No Child Left behind and the Reduction of the Achievement Gap: Sociological Perspectives on Federal Educational Policy

By Alan R. Sadovnik; Jennifer A. O’Day et al. | Go to book overview

13
Research Meets Policy and Practice
How Are School Districts Addressing NCLB
Requirements for Parental Involvement?

Joyce L. Epstein

The No Child Left Behind Act provides federal funds to improve schools serving children from economically disadvantaged families and communities. In addition to well-publicized requirements for high-quality teachers, achievement tests, and accountability for the progress of major subgroups of students, NCLB includes important requirements for district leaders to develop district-level and school-based policies and programs for more effective parental involvement. The regulations in NCLB’s Section 1118 on parental involvement reflect advances in sociological and educational theories about district leadership for school improvement.

Historically, there have been notable pendulum swings in assessments of the contributions of district leaders to school improvement. Some have labeled district leaders irrelevant and inadequate managers of school reform; others have called them essential guides for improving schools (Coburn 2003; Datnow, Hubbard, and Mehan 2002; Fullan 2001; Learning First Alliance 2003; Mac Iver and Farley 2003) and for strengthening programs of school, family, and community partnerships (Chrispeels 1996; Epstein 2001, Sanders 2005). The consensus across studies is that district leaders are responsible for creating a culture of reform with all schools and that they must not allow one school to improve while others decline (Burch and Spillane 2004).

The new understanding of effective district leadership emphasizes shared, distributed, or democratic leadership and teamwork for school reform (Fullan 2001; Pounder, Reitzug, and Young 2002). In practice, shared leadership typically

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