Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Many States Lack Focus on Equity in School Improvement, Report Suggests

By Alyson Klein — November 15, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Many states aren’t doing a good job of making equity a focus of school improvement or taking their oversight role on school turnarounds seriously, a new study suggests. And it can be hard to tell how states will sustain their school improvement efforts.

That’s according to an analysis released Thursday of state school improvement materials conducted by HCM Strategies, a public policy and advocacy firm, in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success, a Washington-based advocacy organization. The report looked at 17 states, chosen because there was enough data available to evaluate their school improvement process. The report considered each state’s application for districts to receive school improvement funding, its scoring rubric for the application, the state’s guidance for districts or schools to develop and implement their improvement plans, and other materials.

States were judged on a rubric developed by experts that included things like whether the state had a coherent vision for improving student outcomes, use of resources, the review process for district plans, and continuous improvement, monitoring, and evaluation.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states and districts—not the federal government—figure out how to fix low-performing schools. States must reserve 7 percent of their Title I money to help struggling schools get better. But they can decide how those dollars are distributed.

Many of the states in the study referenced “equity” in some way in their school improvement materials, the report found. But fewer than half clearly said it would be a focus of their improvement efforts. States largely did not explain how they would address inequities on high-quality teachers, curriculum, and enrichment opportunities among their schools.

States also have a role in overseeing district turnaround efforts, but many of those studied aren’t taking it seriously, the report found. It’s hard to tell from state applications whether they are allocating school improvement funds in a way that will direct the most money to the neediest schools. It’s also unclear whether some states are using a “robust, data-driven” process to track how districts are implementing their improvement plans.

And states are taking different approaches when it comes to who is in the driver’s seat on school improvement. Four states studied—Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Tennessee—have carved out a strong role for the state in overseeing turnarounds. Five states—Connecticut, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Nevada—are taking more of a monitoring and coaching role. And eight states—Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Texas—are leaving school improvement largely up to districts.

The report gives shout-outs to some of what it sees as best practices in school improvement, including Tennessee’s detailed application and Nevada’s choice to ask schools how their chosen school improvement strategy will address resource gaps.

And it offers hope that state approaches to school improvement will get better overtime.

“For some, this report will confirm their fears that the wide latitude under the new law will lead to the path of least resistance,” the authors wrote in their executive summary. “There is no doubt that in some states that is true. However, our hope is that this review is a useful tool to state education leaders, educators, stakeholders, and advocates as they grapple with the right leadership models, policies, and interventions to dramatically improve their lowest performing schools.”

Want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Here’s some useful information:

Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP