Evaluation of Michigan’s System of Support for High-Priority Schools

In response to the federal mandate to devise strategies that are effective in fostering and sustaining improvement among their lowest performing schools, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) devised layers of support to schools identified as high priority. Through networks of auditors, leadership coaches, and process mentors; opportunities for professional learning; and a comprehensive school improvement framework, MDE sought to stimulate urgency, build leadership capacity, enhance school resources, and ultimately improve outcomes for students.

To provide Michigan policymakers with empirical data on the implementation and effectiveness of its strategies, AIR and its partners at the University of Michigan conducted a mixed method, longitudinal study of the implementation and impact of MDE’s system of support for high-priority schools. The evaluators collected data through online surveys and on-site visits to schools and districts, leveraged extant data from MDE to enrich the analyses, and analyzed achievement and accountability data from MDE to gauge the impact of the system of support. To gauge fidelity of implementation, the evaluation team collected longitudinal survey data from numerous actors within the system of support, including leadership coaches, process mentors, and principals. To evaluate SSOS implementation and enrich the understanding of the implementation dynamics, the evaluation team supplemented survey data with nested case studies of the SSOS process in three school districts with different contextual characteristics. To investigate the impact of SSOS services, the team compared the statewide achievement results of Title I schools receiving SSOS treatments and those of demographically similar non-Title I schools without services.

Based on Year 1 data and analyses, the evaluation team found that, overall, the components of the Michigan statewide system of support were implemented with fidelity and many components were perceived by schools stakeholders to be beneficial. However, serious systemic challenges (instability among teaching staff, leadership, and students and budget constraints) hampered the success of the SSOS. Student achievement analyses, for the most part, showed no impact on student outcomes, although statistically significant results were noted for a few elementary grades.