Schools in the United States are continuously pressured to perform or improve performance, leading to a variety of methodologies intended to increase student achievement. But not all methodologies are equally effective. A recent study by Henry & Harbatkin examines the effectiveness of one such effort, the ESSA-aligned North Carolina Transformation (NCT) initiative, started in 2015.
The initiative provided school transformation support services and instructional coaching to 75 schools in the bottom 5 percent of state proficiency testing over the course of two academic years. The majority of these schools were in rural locations (72), while six were located in cities or towns, and were a mixture of elementary (38), middle (28), and high schools (12). These schools, compared to non-treatment schools, were noted to have higher minority and low-income student populations, higher percentages of new teachers, and higher per student expenditures.
Comparing student performance, through end-of-year and end-of-course assessments, Henry & Harbatkin found no significant effect of the NCT program after one year, and a significant negative effect size of -0.13 by the end of year two. Teachers in NCT schools were also found to be more likely to turn over at the end of the second year.
These disappointing results may be due to several aspects of the initiative. First, the number, content, and structure of coaching visits differed widely from school to school, but the average school received 45 instructional coach visits and 25 school transformation coach visits. More consistent implementation of intervention visits could improve programmatic successes. And second, there were differences in the timing when schools’ Comprehensive Needs Assessments (CNA) were conducted, with some conducted three years prior to the program’s start and others once improvement plans were already underway. As the CNAs were intended to serve as the foundation for improvement planning, it is important for school members to have full information about schools’ needs and shortcomings prior to the development of an effective improvement plan.
Source: Henry, G. T., & Harbatkin, E. (2020). The next generation of sstate reforms to improve their lowest performing schools: An evaluation of North Carolina’s School Transformation Intervention. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 13(4), 702-730.