Although NCLB Act II is on hiatus, in the meantime, you might be interested in checking out the Spotlight on No Child Left Behind. Education Week's editors have packaged major NCLB articles and commentaries into a downloadable PDF on growth models, graduation rates, supplemental education services, the “differential accountability” pilot project and more. Check it out.
August 06, 2009
June 17, 2009
NCLB: Act II is on hiatus. At some point in the future, it may resume covering developments in the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now known as the No Child Left Behind Act.
March 26, 2009
The week before Election Day, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings put the Bush administration's final stamp on NCLB by publishing new Title I rules. Among other things, the wide-ranging set of rules require states to set a uniform graduation rate and use it to hold high schools accountable; force schools to complete a series of administrative tasks before they redirect money away from tutoring and school choice; and create a minimum "n" size for the number of students in a subgroup needed for that group to be include under NCLB's accountability rules.
At the time, key lawmakers endorsed the rules and critics complained that Spellings was using the rule-making process to accomplish many of her goals for reauthorization. (For the complete story, see here.)
Yesterday, the Education Department indicated it will publish new Title I rules on Tuesday. He gave no hint of what will be in them. But the rules will be tea leaves to read for the current administration's priorities for reauthorization.
March 25, 2009
President Obama is promising to improve the quality of assessments used under NCLB. Even though he has yet to introduce a detailed plan to reauthorize the law, states are at work on doing just that.
Once again, Kentucky is out in front. Washington state and Texas aren't far behind. See my story now online.
One quote that got left in my notebook: "This is very much driven out of Washington now," said Stanley Rabinowitz, the testing director at WestEd, referring to Obama's campaign promises and his rhetoric since taking office.
Here are two examples:
From the White House Web site's detailing of the administration's agenda: "Obama and Biden believe teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. They will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner."
From the president's March 10 speech on education: "I'm calling on our nation's governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity."
The stimulus dollars may help start the process. But it's unlikely that all states will be rewriting their tests until NCLB reauthorization is finished.
March 19, 2009
In the weeks before the election last fall, Robert Gordon published an intriguing essay for the Center for American Progress, where he worked at the time. The title"More Equity and Less Red Tape"aptly summarizes what is a nuanced argument delving deeply into complicated rules governing how districts spend Title I money.
In the piece, Gordon argues that the federal government should abandon the "supplement, not supplant" rule and be more forceful about "comparability." Under "supplement, not supplant," schools are forced "to prove what they would have done in the absence of federal funding," Gordon writes. That creates a web of red tape that doesn't ensure districts equitably distribute resources, he said.
The "supplement, not supplant" rule wouldn't be missed if Congress strengthened the "comparability" rules, he argues. The current rule requires districts to provide Title I schools with similar services to those at other schools. But "comparability" would be much more powerful if it required districts to ensure Title I schools receive the same resources as other schools, Gordon writes. The change would create complexities of its ownparticularly in the accounting for teacher salariesbut it would probably lead to an equitable distribution of money to schools serving low-income students, he concludes.
To deconstruct the title, beefing up "comparability" would produce "more equity" while getting rid of "supplement, not supplant" would result in "less red tape."
I revisited the essay this week because it helps explain how state officials could divert stimulus money for Title I away from districts, as some are trying to do. But this issue certainly will arise during NCLB reauthorization. And then Gordon will be able to do more than pontificate on it. He'll have the chance to sway federal policy in his new post as the person in charge of education issues at the White House's Office of Management and Budget.
March 18, 2009
The argument that NCLB is narrowing the curriculum is not going away. Here are two items:
1. The congressional sponsors of the FIT Kids Act plan to re-introduce their bill this week. The House bill would require schools to schedule daily physical education and set a goal of providing 150 minutes a week of gym for elementary students and 225 minutes a week for secondary students. The bill also would require schools, districts, and states to report on the quality of their systems. The bill had a long list of co-sponsors in the last Congress and the support of American Heart Association. Fitness guru Richard Simmons testified for the bill at a House hearing. Here's my account and one with video from The Washington Post.
