Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal School Improvement Grants program is gone, but the goal of school improvement remains. States must now use seven percent of their Title I allocation for these efforts, but are no longer constrained by a prescribed menu of intervention options.

That represents a powerful opportunity for states—one that stakeholders at the city and state level would be wise to leverage.

To help guide efforts, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Education Cities partnered to offer insight into evidence-based school-improvement turnaround efforts that have been successful throughout the country. Authors Nelson Smith and Brandon Wright deconstruct key provisions in ESSA and dig into three promising approaches that can be supported via the Title I set-aside:

  1. Charter expansion: where states support the creation of new, high-quality charter schools to serve communities with low-performing district schools;

  2. State turnaround districts: where a state withdraws control of struggling schools from their districts and consolidates them under a state-led entity; and

  3. State-led, district-based solutions: where a state vests authority over existing districts or individual schools in a single individual who enjoys many of the powers usually exercised by district superintendents and school boards.

Leveraging ESSA to Support Quality-School Growth demonstrates that states need not do the same-old same-old when it comes to school improvement. Now the question is whether states will seize the opportunity.  

Brandon Wright is the Editorial Director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He is the coauthor of two books: Failing our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students (with Chester E. Finn, Jr.) and Charter Schools at the Crossroads: …

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