School reform for 21st-century skills under the No Child Left Behind accountability system: Perceptions of superintendents

Greer Frances Fischer, Fordham University


School reform and leadership are important components of American's educational system. However, reform initiatives do not always coincide with National mandates for school districts. School leaders today are obligated by law to fulfill the mandates under the No Child Left Behind Act, but research indicates that the accountability system of No Child Left Behind does not explicitly incorporate, or hold districts accountable for the skills needed for the 21st century. This study explores the perceptions of eight New York State superintendents on defining and implementing 21st century skills while simultaneously fulfilling the requirements of No Child Left Behind. For the purposes of this study, superintendents were selected from three different No Child Left Behind accountability designations as reported by the New York State Department of Education. The three categories are: Group 1 - Districts with at least one school that is currently identified as being in need of improvement; Group 2 - Districts that previously had at least one school identified as needing improvement but have subsequently been removed from the list; and Group 3 - Districts that have never had a school listed as in need of improvement. This study also sought to examine whether the accountability status of a district resulted in participant response differences regarding the perceived impact of implementing 21st century skills under the No Child Left Behind accountability system. This research revealed that the differences among participant responses can be divided into two categories, those who have a clear vision for integrating 21st skills into the instructional program, and those whose visions acknowledge the need for integrating 21st century skills, and see some evidence of it in some classrooms, but are more focused on gains in academic achievement. Therefore, the impact of accountability status on integrating 21st century skills does not necessarily weigh in favor of those on or off the accountability lists, rather it is a function of vision, leadership and planning. It is recommended that it would be beneficial to conduct in-depth case studies of districts that are further along the continuum of integrating 21st century teaching and learning to study the capacity building techniques and leadership style of the district leaders. The study would further be validated by conducting interviews with staff and students to qualify and quantify the extent to which the 21st century skills have enhanced or improved teaching and learning.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Fischer, Greer Frances, "School reform for 21st-century skills under the No Child Left Behind accountability system: Perceptions of superintendents" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3452788.