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June 08, 2011
June 09, 2011
November 05, 2008
Rebecca Wolf DiBiase
Education Commission of the States
As explained above in "The two faces of No Child Left Behind," the No Child Left Behind Act is undoubtedly a "behaviorist" law. It pushes institutions (state departments of education, school districts, and schools) and people (superintendents, principals, teachers, and students) to do things differently through some use of carrots (praise for a job well done) and, especially, sticks (public shaming and sanctions for schools "in need of improvement"). Its theory of action is that local educators will do whatever it takes to raise student achievement and close achievement gaps in order to avoid painful measures meted out by Washington. But in order for this theory to work, someone must "pull the trigger" on schools that consistently underperform. NCLB requires schools that fail to make "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) six years running to face severe consequences, called "restructuring." And the local school districts are the trigger-pulling enforcers. So how is the theory working out in practice? According to this policy brief from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), few actors are showing much interest in playing tough. The feds have provided little to no guidance on restructuring, indicating a lack of seriousness on their part. The states have largely taken a hands-off approach, often in line with their respect for "local control." And the districts most often choose mild interventions, such as technical assistance, rather than strong ones, such as turning failing schools into charter schools. More-specific findings include:
The report also includes a useful summary of how each of the 13 states approach implementing the provision. It's worth checking out; surf to it here.