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No Child Left Behind: A Desktop Reference
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Comprehensive School Reform (I-F)


Comprehensive school reform developed out of the literature on effective schools. While the effective schools research does not prescribe any particular reform effort, it does describe certain components of school reform that appear to lead to improved student academic achievement. These components form the empirical foundation for the comprehensive school reform movement.

The Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) program also builds on the Title I schoolwide program, which provides greater flexibility in the use of federal funds and encourages the implementation of effective strategies for all students in a school. The CSR program provides start-up financial assistance to schools so that they can implement whole school reforms that reflect the research literature on effective practices in order to help students meet state academic standards. Throughout the 1990s, thousands of schools across the nation have adopted various CSR models.

The CSR statute identifies 11 components of comprehensive school reform:

  • Research-based methods. Proven strategies and methods for student learning, teaching, and school management that are founded on scientifically based research and effective practices and that have been replicated successfully in schools.
  • Comprehensive design. Schoolwide reform plans that include instruction, assessment, classroom management, professional development, parental involvement, and school management in a comprehensive approach to addressing the specific needs of the school and enabling all students to meet challenging state standards.
  • Focus on student achievement. Measurable goals for student academic achievement and benchmarks for meeting these goals.
  • Buy-in. Support from teachers, principals, administrators, school staff, and other professional staff.
  • Professional development. High-quality and continuous teacher and staff professional development.
  • Support for school staff. Support for teachers, principals, administrators, and other school staff.
  • Partnerships with parents and communities. Meaningful involvement of parents and the local community in planning, implementing, and evaluating school improvement activities.
  • External support. High-quality external technical support and assistance from an entity that has experience and expertise in schoolwide reform and improvement.
  • Evaluation planning. A plan for the annual evaluation of the implementation of school reforms and the student results achieved.
  • Combining resources. Identification and coordination of other resources, including federal, state, local, and private resources to support and sustain the comprehensive school reform effort.
  • Evidence of effectiveness. Programs that have been found through scientifically based research to significantly improve the academic achievement of participating children or have strong evidence that they will achieve this result.

WHAT'S NEW--The No Child Left Behind Act

Focuses on What Works

  • Grantees must rely on scientifically proven strategies. Each grantee's CSR plan must include scientifically proven teaching and learning strategies.

Increases Accountability for Student Performance

  • State education agencies (SEAs) are now required to submit annual evaluation reports to the U.S. Department of Education to measure performance. This report must include the names of school districts and schools receiving grants, the amount of the grants, a description of the reforms implemented, an assessment of the implementation progress, and student achievement results.
  • Priority is given to low-performing schools. Previously, SEAs were encouraged to give priority to low-performing schools.Now, states are required to target funding to students and schools with the greatest educational needs.

How It Works

The CSR program is a state formula grant program, based on each states' Title I allocation. States competitively award grants to school districts on behalf of specific schools and must give priority to schools that have been identified for Title I school improvement and document a commitment to assist schools for two additional years in implementing and sustaining comprehensive reforms. Schools receive grants of at least $50,000 to implement CSR reform plans.

Key Requirements

School reform programs supported by CSR must be grounded in scientifically based research, meet the 11 components of CSR specified in the authorizing statute, and be supported by effective technical assistance providers.

How It Achieves Quality

The primary goal of the CSR program is to help schools implement scientifically proven reform strategies to help all children meet state standards.

How Performance Is Measured

States are encouraged to document that increasing numbers of students in CSR schools are meeting state academic standards. In addition, states should see a decline in the number of CSR schools identified as low-performing.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2007