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Weingarten's Plan Could Spice Up Accountability Debate

With NCLB reauthorization looking less likely each week, the debate over the future of the law's key tenets has begun. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said she wants her new pilot project on "differentiated accountability" to offer Congress a model of how to rework interventions in schools. And don't overlook the accountability proposal that Randi Weingarten, president of New York City's United Federation of Teachers, released last week.

Weingarten's plan would add new ingredients to the accountability mix. (One quick note: Her ideas are about accountability in general but could be applied to NCLB.) In addition to test scores, schools would be rated on their safety and discipline, as well as their "teamwork for student achievement." Districts would be evaluated on the support they provide the school. The reports would rate schools against a standard—not on a curve—but also would compare schools against ones with similar demographics. Eduwonk says the plan "puts some good ideas on the table," but "it seems to me to move accountability too far away from demonstrable outputs."

When looking at the future of NCLB, Weingarten's proposal is important as much for her political standing as for her ideas. Weingarten is expected to become president of the American Federation of Teachers this year. If a certain senator from New York, whom the AFT has endorsed, is in the Oval Office next year, Weingarten certainly would be one of the most important voices in the next version of NCLB. Even if one of the other candidates is president, Democrats in Congress are certain to look closely at Weingarten's plan because it voices the complaints of teachers and educators.

"It is our hope that the UFT’s proposed framework initiates a vigorous debate over both the ends of accountability and the best means to achieve these ends," Leo Casey writes on the UFT blog, edwize. In the current issue of Education Week, Weingarten's proposal merited a brief mention. (Like other newspapers, we focused on the biggest news story in New York.) But I'm betting Weingarten's ideas will get noticed and talked about eventually.

Other stories of note in the March 19, 2008, issue of Education Week:
Spellings, on Tour, Aims to Promote NCLB
Key Democrat's Plan Would Boost Charter Schools (Note: Since this story went online, Rep. Rahm Emanuel has introduced legislation on this topic.)
Miller Joins Pessimists Club on NCLB Renewal
Poor Math Scores Posted on Unusual 3-State Exams
Virginia Lawmakers Enact Measure Taking Aim at NCLB (see my blog item on the bill)
New-Leaders Group Offers Initial Insights Into Effective Practice

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