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Education Week Roundup, Dec. 19

Education Week's final issue of 2007 is full of stories about teacher quality and licensing. But it's light on NCLB news. Still, it's got several pieces—including a lengthy one on growth models—that show NCLB remains at the forefront of educators' minds.

On the front page, Michele McNeil reports on the presidential campaign, looking at how the candidates with gubernatorial experience are approaching educational issues (Governors Cite Education Records). New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, has a sound-bite policy NCLB: Scrap it. But Republicans Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have more nuanced approaches. Romney shepherded testing measures during his term as Massachusetts' chief executive, and Huckabee of Arkansas also has spoken in favor of the law's testing-and-accountability approach. But neither has a detailed platform addressing NCLB. As the story notes, four of the past five presidents have had experience as governors. Will one of these three be next?

In the Washington section, I offer a story wrapping up the state of NCLB reauthorization at year's end (Amid Pessimism on NCLB, Talks Continue). The most significant news nugget, which I haven't seen reported elsewhere, is that top Democrats called in the union presidents for a powwow. NEA President Reg Weaver characterized the meeting as informal and said no deals were struck. He also told me that no staff members were in the room with him, AFT President Ed McElroy, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. It could be a sign of progress.

In the In Perspective section, I explain that growth models are almost certain to be the next version of NCLB accountability ('Growth Models' Gaining in Accountability Debate). But lots of questions remain. Among them is: How does an accountability system recognize the value of high-achieving schools where most if not all students are meeting a state's proficiency goals? "There's got to be some sort of mix" of growth and status models, one expert told me. In that same package, Alyson Klein writes that the number of schools making AYP using growth models is small in six of the states participating in the federal pilot program (Impact is Slight for Early States Using 'Growth'). The data is based on original research by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. Tennessee and Arkansas didn't provide the answers to center's detailed questionnaire.

In the Commentary section, Judith L. Pace argues that schools are short-changing social studies in the NCLB era (Why We Need to Save (and Strengthen) Social Studies). "We are in danger of losing a generation of citizens schooled in the foundations of democracy—and of producing high school graduates who are not broadly educated human beings," she warns.

And Norm Fruchter writes about the flaws in New York City's new method of grading schools (Accounting Is Not Accountability). One lesson for NCLB: States need to look at more than two years of data when grading schools based on student growth. "Much research indicates that year-to-year school level fluctuation in test scores makes ... comparisons [from one year to the next] meaningless," he writes.

And that ends a year in which Education Week spilled a lot of ink writing about the No Child Left Behind Act. We're already at work on the first issue of 2008. I'll keep the blog going a couple more days before closing the books on 2007.

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