2.) The Government Accountability Office has issued a report finding that 7 percent of schools reduced the amount of time given to arts education between 2004-05 and 2006-07. The decline was the steepest in schools serving high percentages of minority students and those that have failed to make AYP for two years. Here is one page of highlights.
One important tidbit from the GAO report: The Department of Education is underwriting research that may provide a more in-depth look at how schools are allocating instructional time. But will it be done in time to influence the next version of NCLB?
March 17, 2009
The debate over Title I setasides may be moot. One simple phrase in the stimulus law may allow districts to spend money from Title I and other federal programs as they choose, without following the rules set in NCLB or other laws. The clause says that states "may use the funds for any activity" authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and other federal laws. See Section 14003 in the law itself.
Creative lawyers are suggesting that because ESEA's Impact Aid program gives districts wide discretion in spending money under ESEA, districts may be able to rely on that program to justify spending money on just about anything they choose. They've asked the U.S. Department of Education for guidance on this and expect answers soon.
In a broader post on the stimulus, Eduwonk calls this issue a "big deal."
March 16, 2009
March 16, 2009
Back in 2007, the House education committee's "discussion" draft for NCLB reauthorization bill came under fire from many sides. The NEA's opposition to potential pay-for-performance programs drew most of the attention.
Barely noticed and hardly debated, though, were minor addition to NCLB's goal for student achievement. The current law requires states to track whether students are on pace to be proficient by the 2013-14 school year. The discussion draft for Title I would have added one important 11-word phrase: "or be on trajectory to meet or exceed [proficiency] within 3 years."
I point this out as a follow-up to Friday's post on growth models. Throughout his report for Education Sector, Charles Barone judges Tennessee's growth model based on the goal in the current law. But it's important to note that the most comprehensive proposal to reauthorize NCLB included the same type of statistical measures as Tennessee's growth models. The draft would have made proficiency a "moving target" (to use Barone's words from his report on Tennessee).
Barone's criticism of the Tennessee model stands today. But the inclusion of 11 words in a reauthorized law might lead him to write a new reportone that looks at the impact of a three-year trajectory in all 50 states.
March 13, 2009
When experts talk about accountability under NCLB, they agree on one thing: The future lies in growth models. Discussions usually end there, never delving into the complexities of what makes a good growth model, how to design one, or whether they accomplish what NCLB sets out to do.
Charlie Barone jumps into the morass and reports on some of the technical problems and design flaws with Tennessee's growth model. In a report for Education Sector, he writes that the Tennessee model doesn't measure whether the state's students are going to meet NCLB's ultimate goal: universal proficiency by the 2013-14 school year. Instead, under the statistical methods in the Tennessee model, a student is considered proficient if he or she is on track to being proficient in three years, based on the trajectory of past test scores.
In short, proficiency is a 'moving target,' always three or more years away, in perpetuity. There is nothing to ensure that, over the long run, [a student] moves ahead toward a cumulatively higher level of performance over successive years.
The end result is that a school may make AYP in the 2014 even if "a large proportion" of students aren't proficient, Barone writes.
On his blog, Barone reinforces another point made in the Ed Sector report. "More statistical sophistication means less transparency," he writes there. He also calls out the statisticians who created the Tennessee model for failing to fully explain the mathematics behind it.
Ed Sector's Chad Aldeman explains Zeno's Paradox the mathematical theory that describes why a student could be considered proficient without ever getting there under a model that uses a three-year trajectory.
Oklahoma City teacher/blogger John Thompson says that the discussion of the paradox "can offer no insight into what should be expected of a teacher in a high poverty neighborhood school."
Former teacher Sam Rosaldo cheers Tennessee's growth model for favoring accuracy over simplicity.
For academic research on growth models, go to this page.
In a comment on my latest post on the Title I setaside, Barone light-heartedly complains that I reported that he wrote the administration "is" giving in to public school lobbyists. He actually wrote the administration "may" be doing so. As someone who has fought over whether a law says grant recipients "shall" or "may" do something, Barone understands the importance of word choice. I apologize for the error, and I thank him for being good-natured about it.
As long as I'm giving away links to Charlie's blog, check out the exchanges between him and Thompson on the Title I setasides. By the end, I was nodding my head, thinking "Yeah, that was surreal."