NCLB Tier 5 School Improvement Plans

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The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) requires all schools in Kentucky to make adequate yearly progress in mathematics, reading and other educational indicators. Schools that don’t make required progress are designated as “Improvement Schools” and become eligible for extra assistance. For schools that continue to miss targets there are also requirements to allow parents to transfer their children to better performing schools and to get extra tutoring help, as well.

In fact, the NCLB program in Kentucky actually tracks Improvement Schools through five levels of increasingly extensive consequences for each year the school misses goals. These levels are called “Tiers.” They run from Tier 1 to Tier 5, with Tier 1 representing schools that have missed targets two years in a row and Tier 5 indicating a school with six years of failure to meet goals.

What happens in each Tier?

The following summarizes the consequences for schools that enter each level of the NCLB Tier system.[1]

Tier 1 of Consequences

(2 years not making AYP)

Tier 2 of Consequences

(3 years not making AYP)

  • Continue School Choice
  • Revise School Plan
  • Offer Supplemental Services

Tier 3 of Consequences

(4 years not making AYP)

  • Continue School Choice
  • Revise School Plan
  • Continue Supplemental Services
  • Institute Corrective Action

Tier 4 of Consequences

(5 years not making AYP)

  • Continue School Choice
  • Revise School Plan
  • Continue Supplemental Services
  • Continue Corrective Action
  • Write a Plan for Alternative Governance consistent with state law

Tier 5 of Consequences

(6 years not making AYP)

  • Continue School Choice
  • Revise School Plan
  • Continue Supplemental Services
  • Continue Corrective Action
  • Implement Alternative Governance consistent with state law

The items in bold italics under the Tier 4 and Tier 5 consequences are of special importance. They indicate that schools entering these extreme levels of NCLB difficulties are supposed to develop, and then finally implement, “Alternative Governance.” But, what does NCLB really mean by the term, “Alternative Governance?”

Alternative Governance Described in NCLB

Alternative Governance requirements are discussed in the No Child Left Behind Act itself. Under a section dealing with “Alternate Governance,” the act offers states several options – which must be consistent with state law – that will comply with the requirements. These are,

  • (i)Reopening the school as a public charter school.
  • (ii)Replacing all or most of the school staff (which may include the principal) who are relevant to the failure to make adequate yearly progress.
  • (iii)Entering into a contract with an entity, such as a private management company, with a demonstrated record of effectiveness, to operate the public school.
  • (iv)Turning the operation of the school over to the State educational agency, if permitted under State law and agreed to by the State.
  • (v)Any other major restructuring of the school's governance arrangement that makes fundamental reforms, such as significant changes in the school's staffing and governance, to improve student academic achievement in the school and that has substantial promise of enabling the school to make adequate yearly progress as defined in the State plan under section 1111(b)(2). In the case of a rural local educational agency with a total of less than 600 students in average daily attendance at the schools that are served by the agency and all of whose schools have a School Locale Code of 7 or 8, as determined by the Secretary, the Secretary shall, at such agency's request, provide technical assistance to such agency for the purpose of implementing this clause.[2]

It is quite clear from this NCLB description that, regardless of which option a state selects, the US Congress intends that by the time a school entered Tier 5 status, significant staffing changes are expected.

As a note, Kentucky law currently does not allow charter schools, so option (i) above isn’t available here. Furthermore, the Kentucky Department of Education tried option (iv) in the Floyd County Schools in the mid 1990s and had generally unimpressive results. As a consequence, the state is very reluctant to attempt this sort of department takeover again, which eliminates option (iv) above as a practical choice here.

Among the remaining options, it should be noted that all clearly involve significant replacement of school staff, especially school leadership, once Tier 5 status is reached. That is true of option (v), which appears to be the option Kentucky selected for its Tier 5 program.

Thus, the NCLB act itself indicates that the public should anticipate leadership changes when a school enters Tier 5 status. Furthermore, Kentucky Department of Education publications have consistently been telling the people of the commonwealth that “Alternative Governance” would indeed be implemented once a school enters Tier 5 status.

What has actually happened?

