There is currently a great national emphasis on improving schools and increasing student achievement. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 sets high standards for student performance and outlines consequences for schools failing to meet the standards. SERVE offers a wide variety of publications, products, and services in the area of school reform and improvement, and the four areas described below provide a representative cross-section of our response to the need within our region's schools, especially low-performing ones, to meet the requirements of NCLB.
Class Size Reduction
SERVE provides resources and publications based on class size research. Class size reduction programs lower the number of students in a classroom—typically in the range of 15 to 18 students—and are generally implemented in the primary grades (K–3). The central goal of class size reduction is to improve academic achievement for all students. While class size reduction is beneficial to all types of students, low-income and minority students particularly benefit. Research has shown that, in terms of standardized test scores, students benefit most when (a) they are in small classes early in their schooling experience and (b) they remain in the small class setting for several years.
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Comprehensive School Reform
Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) is a federal initiative that was created to stimulate whole-school reform in America's schools. Congress appropriated funds in FY1998 for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to start the Comprehensive School Reform Program. ED allocated the funds on a formula basis to states that then made awards to support 1,840 schools "in need of substantially improving" their performance (mostly Title I schools). Subsequent rounds of annual awards to support additional schools are continuing to be made.
In applying for and accepting these funds, schools were expected to implement 11 components, one of which is an effective, research-based method or strategy. Together, the 11 components comprise the comprehensive reform aimed at improving student achievement:
- Effective, research-based methods and strategies
- Comprehensive design with aligned components
- Professional development
- Measurable goals and benchmarks
- Support within the school
- Parental and community involvement
- External technical support and assistance
- Evaluation strategies
- Coordination of resources
- Support of administrators and teachers
- Improving academic achievement
The awards were for three years and had to be a minimum of $50,000 per year. Schools can only receive a single CSR award. Given these conditions, federal funds are intended to serve as "seed money" for whole-school reform. Beyond this period of time, schools are to continue reform with their own resources. SERVE provides CSR resources and publications to CSR schools and southeastern state departments of education.
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