The Implications of NCLB Accountability for Comprehensive School Reform


Each year, when states release assessment results, new schools join the ranks of those identified for improvement under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Associated with this identification are mandated actions which have the potential to derail or redirect existing school reform efforts. The threat of being identified for improvement, or even missing targets for Adequate Yearly Progress could also be enough to motivate educators to redirect their instructional efforts. However, the implementation of consequences associated with NCLB accountability does not necessarily imply the demise of comprehensive school reform (CSR). Indeed, there is nothing in the NCLB theory of action—or indeed, in the statute or guidance—that would preclude the use of comprehensive school reform strategies. Yet as NCLB measures are interpreted and implemented at the local level, administrators may take actions that marginalize CSR efforts. For those pursuing CSR, then, the question remains of how to reconcile the implementation of NCLB accountability mandates with ongoing CSR efforts. Do these two major reform efforts conflict, or may they be woven into a coherent approach to school improvement? Drawing from longitudinal data from a national study of comprehensive school reform, this paper will explore this question.