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Highlights

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.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education 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.
Closed - Implemented
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.
Department of Education 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.
Closed - Implemented
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.
Department of Education 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.
Closed - Implemented
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.

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