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Beyond the School: Exploring a Systemic Approach to School Turnaround

February 10, 2011

Educators have long grappled with the challenge presented by chronicallyunderperforming schools. Environments that consistently fail to prepare students forhigher levels of education threaten opportunities for high school graduation, postsecondaryeducation, and career success. The U.S. Department of Education reinforcedthe urgency of reversing sustained poor performance in early 2009 when it identifiedintensive supports and effective interventions in our lowest-achieving schools as one ofits four pillars of education reform. However, federal and state policies have oftensituated the cause—and thus the remedies—for persistent low performance at theschool level. This brief uses the experience of eight California school districts—allmembers of the California Collaborative on District Reform—to suggest a more systemicapproach to school turnaround.We explore the district perspective on school turnaround by describing several broadthemes that emerged across the eight districts in the California Collaborative on DistrictReform. We also profile three of these districts to illustrate specific strategies that cancreate a coherent district-wide approach to turnaround. Building on these districtperspectives, we explore considerations for turnaround efforts in the upcomingreauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Common Core Standards and Math Placement: Lessons Learned, Moving Forward

January 1, 2011

How will the adoption of the Common Core State Standards influence expectations and practices for preparing students for higher level mathematics?Learn about California's current student placement practices and performance in Algebra I, as well as district and state approaches to achieving access to and success in higher level mathematics.This archived webinar explores issues around the challenges facing school systems nationwide that are trying to navigate evolving expectations for mathematics.Topics discussed include:Findings from an analysis of longitudinal data on the 7th and 8th grade math and Algebra I CST scores of 70,000 California studentsLessons and perspectives from California Collaborative on District Reform districts on student access and success in algebra and higher level mathematicsImplications for the state, especially for 8th grade math, in light of the recent adoption of the Common Core State StandardsOverview of California's Algebra Forum online community and resource

Raising Expectations for Mathematics Instruction in California: Algebra and Beyond

March 17, 2010

Ensuring success in algebra for all students involves several key areas of attention and action for districts. These include the creation of a strong K-12 mathematics curriculum, appropriate placement of students in mathematics courses, enhancement of current instructionalcapacity in mathematics, and provision of additional supports for struggling students. In today's fiscal climate, finding funds to address these issues is perhaps the greatest challenge of all, but the recent infusion of one-time funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) may provide new opportunities. This brief draws on dialogue and investigation among the district practitioners, researchers, and policymakers participating in the California. Collaborative on District Reform. In this brief we discuss ways in which districts can approach these issues given the current fiscal and political context in California. We also provide recommendations for strategies the state can use to support districts in these efforts.

External Support to Schools on Probation: Getting a Leg Up?

July 1, 2003

In 1996, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) began implementing a new school accountability policy designed to improve student performance by providing a combination of consequences and support to low-performing schools. The center point of the accountability system, the Chicago school probation policy, designates schools as being "on probation" if fewer than 15% (later raised to 20%) of their students score at grade-level norms on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in reading. When placed on probation, schools face the consequences of decreased autonomy and the threat of more severe sanctions. At the same time, probation schools receive direct assistance from several different sources through the policy's external support system. The purpose of the support is to assist schools in strengthening their internal operations, raising expectations for students, and improving instruction so as to foster increased student achievement. This report is based on a two-year study of the design and implementation of the school probation policy in Chicago's elementary schools. The school accountability system in Chicago has undergone changes since the end of this study as a result of new district leadership. The system now includes the use of additional assessment data and subject area tests, emphasis on progress and growth, and a focus on all schools. In spite of these changes, the assistance provided by probation managers and external partners has not changed. Therefore, the lessons learned from this study should still be relevant not only to CPS but also to other jurisdictions instituting similar policies.

The Bumpy Road to Education Reform

June 1, 1996

This issue of CPRE Policy Briefs identifies five challenges that confront educators and policymakers as they develop higher standards and other policies and structures to support improved student and teacher learning. It also describes strategies used by a few states and localities to address some of these challenges. The brief draws on findings of a three-year study of standards-based reform conducted by CPRE researchers in California, Michigan and Vermont. In each state, researchers conducted case studies of four schools in two districts reputed to be active in reform and capable of supporting education reform. Although the sample is small, the similarity of reform issues across such widely varying fiscal, demographic, and political contexts suggests that lessons learned may be applicable to sites other than those studied here. Overall, we conclude that while states and local school districts have taken major steps to reform the ways they teach and assess their students, the road to reform is arduous, full of bumps and still under construction.

Building Capacity for Education Reform

December 1, 1995

Discussions of capacity should be broadened to include factors such as the relationships between individual, or teacher, capacity and the abilities of schools, and districts to accomplish standards-based, or systemic, reform. This brief provides a framework for thinking about capacity and suggests ways that systemic reform strategies could help increase capacity. It also describes how two such strategies - professional development and state assessment - were used to enhance educational capacity in states examined by CPRE.