A new report released March 24 by the Learning First Alliance suggests that high-poverty school districts can raise student achievement by focusing on districtwide strategies to improve instruction. Titled “Beyond Islands of Excellence: What Districts Can Do to Improve Instruction and Achievement in All Schools,” the report outlines lessons learned from a study of five districts in particular and identifies practical steps that other districts can take to move beyond a few excellent schools to success across entire systems. The five districts studied—Aldine, Texas; Chula Vista, Calif.; Kent County, Md.; Minneapolis; and Providence, R.I.—were selected based on their ability to exhibit at least three years of improvement in math or reading across multiple grades and all ethnicities. The study’s findings are particularly useful as states and school districts work to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, the report’s authors say. “We cannot continue to point to heroic principals and extraordinary teachers to improve the performance for all children,” said Judy Wurtzel, the group’s executive director. “Ensuring the success of all children requires systemwide approaches that support teachers and principals, not simply school-by-school fixes. The districts in our study are putting in place strategies that touch every school and every child.”

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