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Minnesota, Other States Left Behind in Accountability Pilot

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings traveled to St. Paul, Minn., to announce today that she's inviting states to experiment with "differential accountability." In her speech, she didn't mention one important detail: Minnesota doesn't qualify.

Minnesota's testing system hasn't been approved by the federal Education Department—one of four criteria states must meet to win approval under the pilot project. (The other three are: a teacher-quality plan approved by the feds; clean federal monitoring reports; and what the department calls "timely and transparent" AYP reports. It's all spelled out in the department's fact sheet.) What's more, the program will give priority to states in which more than 20 percent of schools have been declared in need of improvement under NCLB. Minnesota has fewer than 20 percent of its schools in that category.

Even so, Minnesota could apply for the new program and win approval for its plan. But it wouldn't be allowed to implement its plan until it met all of the criteria, Chad Colby, an Education Department spokesman, told me in an e-mail today. Florida had a similar experience when the department approved its growth model plan.

With these criteria, I wonder how many states are in the same boat as Minnesota. I've asked the department how many states meet all the criteria. I'll report it to you when I get it. In the meantime, you can read about today's announcement in Spellings Offers Latitude on Poor-Performing Schools. There will be more to come in next week's paper.

Bonus links on reaction to the proposal:
FairTest says the pilot project is "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."
Gene Wilhoit of the Council of Chief State School Officers calls the plan "a step in the right direction."
Eduwonk says the roll out was too political, but adds that the policy "might generate some new ideas on how to refine No Child's accountability rules."

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