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RESEARCH


graduation rates, and achievement performance on standardized tests were common indicators and frequently used for performance measurement. When a school or district failed to meet the state’s performance standards successfully, the district was labeled as academically failing. A lack of accountability, fiscal irresponsibility, or academic failing is referred to as academic bankruptcy (Berk & Lewis, 1997), a term that originally emerged during in the 1990s (Anderson, 1997). School districts must establish accountability steps to ward off sanctions, takeovers, or other intervention approaches.


The ultimate controversial approach to correct failing or unsuccessful schools/districts is the takeover and full operation of a school system by an outside entity such as a state department, government, hired agency or specialists. Despite attempts by the state departments of education and governments to intervene in school districts, most takeovers have been unable to sustain success for a long period of time after the takeover authority exits. Garland (2003) notes that, “Most observers find no academic gains from takeovers” (p.12) and continues to report that what success is achieved seems to be short-lived. Johnston (1998) and Hendrie (1998) similarly report that takeovers have had mixed results in achieving academic success in public school systems and should be considered with caution. Despite the failure of takeovers as a successful sustaining intervention strategy, states continue to use them as a device for accountability. Garland (2003) reported that takeovers are alarmingly on a rise over the last decade. There is an increase in the number of incidents where school boards are taken over by the state, reports Fullan (2001). In 1998, only eight states had exercised this right (Johnston, 1998; Hendrie, 1998), but by 2001, 27 states had enacted policies to allow for the takeover of a school district for unsatisfactory performance and nine states had policy to allow for private takeover (Rudo, 2001). There are; however, some sustained exceptions.


According to Garland (2003), only three districts in the nation have sustained success after takeovers. Logan County, West Virginia is one of these three school districts. Rudo (2001) reports that West Virginia was one of the few states with takeovers that witnessed increased test scores, decreased fiscal problems, and improved management. Logan County’s takeover also resulted in lower dropout rates.


Through a shared responsibility between the West Virginia Department of Education and the Office of Educational Performance Audits (OEPA), an accountability system was established to monitor all 55 counties on a rotational or needs basis. Each county is ranked annually by county performances as identified and evaluated by the OEPA and a composite report is filed for all 55 counties as a combined state report (Anderson, 1997; Seder, 2000). School districts that fail to make acceptable performance ratings can be taken over as in the case of Logan


Spring 2011 Vol. 8 No. 1 Virginia Educational Leadership 79


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