Monday, March 05, 2007

California school restructuring

Number of California Schools Facing “Restructuring” – No Child Left Behind’s Controversial Last Consequence – Increases Sharply
California Struggles to Find Effective Remedies

WASHINGTON – February 28, 2007 – California educators face an uphill battle to improve schools in restructuring – the No Child Left Behind Act’s ultimate sanction for struggling schools – according to a new study from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy. The number of California schools facing the sanction nearly doubled in the last year, increasing from 401 schools in 2005-06 to 701 in 2006-07, or roughly 8 percent of California schools.

The study, Beyond the Mountains: An Early Look at Restructuring Results in California, examined the restructuring process in California. Schools are placed in restructuring when they have missed adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets for five or more consecutive years; these schools must undertake reform strategies intended to boost their performance. More than 60 percent of California’s restructuring schools are in urban areas and one-third are in suburban areas – a higher share of suburban schools than in the previous year.

California has more schools facing this mandated reform than most other states not only because it is a large state, but also because it began implementing test-based accountability systems sooner than most states. California started calculating AYP under the federal law that preceded No Child Left Behind.

Of those schools in restructuring’s implementation phase, 207 have failed to make AYP for seven consecutive years, and 10 have failed to make AYP for eight consecutive years. Meanwhile, only 10 schools that were in any phase of restructuring made achievement gains that were sufficient to allow them to exit school improvement in the last year.

Contrary to the assumption behind the U.S. Department of Education’s recent call for disallowing “minor” restructuring strategies in favor of replacing staff or reconstituting the school’s governance structure, CEP’s study finds that California schools that replaced staff were no more likely to increase the percentages of proficient students on state tests than restructuring schools in general. Instead, officials at schools that improved student achievement attributed their success to analyzing school data and tailoring interventions to the needs of the particular school.

The report also finds that few California schools in restructuring converted into charter schools (2 percent) or turned their operation over to an outside entity (10 percent). Instead, 30 percent replaced staff and 89 percent of schools implemented the “undertake any other major restructuring of the school’s governance that produces fundamental reform” option. In California this approach has taken a variety of forms, including designating a district-level coordinator, changing school schedules, hiring coaches to improve instruction, and adding instructional programs to improve achievement for English language learners. The percentages of schools choosing various options do not total 100 percent since some schools used more than one restructuring strategy.
Center on Education Policy..
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