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In Trying to Fix Problems, House Draft Creates New Ones

The panelists at the American Enterprise Institute today touched on accountability, national standards, and the universal proficiency goal. All of that was to be expected; the panelists were discussing on a new book addressing those issues.

But the most telling comments came when the panelists mentioned the House's draft to reauthorize NCLB.

In talking about the draft's proposal to turn around low-performing schools, Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, said that the proposal incorporates some of his group's ideas. But those ideas have been combined with so many others that he's not sure the group will end up supporting it.

"Our proposals have been turned into such a rat's nest that it's not clear we can support it," Casserly told the session.

The Council proposed a way to simplify the interventions that happen in schools that fail to make AYP. The plan would give schools three years to turn themselves around, using specific instructional and research-based approaches. Under current law, schools must take a new step every year they fail to make AYP. That doesn't give any intervention time to take hold and show progress, Casserly argued in this congressional testimony (see page 6).

Even though many of the group's ideas are in the discussion draft, Casserly said, they have been combined with complex proposals to use multiple measures and differentiate consequences based on how far schools fall short of their AYP targets. The proposal would complicate a process the Council of the Great City Schools is trying to simplify.

The council's experience is similar to that of others. Take, for example, the NEA. The union wants to add measures used in calculating AYP. That's included in the House draft, but not to the degree the union would like. On the other hand, the draft also includes teacher pay proposals that the union considers a deal breaker.

The end result, as Casserly told me after the AEI session, is that "not too many people are jumping up and down in support" of the House draft.

But he declined to predict that the effort to reauthorize NCLB will fail. After working on the six previous ESEA reauthorizations, Casserly said he's given up trying to predict what Congress will do.

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