Home >> A Issues >> Nclbwork >> A New Look at Secondary Education

Search form

A New Look
At Secondary Education


Napoleon (North Dakota) school district officials are fortunate to have a solid professional development program in place as they look to address issues such as achievement in the secondary schools. Included: Description of an established professional development program.

The Napoleon (North Dakota) School District is undertaking efforts to help teachers, parents, community members, and the board of education understand the requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The goal, according to the superintendent, is to be proactive and find out what needs to be done, and then move to make it happen. More funding would solve a lot of problems, as it would be used to provide specialists in math, literacy, and reading who would train teachers and work with students. Since that is not a likely possibility, the district will need to find other avenues to continue meeting the goals of high academic achievement for all students.


The academic achievement of Napoleon elementary students is strong, but district educators are concerned about achievement declines in the later grades. For the first time, subgroup reporting was done in 2003, but the district has only one subgroup, that of low-income students, and this subgroup met adequate yearly progress (AYP) expectations. The district has just nine students with disabilities -- not enough to count as a subgroup.

Educators in Napoleon also are concerned about a switch in the state's testing policies which calls for students to be tested in the fall instead of the spring -- a test schedule that educators fear will not assess how well students have learned the standards for a particular grade as effectively as spring testing would.


One advantage the Napoleon School District has in tackling NCLB requirements is a solid professional development program. District officials began looking at the professional development needs of its teachers several years ago and prior to NCLB, by examining teacher credentials and determining how many hours of coursework teachers had in the teaching of reading and other core subjects. According to district staff, most elementary teachers had two or three courses in reading and mathematics during their undergraduate preparation, not enough to prepare them to diagnose and remediate the problems of students who have difficulties in those subjects. Teachers were somewhat like general practitioners (to borrow a medical analogy) because they lacked the specialized mastery of core subject matter.

In recent years, the district has emphasized professional development. All of the elementary staff have taken numerous college courses, attended a variety of workshops, and received ongoing training to improve their knowledge and skills in reading, math, and other core areas. In addition, the elementary school has provided training for a Reading Recovery teacher to help improve the literacy skills of lower elementary students. The district has also expanded Title I services in reading and math to meet the needs of higher-aged students through the eighth grade.

Junior and senior high school teachers face similar problems in their undergraduate preparation. The district has been trying to move toward addressing more sophisticated issues in staff development, but it has faced challenges, primarily related to money and time. State regulations make it difficult to provide staff development during the school year, so most training happens during the summer or before or after school. The costs of college course work and in-service training for teachers quickly add up, and a small district has little, if any, flexibility in its budget to provide such resources. State funds are very limited, and federal funds from Title II are stretched thinly, but the district is still making an effort to improve professional development.

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.

Share Your NCLB Strategies

Education World's Working With NCLB feature highlights schools or districts with stories to share about how they are implementing requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. If you have a Working With NCLB story to share, send an e-mail toEllen Delisio.