Over the past few decades, many state departments of education have taken over low-performing schools or districts as a school turnaround strategy. But recently, that strategy has shifted to creating new districts—managed by the state—that include schools and parts of districts that face challenges in performance. The governance structure brings schools together based on similar needs, rather than on geographic proximity. This new state takeover strategy varies in terms of the level of state control and local influence, and its success has been mixed or cannot yet be fully measured. Nonetheless, it has sparked new thinking and innovation in states and districts throughout the United States.
Schools or districts taken over by state departments of education operate under a governance structure that grants them freedom from some of the restrictions placed on typical U.S. school districts. This freedom has allowed school and district leaders in state takeover districts to experiment with everything from school staffing, to the school calendar, to curriculum and lesson planning. Another area of innovation for state takeover schools and districts is teacher professional development, the focus of this issue brief.