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District Focusing on
Restructuring, Leadership

Rapid enrollment growth initially distracted Palmdale (California) Elementary School District officials from NCLB requirements, but the district finally had to seek new curriculum and governance strategies for schools in restructuring.
Included: Details of a reform plan.

For the past ten years, the Palmdale (California) Elementary School District has grown by about 1,000 students per year. This rapid growth led the district to focus on building schools to accommodate students. As a result, during the early years of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, district officials said they were scrambling to accommodate the influx of students, and paid less attention to changing curriculum and instruction to meet the accountability demands of NCLB.

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As of 2005-06, growth in the suburb had slowed, four schools had entered restructuring implementation under NCLB, and district officials said they were better able to focus on raising student achievement and meeting other demands of NCLB.

The four Palmdale schools placed in restructuring in 2004-05 all face challenges of high poverty and lack of consistent principal leadership.

The district failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in 2004-05 and in 2005-06 was in year one of improvement. In the spring of 2004-05, in response to restructuring under NCLB, the district piloted Look Before You Leap: A Guide for Selecting Alternative Forms of Governance and Restructuring for PI Year 4 Requirements (2005). This decision-making process, created by Dennis Fox of the Southern California Comprehensive Assistance Center, takes administrators through a series of activities designed to help them develop a major restructuring plan or select an alternative form of governance that will best meet the needs of the school.

The district began focusing a great deal on reading in 2005-06, but math is also benefiting from some of the changes being made in reading. For example, inspired by the frequent assessment in reading, teachers are administering math assessments every six weeks and using these assessments to plan and improve math instruction. Palmdale also uses a state-adopted math text. But unlike reading, there is no districtwide pacing guide in math that keeps all teachers on the same lesson each day and ensures that all skills are taught.

The district and state have several written school improvement policies. Prominent elements of these policies include a reading text, an English language development (ELD) curriculum, districtwide language arts and mathematics assessments administered at regular intervals during the school year, a pacing guide for reading, and focused staff development for principals and teachers. While not directly in response to NCLB, these policies are aligned with NCLB and Reading First requirements and are designed to help the district meet NCLB targets, said assistant superintendent Betty Stiers. The slowed enrollment growth in 2005-06 is allowing the district to focus more fully on implementing existing policies, Stiers said, which should lead to faster growth in student achievement.


Center on Education Policy

To read the full report, see From the Capital to the Classroom: Year 4 of the No Child Left Behind Act .