enrolled in a school, the lower the Texas accountability. The last finding in this study was the most significant. While NCLB was created to close the achievement gap, these data show that economic status relates to lower student achievement as measured by state and federal accountability. Findings from this study cannot be generalized to draw conclusions about the role of state or federal accountability in school turnarounds or identification for improvement on subsequent student achievement.
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