Index Fun: Will It Be Part of the Future?
One intriguing idea in the Forum for Education and Democracy's report is the proposal for a "continuous progress index."
NCLB takes a variety of measurementstest scores in reading and math, test participation rates, and other indicators such as science scores, attendance rates, etc. If a school fails to meet their goal in any of them, it fails AYP. The Forum report calls the NCLB method a "confusing statistical gauntlet" that is unfair to schools.
It should be replaced by a single measurement that combines the results of various factors, such as scores on tests measuring "higher-order thinking and understanding," progress students are making toward graduation, and "diagnostic information," the report says.
NCLB hawks have opposed indexes. Combining information from a variety of sources could cover up significant weaknesses in the school, they argue.
But they may be changing their tune. When I talked to Kati Haycock of the Education Trust about the forum's premise that the time is ripe for major changes in the federal involvement in K-12 policy, she said she's contemplating the type of index she might support in the next version of NCLB. "I don't see anyway around it," she said. It's the best way to incorporate other subject areas into accountability without adding new complexities to to AYP. The trick, she said, will be finding a way that a cumulative index score gives an accurate portrayal of a schools' performance.
We didn't talk about the specifics of the Forum for Education and Democracy's proposal. Neither of us had read the report at that point. Frankly, the report doesn't provide enough specifics for someone as thorough as Kati Haycock to take position on.
With Haycock and the forum both thinking of ways to make an accountability index part of NCLB's future, there's a good chance it will happen.