A Case Study of an Urban District's Strategy to Exit Corrective Action

Stacey Wilson-Norman, Gardner-Webb University


The task of increasing student achievement at the district level is critical to accomplishing federal accountability goals set forth under No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001). Research has recently emerged to show the importance of the district role in creating and sustaining system-wide improvements. Prior to NCLB, the North Carolina accountability system focused on building-level administrators, teachers, and students. After the implementation of NCLB, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction required district leaders to play a greater role in ensuring student achievement. This mixed-methods descriptive case study engaged in an analysis of a school district's efforts to exit corrective action status under NCLB through the use of an instructional design model. The study explored the use of Executive Leadership Team visits and curriculum reviews in Tier I and Tier II elementary schools. The study also investigated the impact of the instructional design on principal leadership, student achievement, and environmental factors described in the district's accountability policy.

This inquiry was conducted in a district failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for 5 consecutive years and designated in program improvement status under NCLB. In this case district, 15 Tier I and II elementary schools, 12 principals, and over 400 teachers were involved. Data were gathered through focus groups, interviews, surveys, select documents, and archived district data. The study presents a conceptual design that supports the findings discovered.

Research suggested that this K-12 urban district engaged in district-wide improvement by focusing on leadership, improvement structures, and quality teaching through a framework for improvement. This organizational structure, only in year 3 of implementation, worked to link Tier I and Tier II schools coupled tightly to the district goals. The structures of the design model and the accountability policy clearly defined expectations for student performance.