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Educational policy analysis archives
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1 of 20 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 10 Number 45October 19, 2002ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2002, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES .Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .Corrective Action and School Choice in NYC: An Analysis of District Funding Applications Doug Hamman Texas Tech University E. Allen Schenck RMC Research Corporation Portsmouth, NHCitation: Hamman, D. & Schenck, E. A. (2002, Octobe r 19). Corrective action and school choice in NYC:An analysis of district funding applications, Education Policy Analysis Archives 10 (45). Retrieved [date] from play a critical role in reforming schools In January 2000, NYC community school districts applied for Title I, IAS A, funding to carry out corrective actions against historically low-per forming schools. Our purpose was to examine (a) how districts planned to take corrective action to address problems that cause low performan ce; and (b) the


2 of 20extent to which school choice could be implemented in those districts which were applying for corrective action funding. Districts most commonly identified teacher turnover, poor-quality instruction, and student needs as causes of low performance. In resp onse, districts proposed providing professional development related to instructional strategies, but often ignored other important issue s. Moreover, most districts described plans to take corrective action s that would decrease schools’ decision-making authority, but then failed to identify steps to increase the districts’ own capacity to execute gre ater responsibility once control had been taken from the schools. Districts overall seemed unable to implement school choice plans in an effective ma nner. As part of the FY 2000 funding for the Elementary a nd Secondary Schools Act of 1965 (ESEA), Congress appropriated $134 million for loca l educational agencies to bolster their capability for carrying out school improvemen t and corrective action responsibilities under section 1116 (c) of Title I, IASA, and to provide students enrolled in low-performing schools the opportunity to transf er within the district to another school not identified as low-performing. This appro priation was aimed at strengthening accountability for student performance results, and was seen as “a key reform strategy capable of delivering a high-quality education for all students” (U. S. Department of Education, 2000, p. 2). Given the recent passage of the reauthorization of the ESEA in late 2001, including its provisions for districts t o take corrective actions against low-performing schools, it seems appropriate to exa mine the manner in which some districts in New York City (NYC) have proposed to l everage change in historically low-performing schools.Districts Play an Important RoleOne clear intention of the 2000 appropriation was t o have districts play an important role in turning around their low-performing schools. Dis tricts were obligated to help low-performing schools develop and implement school improvement plans, and to provide additional professional development and tec hnical assistance. Districts were also authorized to take one or more corrective actions w hich could include withholding funds from identified schools, decreasing decision-making authority of school leaders in identified schools, or reconstituting school staff (see Appendix A for the complete list of corrective actions). An important provision of this appropriation was that, when necessary, district leaders could use improvement f unding to build up their own capability for turning around low-performing school s. In addition to improvement and corrective action re sponsibilities, districts accepting these funds in FY 2000 were also required to implem ent school choice plans. School choice was intended to offer students in a chronica lly low-performing school the opportunity to attend a better school the following year. If districts were unable to offer school choice to every student desiring this option provisions had to be made to transfer as many students as possible, and to allocate exist ing opportunities on an equitable basis. School choice was viewed as a means to provide stud ents with better educational opportunities and to increase involvement of parent s in children’s education (U. S. Department of Education, 2000).Strategies for Turning Around Low-Performing School s


3 of 20Corrective action and school choice are both federa l strategies intended to turn around low-performing schools. Corrective action provides districts with the authority to intervene directly in schools. With this legislatio n, districts were under special obligation to take corrective action against schools that fail ed to make adequate yearly progress toward student achievement goals in English Languag e Arts (ELA) and Mathematics for two out of three years after being identified for i mprovement. Section 1116 (c) of Title I, IASA, gives districts a pivotal role in helping tur n around low-performing schools. To do so, however, districts must have personnel with the knowledge and skill to help schools adopt and implement effective strategies fo r improvement. Likewise, school choice is an accountability strate gy intended to bring market forces to bear on low-performing schools. The public notifica tion of poor performance, and the dissatisfaction accompanying parents’ transfer of t heir children to higher performing schools creates public demand for better education. Like corrective action, districts must have a level of capacity for this strategy to be ef fective. In this case, districts must have space in schools that are making adequate progress in order to allow the exercise of the choice option.District leadership for building school capacity an d improving student learning The path to improving chronically low-performing school s represents virtually uncharted territory for many school leaders. District leaders appear to lack the expertise and resources to respond to school-level calls for assi stance, according to a recent report on district school improvement efforts (U. S. Departme nt of Education, 2001). Given this, schools against which districts are planning correc tive actions may be in a particularly troubling situation where they have been unable to improve over an extended period of time, and their district is ill-equipped to help ha lt their decline or provide the necessary external support to assist and guide improvement.It is unclear exactly how districts will carry out corrective actions against schools, or the effect such actions are likely to have on student p erformance. Only a limited amount of empirical evidence exists to guide district-led ref orms. What seems clearer, though, is that if districts have not been able to assist scho ols in need of improvement, there is little chance they will be able to turn around low-perform ing schools by taking corrective actions unless some action is taken to boost the capacity for ref orm at the district level. One strategy districts might use to help low-perfor ming schools is to use professional development funding in ways that directly affect te aching and learning. Youngs (2001) suggests that districts can use professional develo pment to enhance the capacity of schools to improve student achievement. A school’s capacity is enhanced when professional development includes features that imp rove teacher knowledge and skill, builds professional community within a school, and fosters coherence of instructional programs while providing some autonomy. These featu res provide knowledge and support for improvement, and ultimately make it mor e likely that teachers will change their instructional practice in ways that will impr ove students’ academic achievement. Applying Youngs’ criteria for effective professiona l development provides a guide with which districts can judge professional development, and provides a means to tie professional development directly to student learni ng. A related strategy that may hold some promise for h elping low-performing schools is for superintendents to become instructional leaders. Pe tersen (1999) described the actions of


