School & District Management

The Details of District Accountability

April 30, 2003 2 min read

Under the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, states must determine each year whether school districts have made “adequate yearly progress” in academic achievement. As with schools, that determination must be based not just on overall student achievement, but also on the performance of student subgroups, broken down by categories such as race and ethnicity.

If a district that receives federal Title I aid fails to make adequate progress for two consecutive years, it must be labeled in need of “improvement.”

Once a district is thus identified, it must develop or revise an improvement plan and spend at least 10 percent of its Title I funds on staff development. The state, if requested by the district, must provide technical or other assistance. The state must also notify district parents.

If a district fails to make enough progress for two more consecutive years, it falls into “corrective action.” The state must again make technical help available, but also must take at least one of the following actions:

  • Defer programmatic funds or reduce administrative funds given to the district;
  • Institute a new curriculum based on state and local standards, and provide professional development for relevant staff members;
  • Replace district personnel relevant to the failure to make adequate progress;
  • Remove particular schools from the district’s jurisdiction and establish alternate arrangements for governance and supervision of those schools;
  • Appoint a receiver or trustee to administer the district’s affairs in lieu of the superintendent and school board;
  • Abolish or restructure the district; or
  • In conjunction with at least one other corrective action, allow students to transfer to a higher-performing public school in another district.

A district is no longer deemed to need improvement if it makes adequate progress for two consecutive years.

During the transition phase for the new law, any district already identified as of Jan. 7, 2002—the day before President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act—had to stay on the state’s list. The exception is if the district in 2001-02 made a second consecutive year of adequate progress.

States were not required to identify additional districts for improvement based on last school year’s test data. States that did not do so, however, had to count last school year as the first year of not making adequate progress for the purpose of subsequent identification.

—Erik W. Robelen

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