STUDIES FIND MULTIPLE STRATEGIES NEEDED TO IMPROVE

Patricia Hawke

 
For the past three years California Schools have been the subject of an in-depth analysis of school reform. The study, Beyond the Mountains: An Early Look at Restructuring Results in California, conducted by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), is part of a multi-year review of the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) on Maryland, Michigan and California Schools.
 
The examination concerns specific restructuring methods used by California Schools and their success. According to CEP founder and president Jack Jennings, “While it is still too early to tell whether restructuring is working, it is clear from the experience of California and Michigan, the two states we have studied in-depth, that simply requiring schools to replace staff does not guarantee increased student achievement. Rather, success is linked to implementing multiple improvement strategies.”
 
This is of critical concern to California Schools for a couple of reasons. California Schools have more schools facing restructuring than most other states for several reasons. School restructuring is mandated by the NCLB act for any schools unable to meet its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) markers for five or more consecutive years. One reason that California Schools saw the number of its schools facing this mandate double to 8% in the last year is because of its massive size. Also, California Schools implemented AYP markers a year before it was federally mandated. Of the California Schools facing restructuring, over 60% are in urban areas.
 
The numbers don’t look good. 207 of the California Schools in the implementation phase of restructuring failed to meet AYP standards for seven consecutive years. That’s why the CEP study has such import. The study concluded that the California Schools that were most successful in raising student achievement were those that analyzed school data and implemented initiatives designed to meet those specific needs. This is important because the US Department of Education previously recommended replacing staff rather than other forms of restructuring.
 
Other reform methods in California Schools include instituting English Language Learner programs, direct coaching for teachers and principals, changes in scheduling and the hiring of a district-level coordinator. The California Schools that used the above methods, without replacing staff or changing to a charter system, were generally more successful than the other schools studied. What will this mean for the future of California Schools?
 
It’s likely that funds for teacher planning time, instructional coaches and special instruction for at-risk students will appear on coming legislation. As noted by Jennings, the California Schools still have a long road ahead before the success of many programs can be fully evaluated. That’s why California Schools need the quantifiable results of a study like this one.

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