Comprehensive School Reform Program

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CSRD in the Field: Final Update
July 2000
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Purposes of CSRD in the Field

In the fall of 1998, the U.S. Department of Education began piloting an initiative to gain early information on the new CSRD program. By conducting visits to schools and districts in the first stages of implementing school reforms, the "CSRD in the Field" initiative addresses several purposes:

  • Sharing information. This initiative offers an opportunity to learn about early program implementation and share successes and challenges. Each state has its own timeline for implementing CSRD. Because the CSRD program is being implemented in stages across the states-- some states made grants to districts in time for the beginning of the 1998-99 school year, while many made grants in 1999-- states, districts, and schools implementing CSRD early can help later grantees anticipate challenges and avoid problems.

  • Helping the Department become a better partner. "CSRD in the Field" provides an opportunity for the Department to offer early technical assistance to schools and districts, particularly in the use of federal education funds to support comprehensive reform efforts, and help districts and schools become aware of available resources. This initiative is also helping the Department learn how it can become a better partner in providing guidance and assistance to schools. The Department has already drawn upon findings from the "CSRD in the Field" visits to determine critical issues to be addressed in upcoming publications and during the U.S. Department of Education's Regional Conferences on Improving America's Schools.

  • Guiding policy decisions. Early information on CSRD implementation is helping to guide Department policy making. Often the Department gets only limited information on implementation during the early stages of a new program. The Department believes that these field visits can help inform decisions about adjusting policy and providing additional support to improve program operations and enhance the chances for program success.

  • Informing reauthorization. As the Department works with Congress to move forward on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), "CSRD in the Field" is providing helpful information about how federal programs are implemented and how the ESEA can be improved to best support comprehensive school reform efforts.

The Department assembled a team, drawn from several offices across the Department, to conduct these visits. The group developed a common protocol for the visits and two-member teams spent two days in each district interviewing district staff, school principals, and teachers responsible for implementing CSRD. Department staff responded to requests for technical assistance received during the field visits.

Site visits were conducted in three cohorts; the first taking place in Fall 1998, the second in Spring 1999, and the third in late Fall 1999. In each instance states assisted in selecting the sites to be visited and in making arrangements for the visits. In total, teams visited 35 schools in 26 local districts in 10 different states. Teams revisited a few schools a second time to observe how the reform efforts had progressed. Sites were intentionally selected to represent an array of models and include all grade spans. The schools visited were implementing a variety of models, most of which are externally developed and nationally available, but also included some models locally designed by the districts or schools.

It is important to stress that a majority of the CSRD site visits took place when schools were in the early stages of implementing comprehensive school reform. This report, therefore, sets out some initial impressions about the first steps in the process of implementing CSRD in a small set of schools. The Department is very appreciative of all participants for their willingness to assist in this initiative and welcome us into their schools. The Department has found these visits to be extremely valuable to understanding this program, and hopes to share some of the observations in ways that can help states, districts, schools, and technical assistance providers as more schools take on the opportunity and challenge of comprehensive school reform.

This is the final installment of our "CSRD in the Field" report on initial implementation. This report is designed to be iterative, building on what we learn through new examples and updating our impressions as we add observations. We include here most of the same general observations from earlier versions, along with some additional examples of how some schools and districts are dealing with addressing key challenges.

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Last Modified: 06/16/2009