Comprehensive School Reform Program

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Guidance on the Comprehensive School Reform Program
Updated August 2002
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A. Introduction

A-1. What is the purpose of the Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) program?

The purpose of the Comprehensive School Reform program is to improve student achievement by supporting the implementation of comprehensive school reforms based on scientifically based research and effective practices so that all children, especially those in low-performing, high poverty schools, can meet challenging State content and academic achievement standards.

The program is built on the premise that unified, coherent, and integrated strategies for improvement, knitted together into a comprehensive design, will work better than the same strategies implemented in isolation from each other. CSR is efficient and encompassing; it demands the application of scientifically based research or strong evidence of effectiveness both to individual components of the reform design and to the relationship of those components to each other. Improving instruction without attending to leadership, improving leadership without emphasizing parent involvement, or concentrating on high academic standards without addressing the barriers to learning that affect so many students indicate a flawed and inadequate approach to comprehensive problems.

This approach makes the CSR program different from past reform efforts and is especially compelling in schools where the need to reform is urgent. Its appeal to practitioners is clear: the eleven required components of a comprehensive school reform program address specific elements that are important in the daily life of schools: strong academic content and research-based strategies; measurable goals; support by and for staff; professional development; parental involvement; technical assistance; evaluation; and the allocation of resources, brought together in an integrated, comprehensive design.

Participating in the CSR program takes preparation on the part of schools. Before they can receive CSR funds, interested schools must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and analyze their findings in order to establish improvement targets and create plans to address them. CSR funds are not used for planning or fact finding; they are intended to help schools implement a design for comprehensive reform. The CSR program provides schools with the resources to make substantive and significant changes in their approaches to teaching and learning.

A-2. How is the CSR program connected to other education improvement initiatives?

The Comprehensive School Reform program can be thought of as a framework that supports and strengthens other education improvement initiatives. By design, the program requires local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools to draw together individual initiatives that focus on specific areas and weave them into a comprehensive school reform design based on eleven required components.

The CSR guidance references other sections of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. These references are designed to highlight the strong connection between comprehensive school reform and other initiatives, including improved teacher quality, parent involvement, and increased accountability. (See B-1 and I-3.)

The reauthorized bill signals a renewed commitment to reaching and teaching all children. It details a variety of strategies and initiatives to ensure the access of all children to effective, scientifically based instructional strategies and challenging academic content. It emphasizes accountability for student achievement and the crucial importance of improving public schools. The Comprehensive School Reform program offers a pragmatic, realistic, appropriate venue for LEAs and schools to participate in this important initiative.

A-3. What statutory authority authorizes the CSR program?

For FY 2002, Congress appropriated CSR funds under two separate authorities - the Comprehensive School Reform authority in Title I, Part F of the ESEA, and the Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE) authority in Title V, Part D of the ESEA.

CSR funds made available under Title I, Part F must be used to support comprehensive school reforms in schools that are eligible for funds under Part A of Title I. CSR funds made available under the FIE authority may be used to support comprehensive school reforms in both Title I-eligible and non Title I-eligible schools. Appendix A contains a copy of the Title I, Part F legislation. Except for those provisions in Part F relating to funding Title I-eligible schools, the FIE funds are subject to the same requirements as the Part F funds.

Where appropriate, this guidance will make distinctions between the two CSR authorities.

A-4. How does the new Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) program differ from the predecessor Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) program?

The principal differences between the new CSR program and the predecessor CSRD program include the following:

  • Authorizing legislation - The ESEA now expressly authorizes the CSR program (Title I, Part F of the reauthorized ESEA). In previous years, the program was governed by language in the appropriations legislation and accompanying conference reports. For FY 2002, Congress appropriated funds under the new CSR authority in Title I, Part F as well as under the broad FIE authority. (See Appendix A [ [downloadable files] MS WORD (33K) | PDF (106K)]

  • Scientifically based research or strong evidence of success - The new legislation contains a stringent requirement that funded schools must implement a comprehensive school reform program that is found, through scientifically based research, to significantly improve the academic achievement of participating students, or is found to have strong evidence that it will accomplish this goal.

  • State educational agency (SEA) responsibilities - Under the new legislation, SEAs must ensure that CSR funds are limited to comprehensive school reform programs that include each of the eleven required components, have the capacity to improve the academic achievement of all students in core academic subjects, and are supported by high-quality technical assistance providers.

  • Accountability - SEAs must now conduct annual evaluations of the implementation of comprehensive school reforms and measure the extent to which the reforms have resulted in increased student academic achievement. SEAs must submit a copy of their annual CSR evaluation to the U.S. Department of Education.

  • Priority in awarding subgrants - Specific statutory language now requires SEAs to give priority in the awarding of subgrants under Title I, Part F to LEAs or consortia of LEAs that (1) plan to use the funds in schools identified for improvement or corrective action under section 1116(c) of the ESEA; and (2) demonstrate a commitment to assist these schools in their reform efforts. (See F-2.)

  • Support for teachers and professional staff - The new legislation contains an explicit requirement that a comprehensive school reform program provide support for teachers, principals, administrators, school personnel staff, and other professional staff. (See B-1.)

A-5. When do the new CSR program requirements apply?

The new CSR requirements apply to current and future subgrantees as follows:

  • For subgrants made on or after July 1, 2002
    An LEA or a consortium must comply with the requirements in the new CSR legislation in order to receive a new CSR subgrant or a CSR continuation award on or after July 1, 2002.

    Example:An LEA has previously received two years of funding under the predecessor Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) program. The LEA may receive its third year of funding only if it complies with the new legislative requirements.

  • For subgrants awarded prior to July 1, 2002
    If an SEA has awarded a CSRD subgrant to an LEA or consortium prior to July 1, 2002 and funds remain available for obligation, the LEA may continue to obligate those funds under the predecessor CSRD authority prior to the beginning of the carryover period for those funds. As soon as the carryover period begins, the LEA must comply with the new CSR requirements.

    Example: An LEA has received FY 2001 funds under the predecessor CSRD program. (Those funds become available for obligation on July 1, 2001 and remain available for obligation through September 30, 2003.) A portion of those funds has not yet been obligated. The LEA may obligate and expend those funds under the predecessor CSRD authority through September 30, 2002. During the carryover period (i.e., October 1, 2002 through September 30, 2003) however, the LEA may not expend these funds until it complies with the requirements of the new Comprehensive School Reform program.

A-6. What are the benefits of complying with the new CSR program requirements?

The purpose of the Comprehensive School Reform program is to provide incentives for large-scale reform, especially in schools that are not succeeding in effectively teaching all children. The new CSR legislation sets more rigorous requirements for the design and implementation of these programs. Specifically, it identifies eleven components essential to successful CSR programs and emphasizes the use of scientifically based research in creating designs for teaching, learning, and school management. Because a strong CSR program predicts a greater likelihood of positive impact on student achievement, the Department encourages States, LEAs, and their schools to view the new, more stringent requirements of the CSR program as a means of strengthening their comprehensive school reform efforts.


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Last Modified: 12/03/2004