4 of 20eight California superintendents who are credited w ith turning around many low-performing schools in their district. These sup erintendents all embraced the role of instructional leader at the district level, and reo rganized district priorities and structure to focus on teaching and curriculum in schools. Pet ersen described superintendents who articulated a vision of good teaching for their dis tricts, held principals accountable for carrying this vision into the classrooms of their s chools, and evaluated principals on their ability to act as instructional leaders.These district-level strategies are consistent with what Elmore (2000) described as distributed leadership. According to Elmore, school leaders can improve low-performing schools by tightly coupling policy, administration, and teaching with standards for student learning and performance. This tighter coup ling allows leadership for student learning to be distributed across the multiple leve ls and roles in districts, schools, and classrooms. According to Elmore (2000), the task of improving s tudent learning needs to be shared, or distributed, among every person in education org anizations, and individuals must contribute their expertise and be accountable in a manner appropriate to their level. For example, superintendents are accountable for system organization, allocation strategies focused on instruction, and principal evaluation. P rincipals are accountable for school improvement strategies, professional development, a nd teacher evaluation. The specific role for superintendents, supported by policy, woul d be to arrange conditions and assure training and support for principals that would allo w them to be instructional leaders in their school. With this support, principals, in tur n, would arrange conditions, and provide training that would allow teachers to provi de high-quality instruction; and teachers would provide conditions and training to s upport student learning. District leaders focused on the core technology of education (instruction and curriculum) and a tighter collaboration between superintendent and principals are two themes that appear to be gaining support in the most current li terature on school leadership (e.g., Hatch, 2001; Institute for Educational Leadership, 2001; Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2001). These strategies seem to be a promi sing area in which districts might build their own capacity for turning around low-per forming schools. Parents’ role in improving low-performing schools School choice is a reform strategy that, over the years, has taken many forms (e.g., c harter schools, magnet schools, vouchers for private schools, inter-district school choice, and intra-district school choice). In all its manifestations, the strategy is intended to directly involve parents in holding schools accountable for improving. By provi ding parents with a choice about the schools their child attends, advocates believe comp etition and market forces will force low-performing schools to improve. To date, however there is little conclusive evidence to support or deny this claim (e.g., Goldhaber, 199 9; Myers, et al., 2000). Almost 10 years ago, New York City parents were giv en the option to transfer their children to any other school in any other district within the City (i.e., inter-district transfer option). Parents could exercise choice pro vided space was available in the receiving school and transportation could be arrang ed. Relatively few students, however, actually had the opportunity to attend schools outs ide of their home districts due to high demand for schools with good reputations, and becau se of the daunting procedures for obtaining permission to transfer to another distric t (Teske, et al., 2000). Teske et al. believed that because students were rarely able to exercise the choice option,


