NEPC Review: Stuck Schools: A framework for identifying schools where students need change—now

The Education Trust research report Stuck Schools suggests a framework for identifying chronically low-performing schools in need of turnaround. The study uses Maryland and Indiana to show that some low-performing schools make progress while others remain stagnant. The report has four serious problems of reliability and validity, however. First, the norm-referenced methodology guarantees "failed" schools independent of any true performance or improvement level by the school. Second, the report’s reliance on state assessment data is misleading, and some schools’ reported growth may be an artifact of regression to the mean and ceiling effects as well as instructional and testing practices. Third, the use of a linear growth model is questionable, since schools may not follow a strictly linear pattern of improvement. Fourth, the label of "stuck" becomes problematic given that there is no research-based guidance on how to improve schools other than vague prescriptions. In conclusion, the report’s methods are so simplistic, arbitrary and ill-fitting with its own assumptions that it is more harmful to sound policymaking than helpful. There remains an outstanding question of how to help struggling schools after identification, but we need to know first whether the identification is based on reliable and valid measures, and if so, what school factors account for these differences.

Suggested Citation: Lee, J. (2010). Review of “Stuck Schools: A Framework for Identifying Schools Where Students Need Change—Now.” Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from

Document Reviewed:

Stuck Schools: A framework for identifying schools where students need change—now

Natasha Ushomirsky and Daria Hall
Education Trust