To determine how NCLB alternate governance has actually been handled in Kentucky, the Bluegrass Institute made an open records request to the Kentucky Department of Education for the Alternative Governance Plans for the 34 Kentucky public schools that were listed in No Child Left Behind TIER 5 status in the 2008 reports.

The response to our request included this message, which clearly states that Kentucky does not have “Alternative Governance Plans” for these schools despite years of claims otherwise in numerous NCLB reports for Kentucky. Furthermore, our review of the “Restructuring Plans” which were provided in answer to our request shows that “Alternative Governance” as required by NCLB has not been implemented in Kentucky.

The Restructuring Reports for 12 school districts that contain NCLB Tier 4 schools are available at the links below:


  1. BRIEFING PACKET, STATE RELEASE, NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (NCLB), Adequate Yearly Progress Report 2008, Kentucky Department of Education
  2. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

This charter School in Indianapolis is a college preparatory school that is making waves in the news because of its outstanding performance. When you walk into the school you see the showcase of its acceptance letters to prestigious colleges. This charter school showcases its acceptance letters to colleges. These student who are minorities from poor neighborhoods are getting accepted to school like DePauw, Furman, Xavier, Smith and Purdue. Students feel safer in this charter school than they did at the traditional Public school down the street. Students say there are no drugs or guns there. Junior high students are doing high school work(Leonard, 2009).  “With test scores above the state average, Tindley is a source of pride for Bennett. It is just one of the Hoosier state's 53 public charter schools and he has no problem with charters competing with his traditional public schools”(Leonard, 2009). Kentucky is one of a minority of states that doesn't have charter school legislation, but lawmakers in Kentucky are pushing for charter school legislation(Leonard, 2009). When states like Minnesota developed charter schools about 18 years ago, the idea was to allow much more freedom in curriculum”(Leonard, 2009). Most charter school are found in low income neighborhoods and serve indigent and minority students. Some charter schools serve college preparatory college, another may focus on cultural arts(Leonard, 2009).   “Christel House has an equal mix of low income white, black and Hispanic students. In 2009, ISTEP scores in math and English topped the state average, among peer schools with the same racial makeup, Christel House scores were 25 percent higher. The K thru 8 school is so popular with parents, Dahncke said they are currently constructing a high school wing”(Leonard, 2009). State funding is on a per pupil basis, but there is no money for transportation or facilities. That is why schools like Christel House had to fundraiser for its new addition and Tindley turned up in a recycled grocery store. There is little state funding but is based on a per pupil basis, and schools like Christel House have to fundraise for additional money(Leonard, 2009). The Charter schools in New York's inner cities are doing excellent and they beat the amazing improvements made by the traditional public schools in New York City. On English Proficiency exams 67% of grades levels 3 through 8 tested at or above grade level in charter schools. This was compared to 54% of traditional public schools in the inner cities in NYC. In Math Charter schools in NYC had 85% perform at or above grade level compared to 71% in traditional public schools in the same district. 80% of charter schools whose students who took exams beat the city wide average of traditional public schools in the same district. This is almost a miracle because most of these charter schools are in the most indigent neighborhoods ( NY Daily News, 2008). The Chicago Public Schools Office of New Schools put together the Charter School Performance. This report analyzed all 19 Chicago Charter schools standardized test scores from 2004 and 2005 school year and compared them to scores at public schools in the same district. These results included scores from the ISAT, which tests reading, science, and math skills for third through 8th graders, as well as the PSAE, which analyzes math and reading ability for 11 of Chicago's charter schools. The results show: The Charter Schools performed better than traditional public schools on the ISAT and PSAE. The eight charter public high school had graduation rates that were higher than the traditional public schools in the same district. 71% of charter schools taking the ISAT meet or exceed state standards. 64% of charter schools saw ISAT scores increase. There was more than a 94% attendance rates at charter schools. These results show that charter schools are doing more than just making the grade they performing exceptionally (Shadur, 2006).

Shadur H., 2006. Chicago charter Schools outpacing Neighboring Traditional Public Schools in Reading, Writing, and Math. The Chicago Public Office of New Schools. The Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Http:// NY Daily News, 2008. Charter Schools make the Grade. Leonard C., 2009. Grass Roots Movement for Charter Schools Growing in Kentucky. Http://