5 of 20inter-district choice in New York City has had a ve ry limited effect on low-performing schools.In another New York City choice experiment, voucher s to attend private schools were given to a random sample of 1,300 children of low-i ncome families. Meyers et al (2000) reported that parents believed the environments for their children’s education had improved (i.e., less racial conflict, less fighting more homework). In the two-year report of progress, however, there appeared to be few diff erences in performance on standardized tests between voucher and control stud ents. On the positive side, Teske et al’s (2000) analysis of two New York City districts’ intra-district choice plan provides compelling evid ence that school choice within a district may provide parents and students with mean ingful education alternatives, and also help improve low-performing schools (Teske, et al., 2000). Teske et al traced the reading and math achievement of students in two New York City districts (Districts 4 and District 2) that adopted school choice plans de cades earlier than required by federal law. The authors demonstrate that the introduction and increase in the percentage of available schools for choice was positively related to gains in student performance in the district.School choice, as a strategy for improving low-perf orming schools, continues to receive popular and critical support (e.g., Hart & Teeter, 2001). The effectiveness of school choice options seems to hinge, however, on the exte nt to which parents and students can actually exercise choice. In cities or districts wh ere only a few schools have been identified for improvement or where enrollment is b elow 100% capacity, school choice may be a powerful reform strategy. In districts whe re few choice options exist, the school choice strategy may be ineffective.Purpose of the AnalysisThe purpose of this analysis was to describe the ac tions proposed by NYC districts to improve schools against which corrective actions mu st be taken, and to describe the extent to which districts would be able to honor sc hool choice requests. This information may be helpful in evaluating current strategies for turning around low-performing schools, and in helping to direct other districts’ action in the future as more and more schools are identified for corrective action.Methods and ProcedureThis report is a descriptive analysis of written ap plications submitted by New York City Community School Districts to the New York State Ed ucation Department (NYSED) in January, 2000. Districts were applying for a portio n of $12.8 million that was set aside for districts in New York State. In New York City, these funds were designated to support district efforts to improve low-performing schools and to take corrective action. Twenty-five districts in New York City applied to N YSED for funding to carryout corrective actions against 122 schools (Elementary = 64; Middle = 54; K-8 = 4) that failed to make adequate yearly progress toward stud ent performance goals on the NY state assessment in English Language Arts (ELA) (52 %), Math (9%), or both ELA and Math (39%). To apply for funding, districts attache d an amendment to their yearly


6 of 20 District Comprehensive Education Plan. The content of the amendment included a list of schools against which corrective actions were to be taken; an analysis of the needs and priorities in the schools and the district; a descr iption of the district level intervention for assisting identified schools and for building distr ict capacity for assisting schools; and a detailed description of the districts school choice plan (see Appendix B for questions on the applications). Categories for analyzing district applications were developed directly from district responses, and from constructs in current leadershi p literature. These categories were used to summarize districts’ analysis of schools’ n eeds, and their proposed actions for improving achievement in English language arts (ELA ) and Mathematics. We also examined how districts operationalized the correcti ve actions they proposed to take, and examined the school choice plan in terms of the lik ely number of students who could exercise their school-choice options.ResultsThe results from our analysis will be presented in sections that correspond to the sequential order of questions found in the district application (see Appendix B): school needs identified by the district, proposed district action, and proposed corrective action. Finally, results from an analysis of districts’ sch ool choice plan will be presented. Needs that Districts IdentifiedFor descriptive purposes, we grouped districts’ ide ntification of school need into five broad categories, and then identified specific need s within each category (see Table 1). The school need most commonly identified by distric ts was the need for teacher stability in low-performing schools. The need for teacher sta bility refers to a high rate of teachers transferring in and out of the low-performing schoo ls. Eighteen out of twenty-five districts (72%) identified this as a need that impe des progress toward improving student performance. The second most frequently identified areas were student need (68%) and improved instructional strategies (68%). Student need represents challeng es to the instructional organization of schools presented by students who, for example, have special learning needs, are English language learne rs, or who frequently transfer between schools, etc. The district-identified need to impro ve instructional strategies was primarily described as a need fro teachers to provi de differentiated instruction that would accommodate student differences. This need, as desc ribed by the districts, typically did not address more stable student factors, such as po verty or mobility. Curriculum alignment (64%), parent involvement (60%), qualifie d and certified teachers (56%) and principal leadership (56%) all were identified as s chool needs by a majority of districts. Although these needs do undoubtedly create barriers to school improvement, districts rarely identified other needs that also may have a negative impact on students’ achievement.Table 1School Needs Identified by the Districts


