Data shows feds rarely step in at struggling schools

Aug 25, 2015 by

By Kate Schimel –

  • Kevin Carey, the director of the education policy program at the New America Foundation, says that fears of federal interventions in schools are based on exaggerated perceptions of how often such overhauls actually take place.
  • Under No Child Left Behind, persistently struggling schools can face a range of interventions from closure and turning the school over to a charter operator to establishing learning communities within schools.
  • Carey argues that most interventions have been on the mild side, though the most extreme have drawn more attention.

Dive Insight:

If the House and Senate manage to pass an NCLB rewrite, it’s unlikely to include provisions to allow the kind of federally-mandated overhauls of the past decade. The House version places most of the power to determine what “low-performing” means and how to fix it in the hands of state and local officials. The Senate version mandates that the overhauls be evidence-based. Still, the differences in accountability language have proven to be among the most bitter of partisan issues. President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Education have pushed hard for more guaranteed interventions for the lowest 5% of schools, and Democrats overall have argued for more protection for minority students.

Still, as Carey puts it, “the great debate in Congress will be whether to wholly or mostly repeal the federal government’s authority to require states to fix America’s worst public schools.”

Carey points to a Government Accountability Office report that found just 1% of schools were turned over to charter operators, 5% were taken over by states, and 6% were shut down. Under Obama, the numbers were similar. Just 1% of schools were shut down under his School Improvement Grants initiative. Carey argues that the current NCLB rewrites give local officials too much latitude to continue business as usual, despite evidence that the most extreme interventions are the most effective.

Still, it’s worth noting that while the percentages are small, those numbers still represent large numbers of schools. And the approach was still a marked shift from past education policy, when schools were rarely, if ever, closed due to performance concerns. What’s more, in some states, charter operators have grown far more rapidly and treaded into territory more typically covered by traditional public schools.

Recommended Reading

The New York Times: Federal Intervention in Schools? It Happens Less Than Critics Think

Source: Data shows feds rarely step in at struggling schools | Education Dive

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.