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District Re-Organization Aimed at Improving Accountability

In the 2002-03 school year, all four of the Fort Lupton Weld (Colorado) Re-8 School District schools needed improvement. A district re-organization and support for teachers and paraprofessionals seeking highly qualified status has helped turn things around.

The Fort Lupton Weld (Colorado) Re-8 School District made dramatic changes in its basic structure, including reconfiguring schools and grade levels, to improve accountability and academic achievement.

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The district also is providing resources and some financial support to teachers and paraprofessionals seeking to become highly qualified under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, as another way of increasing achievement.

Beginning in 2003-04, elementary grades were reconfigured from three schools serving grades pre-K-2, 3-4, and 5-8 to two schools serving pre-K-5 and one serving grades 6-8. School leaders believe that this new arrangement will make accountability clearer and allow for a smooth transition from one school to the other. In 2003, the two elementary schools were targeted for school improvement.

Finding highly qualified teachers willing to teach in a rural area has proven challenging, and to help with that, the district provides financial support to teachers who need to become fully qualified. Teachers can receive up to $2,000 in NCLB Title II funds to complete their certification. Of this amount, $1,000 is provided up front, and the other $1,000 is provided when the teacher completes a second year in the district.

The district also is helping its paraprofessionals meet the law's requirements. Of the 52 paraprofessionals in the Ft. Lupton district, only six have had two years of college. Nearby universities offer training for paraprofessionals, and even though many employees attended these classes, there was no college credit attached to the courses, so participants did not receive credit toward meeting NCLB qualifications.

Plans are in place for Ft. Lupton paraprofessionals to receive training at AIMS Community College, where they will earn credit for their coursework. The district staff also is finalizing plans for an assessment to measure whether paraprofessionals have the specific knowledge required by NCLB. District officials also are working on ways to assess paraprofessionals' ability to assist in instruction, which also is required by law. Paraprofessionals will receive assistance to help them pass this test and meet the NCLB requirements.

SOURCE: Center on Education Policy

To read the full report, see A Look Inside 33 School Districts: Year 2 of the No Child Left Behind Act.