The effect of the policy of reconstitution on student achievement in Texas



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The failure of schools across the country to ensure students meet federal, state, and community standards continuously plagues the education system. More than a quarter of all schools in the nation failed to meet federal requirements in 2007, with 38% failing to do so in 2010. By 2011 that figure rose to nearly 50%. Failing schools ostensibly produce failing students who experience poorer outcomes than their peers including reduced earnings over their lifetime. A potential solution to failing schools is to reconstitute them. School reconstitution requires all staff at a failing school to reapply for their positions with the stated aim of improving student achievement. Started as a court-mandated desegregation action in San Francisco in 1983, school reconstitution quickly spread across the country in the 1990s. Incorporated into local and state accountability systems, scholars estimate thousands of schools reconstituted between 1983 and 2011. Despite its prevalence, information regarding how reconstitution began, spread, and made its way into Texas statute is scarce and theories related to why reconstitution should improve student performance lack cohesion. Even worse, little to no quantitative evidence demonstrates whether reconstitution improves student achievement. This dissertation takes advantage of a Texas law passed in 2003 mandating that schools failing to meet state standards for two years in a row must reconstitute. Estimated effects of reconstitution on student achievement apply state-wide student and school data between 2003 and 2011. Several methods, including regression discontinuity and student-level fixed-effects determine whether reconstitution improves student achievement and if developed theories explain this improvement. Discussion includes national, state, and local policy recommendations.