Lessons in Reading Reformwww.ppic.org
Beginning in the 1990s, a national movement to enhancethe accountability of public school systems gatheredstrength and culminated in 2001 with the passage of federal No Child Le Behind (NCLB) legislation. NCLBformalized reforms that many states had already initiated,such as creating academic content standards, implement-ing statewide student testing systems, and developing sys-tems of rewards and sanctions for schools based on studentperformance on state tests. California had implemented asimilar accountability system of its own in 1999.In early 2010, President Obama announced plans forthe reauthorization of NCLB. Te proposed legislationcalls for better measures of student learning but maintainsthe original concepts of measuring student performanceand intervening when necessary. Despite changes from theoriginal, the new NCLB will continue to emphasize contentstandards, testing, rewards, and sanctions.However, federal and state reforms have not yet pre-sented many ideas about exactly
individual schoolsand school districts should intervene to help students whoare lagging behind. NCLB calls for failing schools to imple-ment tutoring and busing—and for schools that repeatedly fail to make adequate yearly progress to face a series of sanctions, up to and including removal of administrators.But it is not particularly prescriptive about how teachersshould teach, how schools should organize the school day,or what curricula they should use to correct deciencies.Te accountability movement presupposes that we knowhow to help students who are struggling academically. Infact, the literature on the eects of specic reforms, such asprofessional development, reduced class size, and summerschool, is quite mixed. Nor does the policy community have much evidence on how best to intervene when stu-dents and schools fail to meet standards.Tese knowledge decits increase the importance of careful evaluation of interventions that have already beenattempted. Increasingly, individual school districts havebecome laboratories for interventions aimed at improvingthe achievement of students who fare poorly on state-mandated tests. Chicago public schools, for example,implemented interventions for students with low achieve-ment that received much attention in the policy world(and, to a slightly lesser extent, in academic circles).
Te San Diego Unied School District (SDUSD) hasalso received national attention for a series of literacy reforms it implemented from 2000 to 2005, called the Blue-print for Student Success. Tis report presents a quantita-tive evaluation of the eects the Blueprint had on studentachievement in San Diego. Our ndings hold lessons fordistricts elsewhere.
Policymakers have ofered little guidance about how best to intervenewhen students and schools ail to meet standards.
AP Photo/MArcio JoSe SAnchez
Individual school districts have becomelaboratories for interventions aimed atimproving the achievement of students whofare poorly on state-mandated tests.