Remember how I like to keep things simple? It extrapolates to some of the more old-fashioned learning techniques too.
I've been working intensely with my NCLB student on her vocab. Intense as in 20 words, on flash cards, per week. Not every word is brand new to her. I strategically chose enough old words that I knew she knew to make going through the flash cards less painfully slow. The quicker she does them, the more confidence she has in herself, the more she remembers the new words.
She has one of the smallest internal word banks I've ever seen from any 8th grader. Words are not her thing, apparently. But she's improved in the past three weeks or so, especially after I started drilling vocab words from the reading comprehension I give her.
I think it's really hard to learn vocab without some sort of context. More reading kids! Much more reading. Those measly half-dozen vocab words in each Open Court weekly lesson are not enough, as proven by my student - in fact, by many students. I don't really care what they read, be it magazines, blogs, news articles, or the advertisements on the sides of buses. Just read! A lot! You'll be surprised at how many new words a kid is exposed to just by reading environmental text.