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Report: Effective District Planning and the Required Local Educational Agency Plan (LEAP): Insights from Successful Districts

Report » Effective District Planning and the Required Local Educational Agency Plan (LEAP): Insights from Successful Districts


Reform: Accountability, Policy: NCLB


Crotti, P. Almanzan, H.M., Flynn, K., Haas, E. and Tucker, S.




California Comprehensive Center at WestED


Improving student academic achievement is central to the work of school districts
(Fullan, 2001; Marzano & Waters, 2009; Rorrer, Skrla, & Scheurich, 2008; Supovitz,
2006); yet many districts do not succeed at significantly improving the low performance
of their students, and, in some instances, student achievement actually decreases (Fullan,
2001; Payne, 2008). What districts can and should do to improve student achievement
appears to be neither obvious nor easy.
District work on improving student achievement occurs through policies and programs
that develop in response to changing federal and state mandates as well as within or in
response to the district‘s own existing practices, traditions, and culture (Rorrer et al.,
2008). Currently, district work is often conducted with insufficient and/or decreasing
resources (see, e.g., Center for Public Education, 2011). Thus, for a district to
successfully plan, implement, and sustain programs and policies that improve student
achievement, district leadership must be adept at managing its own locally developed
goals and practices, along with state and federal mandates, to create a coherent process
that results in an effective plan for improving student achievement—often with a budget
that is smaller than needed.

This study examines the planning and implementation of district improvement efforts in
general and also focuses on the influence of one related federal requirement: use of the
federally required Local Education Agency Plan (LEAP). All districts receiving funds
under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Title I, Sec. 1112) had to develop a LEAP.
The first set of California plans were completed and submitted to the California
Department of Education (CDE) in 2003. The districts were then expected to review and
update them annually and to revise or rewrite them in subsequent years. The federal
LEAP requirements were broad, and all departments of education in states required to
complete a LEAP developed guidelines that turned the federal requirements into
actionable plan elements. For its part, CDE created a plan template of actionable
elements that address all of the federally required elements (CDE, 2011), and all subject
districts in California submitted their LEAPs as required.