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Learning from Philadelphia’s School Reform: The Impact of NCLB and State Related Legislation

Many of the most radical interventions spelled out as possible improvement strategies for low performing schools and districts in the federal No Child Left Behind legislation have been tried in the School District of Philadelphia since 2001, thus making it a rich case study of the law’s impact. The intervention strategies that have been used include a state takeover of the system, an expansion of public charter schools, the privatization of school management in 45 schools, aggressive efforts to upgrade the teacher workforce, and mandated centralized instructional reforms, including a core curriculum and related formative assessments. This paper examines the effectiveness of the reform from 2002 through 2006 and concludes that district leaders were able to move with greater boldness, speed, and effectiveness in implementing reforms than they otherwise would have without the pressures and options created by NCLB.