7 of 20 School needs Number of districts identifying the need Percentage of districts identifying the need School-level needsStudent needs1768%Parent involvement1560%Leadership needsPrincipal leadership1456%District leadership1040%Instructional needsInstructional strategies1768%Curriculum alignment1664%Training needsAccess to professional development 1144% Personnel needsTeacher stability1872%Qualified teachers1456%Principal stability1040% For example, fewer than half of the districts ident ified principal stability (40%) as a need in schools requiring corrective action. Moreover, a s few as one-quarter of districts identified needs related to high-quality profession al development (24%). Even fewer districts said there was a need for teachers to be able to collaborate with one another (8%); increased teacher leadership (4%); improved s ocial services for students (4%); or the need to develop a reliable, qualified pool of s ubstitute teachers (4%). Many of these needs correspond to factors that help create a posi tive, supportive school climate, an that contribute to a school culture focused on teaching and learning. It is unclear from the analysis of these applications whether these needs did not exist in the designated schools, or whether the majority of application aut hors were simply not aware of these needs.Proposed District Action in Response to the Needs S chools Districts’ responses to the most common school need s were also grouped into five overarching categories and then specific examples i dentified in each category (see Table 2). Overall, the grouping of these proposed actions revealed an interesting pattern of responses from the districts that seemed to ignore many of the most significant problems they had previously identified (e.g., teacher stabi lity), and also any opportunities for


8 of 20 increasing the capacity of district personnel.District improvement action One purpose to which corrective action funding co uld be put was to build the capacity of local districts to take action that would help turn around low-performing schools. Districts most often propos ed two types of district-level improvement actions (see Table 2). Table 2Actions and Tally of Districts Proposing Responses to School Needs Proposed action Number of districts proposing Percentage of districts proposing District improvement actionResource decisions1872%Monitoring936%Instructional strategies728%Use of data520%Curriculum alignment416%Team leadership416%Instructional improvement actionsImplement/revise academic program 1560% Implement/revise instructional time 1040% Teacher improvement actionsInstructional strategies2184%Curriculum alignment1352%Principal improvementInstructional strategies624%Team leadership624%School organizational improvementEnhancing parent/community involvement 1560%


9 of 20 Assist with school planning1248% First, districts proposed taking the important step of reallocating resources (72%). Typically, reallocation of resources meant reassign ing existing staff-development personnel, or hiring consultants to do training. In some districts, resource allocation meant hiring specific individuals for the district to address specific needs, such as data analysis, principal training, or teacher profession al development. One district, for example, proposed to improve teacher recruitment by hiring a former principal to act as a liaison between the district and area universitie s with teacher-training programs. Second, districts proposed increasing the amount of time and frequency of district monitoring in corrective action schools (36%). Moni toring was described, for example, as having the superintendent stop into schools more often or district-level staff attending staff meetings in the schools. Some districts did propose actions that would incre ase the capability of district personnel to respond to the needs of low-performing schools, but these plans were present in less than a third of the applications. F or example, a few districts proposed obtaining professional development for staff develo pers and curriculum directors in instructional strategies (28%), and the use of data (20%). Fewer proposed training district personnel in curriculum alignment (16%) te am leadership (16%), instructional planning (0%) or assessment alternatives (0%). Thes e actions, in particular, seem to be critical for district personnel if they are to lead school efforts to improve student achievement.Instructional programs/practices improvement Districts commonly proposed two actions aimed at improving the instructional progra ms in schools (see Table 2). Districts most often proposed implementing new academic progr ams (e.g., Reading Recovery, Saturday Math Academy) and revising existing progra ms (60%). Fewer districts proposed revising curriculum in ELA and Math (24%), or implementing a test-taking curriculum (28%). Forty percent of the districts pr oposed reallocating the amount of time spent on particular areas of instruction (e.g. 90 min literacy blocks). None of the districts proposed providing common time for teache rs to plan or revise instruction as a strategy for improving instruction.Teacher improvement Districts’ teacher-improvement actions were cente red on providing professional development in several impor tant areas (see Table 2). The two most commonly proposed actions were providing profe ssional development for use of specific instructional strategies (e.g., balanced l iteracy instruction, constructivist math instruction) (84%), and alignment of curriculum to state standards (52%). Relatively few districts proposed to provide professional developm ent aimed at helping teachers use assessment data (28%), or to boost team leadership (12%). Mentoring (12%) and school/district supports for obtaining certificatio n (8%) are two strategies often used to improve teacher quality and stability in a school, but these two approaches were proposed by only a few districts. This is especiall y striking given the number of districts identifying teacher stability as a need in low-perf orming schools. Principal improvement Taking actions intended to improve principal lead ership appeared in about one-quarter of all the district a pplications (see Table 2). Those districts that did include it most frequently recom mended training principals in instructional strategies (24%) and team leadership (24%). Training principals to use data


