Wrestling the Devil in the Details: An Early Look at Restructuring in California

Center on Education Policy
February 28, 2006

Restructuring is the last resort of NCLB and of California's state accountability system. Schools that repeatedly fail to achieve adequate yearly progress are to be dramatically reshaped, and that reshaping process may take a variety of forms. The report illustrates that, when faced with a range of restructuring options, California schools and districts have almost always opted for the least disruptive. Seventy-six percent of California schools in restructuring took paths such as hiring academic coaches and appointing leadership teams to oversee schools. More-drastic restructuring routes such as replacing staff (an action that just 28 percent took), contracting with an outside organization (14 percent), or reopening as a charter school (2 percent) were far less popular. The paper's just-the-facts approach may frustrate readers who hope to draw conclusions about what works and what doesn't; it's simply too early to know. The "results" described in the case studies are not actually results; they're examples of school restructuring (e.g., offering professional development, altering the school day, or adding for students a program on study habits) intended to bring about better results. Nonetheless, it's clear that even seemingly small changes cause real anxiety among teachers. The report also notes that the state department of education "decided to land right in the middle" between a hands-on approach and leaving restructuring decisions to the districts (the level of state oversight varies from one state to the next). One hopes a future report can describe how student achievement is affected by these changes. In the meantime, this report has useful data and moderately interesting case studies. It's available online here; it follows two similar reports on restructuring in Michigan. A report on Maryland is expected later this year.

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