Rutgers University Political Science Professor Domingo Morel, has done some of that research, and spoke with reporter John Bender, about the pitfalls and promise of this unprecedented step.

Interview highlights:

Do takeovers work?

It depends. Thirty years of evidence suggests that state takeovers don’t often result in the improved education outcomes education officials are looking for. Those outcomes are things like standard test results improving, lower absentee rates, high graduations.

There is some evidence, Morel says, that those outcomes have improved in some districts, including New Orleans and Lawrence, Massachusetts, which have both been subject to state takeovers.  However those gains usually stagnate, or revert if turnaround plans don’t take.

The drawbacks of this kind of intervention:

State interventions usually mean the restructuring of the governing systems of a school district. That will be the case in Providence. Doing so can dis-empower communities for a “generation or two,” says Morel.

Rhode Island’s education commissioner Angelica Infante-Green has included language to guarantee parents, teachers and students the opportunity to weigh in on the turnaround plan.

What makes the Providence takeover different:

There is usually formal objection from the municipal level to state interventions into local school districts. That is not the case in Providence. While there may, and will likely be more, dissent, no entities stood in opposition to the takeover in Rhode Island. That puts Providence in the place of potentially becoming a national model, says Morel.

On the five-year time frame:

That’s a potential problem, says Morel. Commissioner Infante-Green explained the choice to intervene for at least five years, with the opportunity to extend, as necessary to make sure changes stick in a process will take a long time. Morel says in extending the takeover past 2022, during which there will be a mayoral and gubernatorial election, the fate of the turnaround could become a political football.