The No Child Left Behind Act redefines the federal role in K-12 education by stipulating that federally funded programs and practices must be grounded in SBR. Funding is determined in part by whether programs and practices have a basis in “scientific research". The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act mentions the term scientifically based research 111 times, and SBR is mentioned extensively in Title I: “to promote school-wide reform and ensure the access of children to effective, scientifically based instructional strategies and challenging academic content”. The largest federally funded program for educationally disadvantaged children requires both state and local education agencies to use SBR for targeted-assistance schools to strengthen the core academic program. It also calls for school improvement efforts, like noted on the, that seek to “identify and implement professional development, instructional strategies, and methods of instruction that are based on scientifically based research and that have proven effective in addressing the specific instructional issues that caused the school to be identified for school improvement”.

All technical assistance — whether provided by a state agency, higher education, or a state-approved professional development provider — also must comply with the SBR mandate by guaranteeing that new curriculum, instructional strategies, or specific initiatives that promise to improve the learning of low-achieving students meets SBR requirements. Subparts of Title I also cite SBR under Reading First, Early Reading First, Even Start Literacy Program, Improving Literacy through School Libraries, and Comprehensive School Reform. Whether funds are used for procuring instructional materials such as software or reading programs, or funds are used for establishing partnerships between professional development providers and local school agencies, all efforts need to be screened through the SBR mandate.

The SBR legislation has posed a challenge to schools seeking to implement reform strategies through the Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) Program. With the availability of additional funding, schools can make a commitment to work with an outside provider who must demonstrate that a particular reform program has proven SBR results and is replicable to the school using CSR. This initiative has far-reaching implications since it addresses every aspect of the school: all grades and key subjects (primarily English and mathematics curricula and instructional practices), school management, parental involvement, community involvement, and school organization.

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