No Child Left Behind Act:

Education Should Clarify Guidance and Address Potential Compliance Issues for Schools in Corrective Action and Restructuring Status

GAO-07-1035: Published: Sep 5, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 2007.

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The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLBA) focused national attention on improving schools so that all students reach academic proficiency by 2014. In the 2006- 2007 school year, about 4,500 of the 54,000 Title I schools failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for 4 or more years. Schools that miss AYP for 4 years are identified for corrective action, and after 6 years, they must be restructured. GAO examined (1) the characteristics of Title I schools in corrective action and restructuring; (2) the actions that schools in corrective action and restructuring implemented; (3) the assistance those schools received from districts and states; and (4) how Education supports states in their efforts to assist these schools. GAO administered two Web-based surveys to a nationwide sample of schools in corrective action and restructuring status and conducted site visits to five states.

Nationwide, the 2,790 Title I schools that were in corrective action or restructuring status in the 2005-2006 school year were more frequently located in urban areas and in a few states. These schools served higher percentages of minority, poor, and middle-school students than other Title I schools, and many report that factors such as neighborhood violence and student mobility pose additional challenges to improving student academic performance. As state proficiency targets continue to increase to 100 percent in 2014, the number of schools in corrective action and restructuring may increase. A majority of schools in corrective action or restructuring status implemented required activities. However, in some cases, schools may not be meeting NCLBA requirements. GAO estimates that 6 percent of schools did not take any of the required corrective actions and that about a third continued corrective actions implemented during earlier years of school improvement but did not take a new action after entering corrective action status. While this course of action may be an appropriate path for some schools to take, the Department of Education has not provided guidance to districts delineating when continuing a corrective action is appropriate and when it is not. In addition, about 40 percent of schools did not take any of the five restructuring options required by NCLBA. While states are required to report annually to the Department of Education the measures taken by schools in improvement status, Education does not require states to report on the specific measures taken for each school. GAO estimates that 42 percent of the schools in corrective action or restructuring did not receive all required types of assistance through their school districts, although most received discretionary assistance from their state educational agencies. Districts are required to ensure that several types of assistance are provided to all schools in improvement status, including those in corrective action and restructuring status. This assistance includes help in analyzing students' assessment data and revising school budgets so that resources are allocated to improvement efforts. NCLBA generally does not require states to provide specific kinds of assistance to schools in corrective action or restructuring; however, they are required to develop a statewide system of support, including school support teams to provide technical assistance to schools and districts. Most schools received some type of assistance from the state educational agency. Education provides technical assistance and research results to states primarily through its Comprehensive Centers Program. Education also has provided more material in its Web-based clearinghouse to address a greater number of topics and is developing an initiative to outline practical steps for schools in improvement, including those in restructuring.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to Education officials, in 2008, Education provided guidance to State Title I Directors responsible for providing guidance to districts for corrective action and restructuring in multiple meetings and via electronic dissemination through its regional comprehensive centers network. Education officials reported one example of the guidance the agency provided. An LEA may implement a corrective action earlier in the school improvement timeline. Whether a second corrective action would be required would depend on the nature of the initial corrective action and whether achievement data identify other issues that also need to be addressed. For example, the process for implementing a new curriculum takes several years. If an LEA implements a new curriculum in a school that is in the first or second year of improvement and the school subsequently becomes subject to corrective action, an additional corrective action may not be required as the new curriculum is still in the process of being implemented. However, if data indicate that there are other issues that need to be addressed in addition to the new curriculum, they would expect an LEA to take additional corrective action. Whether the nature of the additional steps that need to be taken rise to the level of a second corrective action would, thus, would depend upon the individual circumstances reflected in the achievement data. Officials also reported that since this is an ongoing topic of interest to states, it will be a part of continued technical assistance and support, as well as part of Education's monitoring of states in 2008-2009 to review practices in decision making for schools in improvement.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should ensure that guidance is provided to states and districts about when it may be appropriate to allow schools to continue corrective action implemented in earlier years of improvement and not take a new activity as the school moves into corrective action status.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Education has updated its Consolidated State Performance Report (CSPR) each year for the past two years to obtain increasingly specific information on district implementation of corrective action and restructuring requirements. For example, in its latest report template, Education asks states to provide the numbers of schools that are implementing specific corrective actions or restructuring activities, based on reports from school districts. Education officials report that they are using information from this data collection as well as information from their monitoring activities to refine their guidance to states and to ensure that areas of noncompliance are being addressed. For example, in 2008, Education staff conducted technical assistance/guidance meetings for Title I directors specific to the issues identified as part of State and school district responsibilities under Title I for schools in corrective action and restructuring. Also, Education staff used information obtained from data collected through the CSPR to inform decisions about which school districts and schools to monitor in 2008-2009, with priority given to monitoring districts with schools in corrective action and restructuring in order to review firsthand the role of the State in supporting sub-state actions as well as the role of the districts in assisting schools with selecting appropriate data-driven plans and actions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should obtain more specific information from states on district implementation, such as the primary activity that each school in corrective action and restructuring is implementing as well as more specific information on compliance issues states have identified as part of their monitoring activities. This information should be analyzed to identify areas where further federal guidance is needed and to ensure that areas of noncompliance are being addressed by states.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Education concurred with and has implemented this recommendation. In its protocol (revised in April 2008) used to monitor state education agencies, Education collects evidence that states are monitoring local education agencies to determine what assistance was provided to schools, whether that assistance has been effective, and whether that assistance is consistent with school improvement plans. The revised protocol has additional information to assist education in monitoring state oversight of LEAs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should take additional steps through Education's monitoring process to ascertain whether states are ensuring that districts provide the assistance required by NCLBA.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education


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