U.S. Department of Education
Policy and Program Studies Service
April 2006

At first blush, this weighty publication appears to be much the same as the National Assessment of Title I Interim Report (reviewed here). To be sure, there's overlap. This report was included in the Congressionally mandated Interim Report-a compilation of federally funded Title I studies, several of which were not yet published. But there's plenty of new material here that provides fresh insight into the early years of implementing No Child Left Behind at the state, district, and school level. (The study provides data from 2001-02 through 2003-04.) Some highlights from the nationally representative survey:

  • Schools identified as "in need of improvement" are increasingly concentrated in big urban districts. That's no surprise because states' various games and gimmicks (such as excluding subgroups from accountability unless they are large enough) most often let suburban schools off the hook.
  • Among a menu of school improvement efforts (such as adopting new math and reading curricula or boosting teacher collaboration), only one strategy consistently helped schools get off the "needs improvement" list: aligning curriculum and professional development with state standards.
  • The most common "corrective actions" taken by districts for schools that did not make "adequate yearly progress" four years in a row were those most supported by the failing schools' staffs, such as appointing an outside expert to advise the school or implementing a new curriculum. Only one-quarter of the districts held adults accountable by implementing tougher and less welcome reforms, such as replacing the principal or the teachers.

The report provides plenty more information to dig into on topics such as public school choice, supplemental services, and state systems of support for schools. The lack of state-by-state information keeps it from achieving blockbuster status, but wonks following NCLB implementation will want to check it out, here.

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