Published: March 5, 2008

Sanctions and Low-Performing Schools

The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to implement a range of escalating sanctions for low-performing Title I (high-poverty) schools based on the number of years the schools fail to make adequate yearly progress on statewide tests in reading and mathematics. For example, schools that fail to make AYP for two consecutive years must allow students to transfer to higher performing schools, while schools that miss test score targets for three years must also provide supplemental educational services such as tutoring to students. In addition to these federal requirements, some states have chosen to apply NCLB-like sanctions to all schools rated as low-performing (based on AYP or, in some cases, state rating systems), regardless of their poverty status.

State Sanctions for All Low-Performing Schools

For Quality Counts 2008, the EPE Research Center surveyed the states to determine which of nine sanctions they include in their current accountability systems. These sanctions have been widely discussed by policy-makers and generally mirror NCLB.

States run the gamut in terms of how many of the nine sanctions they have adopted as state policy. Three states—Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—have eight of the nine sanctions on their books and apply them as needed to any low-performing school, regardless of Title I status. Others follow the federal law but have not adopted any of the nine sanctions for non-Title I schools. No state has adopted all of the sanctions policies examined in this analysis or developed all of the options potentially available.

Sanctions for Title I and Non-Title I schools rated as low-performing

1. Allowing students to transfer to other schools
2. Allowing the state education agency to take over management
3. Closing the school
4. Implementing a new curriculum
5. Providing supplemental educational services
6. Removing or replacing teachers and/or administrators
7. Re-opening as a charter school
8. Turning management over to private or non-profit firms
9. Withholding funds

As states explore an array of sanctions, the effectiveness of various policy options in raising student achievement in low-performing schools will continue to be the subject of research and debate.

For more state-by-state information on sanctions for schools rated as low-performing, please see the EPE Research Center's Education Counts database.

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