10 of 20to inform decisions (16%) and to align curriculum ( 16%) was mentioned less frequently. These results are somewhat surprising given the hea vy emphasis on improving teachers’ instructional practice, and it may indicate that di stricts are overlooking important strategies for turning around their low-performing schools. Student need-based improvement As few as 24% of districts proposed implementing or revising some type of program to respond to student needs. The actions districts proposed included establishing/strengthening ties t o community-based organizations in order to provide after-school recreational opportun ities for students; providing teachers with professional development aimed at reducing sus pensions; and requiring the district director of student support services to meet with s chool guidance counselors. Although district responsiveness to student need appears mod est, they were often addressed with additional academic programs, such as extended day, and linking remediation services to the regular education program (see Table 2). Still, the modest number of districts planning to address student-need issues is striking given that so many districts (68%) identified specific student characteristics as barr iers to improving student performance. This figure may indicate that district leaders felt they were unable to respond directly to these needs.School organization improvement Finally, districts’ plans for improving low-performing schools tended to focus primarily on teacher and instructional improvement (see Table 2). At the school-level, how ever, districts did propose taking some steps to improve parent and community involvem ent in schools (60%), and several districts recommended helping schools prepare impro vement plans (48%). Districts did not frequently propose larger structural changes, s uch as reorganizing grade configurations (0%), changing from an age-based to an ability-based grouping (28%), or creating smaller class-sizes (16%).Proposed Corrective Actions to be Taken Against Low -Performing Schools The Improving America’s Schools Act (1994) suggests eight corrective actions that may be taken by districts against schools that have fai led to make adequate yearly progress for two out of three years following their initial identification for improvement. In the current applications, districts on average proposed taking slightly less than 2 actions against low-performing schools ( M = 1.76, SD = 1.27). Four districts (16%) did not specify any corrective action to be taken. This may indicate that districts leaders knew of a variety of possible improvement strategies, but w ere unclear how these strategies “mapped onto” the corrective action options. This l imited response may also indicate that district leaders did not perceive “corrective action” to be distinct from previous school improvement strategies.District descriptions of their corrective actions The corrective action that districts most frequently proposed was to decrease the decision-ma king authority of the school leaders (see Table 3). Districts operationally defined “dec reased decision-making authority” in a variety of ways, but most tended to revolve around districts requiring the adoption of instructional schedules (e.g., literacy block), the adoption of a academic programs (e.g., Saturday Math) and curriculum, or mandating teacher participation in professional development activities chosen by the district. Dist ricts also decreased decision-making authority by specifying how budgets would be struct ured, and by increasing oversight of a principal’s decisions related to literacy and mat h instruction, or oversight of


11 of 20 comprehensive improvement planning. It seemed uncle ar, however, whether these corrective actions represented a unique approach to improving low-performing schools.Table 3Corrective Actions Proposed in District Application s Proposed corrective action Number of districts proposing action Percentage of districts proposing action Decreasing decision-making authority 1872 Authorizing student transfer624Reconstituting school staff520Creating interagency agreements520Withholding funds416Revoking schoolwide program authority 28 Making alternative governance arrangements 28 Implementing opportunity-to-learn standards and strategies 14 To a lesser extent, districts also proposed authori zing students to transfer out of low-performing schools, reconstituting school staff and creating interagency agreements. The number of districts intending to al low students to transfer as a corrective action (24%) is approximately equal to t he number of districts that created transfer policies in response to this funding oppor tunity (see next section on School Choice). This may indicate that these districts wer e beginning to implement School Choice in response to the current legislation.The action of reconstituting staff typically includ ed monitoring personnel in low-performing schools, and hiring new principals a nd teachers—as one district application stated—“if possible and necessary.” Und er the reconstitution action, districts proposed making changes to personnel roles (i.e., c hanging an administrative position to a teaching position), and proposed hiring new staff (e.g., an assistant principal with expertise in literacy, a new librarian). Creating i nteragency agreements was not typically about creating new agreements, but rather about rev iewing, improving, or strengthening existing collaborations.The four districts that proposed withholding funds (16%) tended to operationalize their actions in terms very similar to those used to desc ribed decreased decision-making (e.g., withholding funds to meet district professional dev elopment goals; taking over the budget-making process if schools were found to be f iscally irresponsible). The one district that proposed implementing opportunity-tolearn standards or strategies did not


