When states consider taking over chronically underperforming schools or districts by creating “extraordinary authority districts,” they have few examples to follow. Since Louisiana first established a statewide turnaround district in 2003, though, a small but increasing number of states have created “EADs,” providing lessons others can follow in planning their own turnaround approach.
A wide-ranging discussion at a 2013 convening of leaders of five early-implementing EADs–Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Tennessee–yielded many lessons, as well as demonstrating the variety of options available to states thinking about an EAD. In “Extraordinary Authority Districts”: Design Considerations—Framework and Takeaways, Public Impact, in partnership with America Achieves, offers these EADs’ key takeaways. States just contemplating an EAD will find insights into policy areas to pursue; states implementing EADs now will find practical lessons on operations and strategies.
The brief considers a four-part framework of EAD design choices: political and legislative context; strategies for using takeover authority, timelines, and sustainability; structure of the EAD’s “central office” and within the state’s education authority; and the capacity needed within the EAD and from external partners to carry out the turnaround.
Read the full report for the many suggestions, including:
- Structure authority to maintain flexibility and maximize effectiveness—so EADs can take over both individual schools and entire districts, running schools directly and/or issuing charters to outside operators.
- Enable EADs to assume control of entire or partial feeder patterns of failing high schools when the feeder pattern is inherent to school failure.
- Become deeply engaged with the community and potential community partners; build demand for change within the community, including students.
- Use strategic nonprofit partners to bring together a cross-section of organizations to provide the necessary supply of high-quality talent and providers.
- Develop a clear plan to sequence and scale up the state’s efforts, and plan ahead for what will become of schools when they do turn around.
- Consider the range of “central office” designs to determine what functions the EAD must retain, and how to provide the right range of services, with an early focus on those most likely to affect student achievement.
- Ensure the EAD has appropriate flexibility and authority over funding and operations, creating it as an entity reporting directly to the state education chief.
- Cultivate a supply of turnaround leaders and educators at all levels. Structure school leader positions with wide authority, sufficient resources, and stable governance, and create teacher positions with appealing opportunities for excellent teachers to earn more and advance in their careers without having to leave the classroom.
“Extraordinary Authority Districts”: Design Considerations—Framework and Takeaways was written by Public Impact’s Sharon Kebschull Barrett, Christen Holly, and Bryan C. Hassel.