School Restructuring Under No Child Left Behind: What Works When? A Guide for Education Leaders
Emily Ayscue Hassel, Bryan C. Hassel, Matthew D. Arkin, Julia M. Kowal, and Lucy M. Steiner
The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement
This report is tailored for administrators tasked with "restructuring" schools that have failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind for five consecutive years. NCLB prescribes four Extreme Makeovers for these schools--chartering, contracting, reconstitution, and state takeovers--and then offers one loophole that regrettably permits superficial changes such as the addition of a new curriculum. This guide walks administrators through restructuring step-by-step, from the initial assessment (i.e., what type of radical school restructuring required?) to whether the restructuring should be state- or district-run, and finally through the aforementioned restructuring options. The roadmap addresses all types of restructuring scenarios, such as what to do with schools that missed AYP merely because of the performance of one student subgroup. Three key lessons are highlighted: 1) Big, fast improvements are different than incremental improvements; 2) transforming low-performing schools is an ongoing process, not a one-time project; and 3) strong leadership is necessary to effectively restructure failed schools. No surprises there. Though practical in format, explanation, and recommendations, the report is a bit Pollyannish in presuming that district leaders will opt for radical, as opposed to cosmetic, changes. Indeed, lots of data tell us that's a false presumption (see here and here). But for those who are serious about fixing their schools, not pacifying bureaucrats, this report could be helpful. Read it here.