12 of 20describe what proposed strategies corresponded to t his corrective action, or other ways they intended to carry out the action against the s chool. Overall, corrective actions proposed by districts d id not seem to address the pressing issues in the schools. That is, corrective actions were primarily concerned with decision-making around professional development, pr ogram selection, and budgets despite the fact that districts most frequently exp ressed the need for greater stability in the teaching staff – a need that directly impacts t he effectiveness of professional development, and indirectly affects the quality of instruction. Similarly, professional development undoubtedly would be concerned with spe cific content areas, but it is noteworthy that only one district (4%) identified “ opportunity-to-learn standards” as an action to be taken against a school – an action tha t explicitly addresses student achievement.School Choice PlansThe final portion of the state application required districts to describe how they would implement a school choice plan for students in lowperforming schools. Fifteen districts (60%) stated that they already had pre-existing cho ice plans that would satisfy the requirement specified in the law. Five districts (2 0%) articulated plans that were in response to the legislation guidelines, and five di stricts (20%) reported that there was no plan for school choice, or that conditions existed which made it impossible to create and implement a school choice plan. Conditions that pre vented districts from implementing a choice plan included potential receiving schools that were already overcrowded, and a lack of schools within the district that were not a lready identified as in need of improvement. Sixteen districts (64%) said they could implement a school choice plan. Within those districts, there are an average of 4.88 ( SD = 2.43) schools into which students could transfer. No district, however, specified exactly h ow many students could transfer into each school under the school choice plan. Nine dist ricts (36%) reported that they could not transfer any students. Five districts (20%) had the capability to allow students to choose to attend one receiver school – hardly enoug h to accommodate all students who might wish to exercise school choice in even one lo w-performing school. Ten districts (40%) seemed to have the capability of allowing stu dents to choose to attend between two and ten schools, but again the number of choice students each school could accommodate was not specified. Only one district, w hich had a small number of low-performing schools, appeared to have the capaci ty to allow all students in a low-performing school to exercise a choice option.DiscussionThe special appropriation of $134 million in FY 200 0 was intended to strengthen school and district accountability for student performance results. One hundred percent of the funding was directed to local education agencies fo r the purpose of school improvement, including taking corrective action against historic ally low-performing schools and implementing intra-district school choice programs. An important provision of this appropriation was that these funds could be used to enhance the capacity of local education agencies to carry out its obligations to improve low-performing schools (USED, 2000).


13 of 20This analysis is particularly timely given the curr ent reauthorization of ESEA. The reauthorized bill continues to require districts to take corrective action, and to provide for intra-district choice once a school has been id entified for improvement, but it also places even greater responsibility on districts for improving the lowest performing schools. The greater expectations for effective dis trict action are seen in at least two ways. First, the reauthorized bill reduces the amou nt of time that elapses between a district identifying a school for improvement and t aking corrective action. Second, one year after a district has taken corrective action, the school must make its adequate yearly progress goal, or be subject to an alternative gove rnance agreement (e.g., reopening as a charter school, replacing school staff, contract wi th a private management company). Both of these represent changes that require distri ct leaders to intervene sooner and to act with greater effectiveness than ever before. Th is descriptive analysis of NYC districts’ proposed corrective actions offers some indication of the challenges and pitfalls school leaders will likely face as they at tempt to improve their schools. School Need and District ResponseThe needs most often identified by districts were t he lack of teacher stability or staffing difficulties in the low-performing schools, teacher s’ use of ineffective instructional strategies, and student need (e.g., poverty, mobili ty, limited literacy experiences, limited English proficiency, and special education). In res ponse to school needs, districts most often proposed more professional development for te achers in instruction and curriculum, and proposed to reallocate existing dis trict resources to provide professional development and monitor schools. Although these str ategies may be effective, several other important improvement strategies were ignored by a large proportion of districts, including improving principal leadership and improv ing district capacity to assist low-performing schools.In addition, there appears to be a significant misa lignment among school needs, district actions, and effective reform strategies. For examp le, instructional leadership of principals may be an essential component of improvi ng low-performing schools (e.g., Berends, et al., 2001; Petersen, 1999; Institute fo r Educational Leadership, 2001; Elmore, 2000), yet principal improvements were prop osed in only one-quarter of the districts’ applications.It is also disconcerting that districts perceive th e causes of low-performance (e.g., poor instructional strategies) and the strategies for ad dressing it (e.g., professional development for teachers) to lay squarely within th e control of teachers, while at the same time, teacher leadership and time for teachers to collaborate is not perceived to be a need in many districts. It is ironic that distric ts expect teachers to improve their instructional practice, receive training and adopt new practices, but then provide no new instructional leadership at the district and buildi ng level, or time for teacher collaboration. Given the high rate of teacher turno ver reported by the districts and by the entire city (Brumberg, 2000), it seems doubtful tha t expenditures for more teacher professional development and for consultants will h ave the desired effect on instruction or stem the flow of personnel.More important from a district perspective, the cor rective actions that were proposed also seemed to ignore some important consequences t hat would follow such actions. The


