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What Have We Learned About Restructuring under NCLB?

From guest blogger Catherine Gewertz:

With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act looming, it would be useful to know what we have learned about restructuring schools under its current version, the No Child Left Behind Act. That's what the folks at the Center on Education Policy hope to convey in a report out today.

At a daylong forum scheduled here in Washington today, an array of federal, state, and local policymakers will discuss their experiences trying to use the levers of No Child Left Behind to turn around the lowest-performing schools.

Until we can tell you more about those discussions, here are a few takeaways from the study. The center studied the experiences of six states, 23 school districts, and 48 schools, asking what they learned about improving struggling schools and the role NCLB played in it. Based on those findings, it urges federal officials to allow a bit more flexibility in letting states use $3.5 billion in Title I school-improvement grants for schools in improvement.

All the case-study schools found that multiple, coordinated strategies were needed to improve achievement enough to exit restructuring, the study found, and those strategies needed to be revised as the work proceeded. Even then, no one from those schools said restructuring solved all their problems. The schools cited frequent use of data as key to their efforts. Most of the schools that got out of restructuring said they had replaced staff, and that it helped improve things in some cases, but that it could also have unintended negative consequences.

At the state level, all six states aimed tailored supports at the schools most in need, have leveraged those supports by partnering with other agencies or organizations, and have used needs assessments and on-site monitoring more often in figuring out the restructuring puzzle. Interestingly, the report found, states found their own strategies more helpful than federal restructuring strategies in getting schools to make adequate yearly progress.

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