ALEXANDRIA, Va. _ West Virginia Board of Education President Delores W. Cook has helped the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) craft a new guide for state leaders who are considering the most severe educational reforms for improving chronically low-performing schools.
The report, “Meeting the Challenge: The State's Role in Improving Low-performing Schools Through Restructuring," is the result of a year-long study by state board of education members and is being nationally distributed to state policymakers, federal officials and congressional leaders, and local educators.
States are being confronted with an ever increasing number of schools identified as persistently underperforming according to the No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) accountability system. These schools are in a phase NCLB calls "restructuring." While the federal law stipulates the school label and vests in states the ultimate responsibility in turning around these schools, NCLB does not specify how to fulfill that mandate nor have federal officials offered much guidance.
Because restructuring under NCLB is a recent phenomenon and little attention has been given to states that have had success in breaking the school cycle of failure, the NASBE guide is a resource elaborating on the multitude of restructuring options and providing research on which strategies have proven most effective. The report summarizes the pros and cons of such drastic strategies as wholesale staff replacements, converting the school into a charter or state takeover.
"States are now dealing with the lowest of the low-performing, schools that have tried an array of improvement efforts that have proven ineffective,” said NASBE Executive Director Brenda Welburn. “The issue for state leaders is which of the more extreme interventions is going to work best where others have failed. Our guide will help them answer that critical question."
The study found a real problem in the ability of state departments of education to provide the necessary turnaround assistance to districts and schools. Some state agencies are suffering from a lack of funding, sufficient staff and the expertise to deliver improvement services to the schools that needed it most.
“Not only is this guide useful to state leaders, it, along with the policies we have adopted in West Virginia to improve student achievement, will be a valuable tool to county boards as we work to implement 21st century learning,” Cook said. “The report also will be useful to federal policymakers as Congress considers reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.”
For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699 or the National Association of State Boards of Education at (703) 740-4824.