14 of 20corrective action districts most often proposed tak ing against low-performing schools was to decrease the decision-making authority of th e school leader. Decreasing decision-making at the school level may be an appro priate response given the poor performance of many of the schools. Yet districts d o not seem to be aware of the need to improve their own capability. The applications indi cated that districts were proposing to take over greater decision-making related to the im plementation of instructional programs, adoption of curriculum, teachers’ profess ional development, and to increase oversight of principals. These actions, although po tentially effective, seem to be less likely to succeed due to the fact that districts we re taking on greater responsibility for school-level orchestration while at the same time n ot addressing the capacity-needs of district personnel.If districts are to have a chance at turning around the corrective action schools, it is important for district-level personnel to be well-t rained in the important areas of instruction, instructional leadership, assessment a nd use of data, parent involvement, and communication. Apparently, district leaders felt co nfident in their ability to shoulder these responsibilities. A recent report on the dist rict-role in school improvement, however, suggests otherwise (U. S. Education Depart ment, 2001). School Choice PlansThe effectiveness of the school choice strategy for improving low-performing schools rests upon the ability of parents and students to e xercise their option to escape low-performing schools. Based upon the summary of d istrict applications, it seems this strategy is likely to be ineffective in many of the applying districts. Eighty percent of the districts applying for the grant had or were implem enting an intra-district choice plan. Unfortunately, factors such as overcrowding and too many low-performing schools left far fewer districts actually able to implement the choice plan. Of those implementing, only one district reported having the capability to allow large numbers of students to choose another, better-performing school. As was th e case with inter-district choice in New York City and Milwaukee, this strategy seems un likely to bring competition to bear on low-performing schools because very few parents and students could actually exercise choice (Teske, et al., 2000).ConclusionOverall, the patterns identified by this analysis s uggest that districts are on the right track for improving low-performing schools by focusing on instructional quality. This analysis also suggests that this improvement strategy is lik ely to be ineffective in many districts where superintendents do not arrange conditions to focus on the core technology of schools (e.g., distributing learning leadership, pr incipal training, teacher time to learn new strategies). This analysis also suggests that intra-district tra nsfer choice has little chance to improve schools in districts with a high incidence of low-p erforming schools. The requirement to exclude low-performing schools from choice options could be lifted to increase the likelihood that competitive forces be brought to be ar on schools as was the case in District 4 and District 2. It is unclear, though, w hat effect this move would have on improving schools absent any other efforts that foc us on instruction and learning.


15 of 20Finally, it seems there is relatively little that i s unique to the corrective actions described in these applications. Many of the actions district s proposed (e.g., professional development, program initiatives) were very similar to those already enacted by districts attempting to improve low-performing schools. The o ne feature that seems to distinguish corrective action from others is the control, autho rity, and responsibility placed upon the district. The districts making these applications, however, seemed to make few plans that reflected this new, more intense leadership ro le.ReferencesBerends, M., Kirby, S. N., Naftel, S., & McKelvey, C. (2001). Implementation and performance in New American Schools Washington, DC: RAND Corporation. Brumberg, S. F. (2000). The teacher crisis and educ ational standards. In D. Ravitch & J. P. Viteritti (Eds.), Lessons from New York City schools (pp. 141-165). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Elmore, R. F. (2000). Building a new structure for school leadership Washington, DC: Albert Schanker Institute.Goldhaber, D. D. (1999). School choice: An examinat ion of the empirical evidence on achievement, parental decision making, and equity. Educational Researcher, 28 16-25. Hart, P. D., & Teeter, R. M. (2001). A measured response: Americans speak on education reform Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service [Avail able on-line:].Hatch, T. (2001). It takes capacity to build capaci ty. Education Week, 20 44, 47. Available on-line: for Educational Leadership (2001, Februar y). Leadership for student learning: Restructuring school district leadership (ISBN 0-937846-18 –X). Washington, DC: Author.Improving America’s Schools Act 1994Myers, D., Peterson, P., Mayer, D., Chou, J., & How ell, W. G. (2000). School choice in New York City after two years: An evaluation of the School Choice Scholarship Program – An interim report Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research (ED 446193).Petersen, G. J. (1999). Demonstrated acts of instru ctional leaders: An examination of five California superintendents. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 7 (18). Available on-line:, J. P., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. B. (2 001). Investigating school leadership practice: A distributed perspective. Educational Researcher, 30 23-28. Teske, P., Schneider, M., Roch, C., & Marschall, M. (2000). Public school choice: A status report. In D. Ravitch & J. P. Viteritti (Eds .), Lessons from New York City schools (pp. 313-338). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univers ity Press.


16 of 20U. S. Department of Education (2001, January). School improvement report: Executive order on actions for turning around low-performing schools Washington, DC: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.U. S. Department of Education (2000). Guidance on the $134 million fiscal year 2000 appropriation for school improvement Washington, DC: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.Youngs, P. (2001). District and state policy influe nces on professional development and school capacity. Educational Policy, 15 278-301.About the AuthorsDoug HammanCollege of EducationTexas Tech UniversityDivision of Curriculum and InstructionPO Box 41071Lubbock, Texas 79410E-mail: doug.hamman@ttu.eduDoug Hamman is currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. His research int erests include teacher education, cognitive strategies instruction, and school improv ement strategies. At the time this article was written, he was working as a Research A ssociate at RMC Research Corporation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.Allen SchenckSenior Research AssociateRMC Research Corporation1000 Market StreetPortsmouth, NH 03801Email: aschenck@rmcres.comAllen Schenck is a Senior Research Associate at RMC Research Corporation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He has contributed to ed ucational and social program research and evaluation in a variety of ways-throug h research design, survey methodology, achievement testing and other forms of assessment, statistical analysis, and data management-and from several perspectives-c onducting research and evaluation studies, providing training and assistance in evalu ation methods, and advising policy makers in the use of evaluation and accountability systems. Most of his experience has been with programs designed to assist students in p ublic schools who find it difficult to succeed academically.Appendix ASection 1116 of Title 1 in the Improving America’s Schools Act (1994)


17 of 20Sec. 1116. ASSESSMENT AND LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCY AND SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT CORRECTIVE ACTION. – (A) … local education agency m ay take corrective action at any time against a school that has been i dentified under paragraph (1) but, during the third year following identification under paragraph (1), shall take such action against any school that still fails to make adequate progress. (i) Corrective actions are those, consistent with S tate & local law, determined and made public and disseminated by the local education agency, which may include – withholding funds; interagency collaborative agreements between the sc hool and other public agencies to provide health, counseling, and other s ocial services needed to remove barriers to learning; revoking authority for a school to operate a school wide program; decreasing decision-making authority at the school level; making alternative governance arrangements such as the creation of a public charter school; reconstituting the school staff authorizing students to transfer, including transpo rtation costs, to other public schools served by the local educational agency; and implementing opportunity-to-learn standards or stra tegies developed by such State under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Appendix BItems Analyzed from New York City Application for 2 000-2001 Title 1 Improvement and Choice Funds Needs Identification Research has shown that there are often organizatio nal or systemic factors that negatively impact progress in low performing school s. Describe the factors affecting student achievement in Title 1 Corrective Action Schools. Such factors might include district policies and procedures, bud gets and resource allocation, technical assistance, etc. What were the results of the needs assessment? Desc ribe the priority areas that emerged from the needs assessment that need to be a ddressed through the application amendment. District Action Explain how the district-level organization, struct ure, and comprehensive plans will support a focused district intervention to ass ist identified schools in improving achievement in English language arts and/ or mathematics. Where such support is not already in place, describe how distr ict capacity will be built and district level changes made under this grant to bet ter provide support to Title 1 Corrective Action Schools. Describe the corrective action steps the district w ill take for identified Title 1 Corrective Action Schools as required in IASA, Sect ion 1116 (c).


18 of 20 Public School Choice List the schools not identified for SURR, Title 1 C orrective Action, and Title 1 School Improvement. Does the district have an existing policy allowing for public school choice? If yes, please attach and explain how the policy wi ll be used to meet the school choice provision of this amendment. Include a timeline for implementation under this amendment. If the district does not have an existing transfer/ choice policy, describe how it will develop and implement a program of public s chool choice. Include how the district will provide all students in schoo ls identified for SURR, Title 1 Corrective Action, and Title 1 School Impro vement, with an option to transfer to a public school within the local edu cation agency, including public charter schools, that have not been identifi ed. Include a timeline under this amendment. If the district lacks capacity to provide all stude nts with an option to transfer to non-identified schools, describe the district’s equitable student selection criteria that will provide a transfer option to as many students as possible. Copyright 2002 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Ontario Institute of


19 of 20Technology Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Education Commission of the States William McInerney Purdue University Mary McKeown-Moak MGT of America (Austin, TX) Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson New York University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers California State University—Stanislaus Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education David D. Williams Brigham Young University EPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico)Departamento de InvestigacinEducativa-DIE/ Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil)Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do


20 of 20 Javier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicojaviermr@servidor.unam.mxMarcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicohumberto@servidor.unam.mxAngel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de Daniel Schugurensky (Argentina-Canad)OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil)American Institutes for Resesarch–Brazil(AIRBrasil) Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain)Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.)University of California, Los

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