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'Backloaded' Goals Raise Questions About 100 Percent Proficiency

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While I was out last week, the Center on Education Policy released a report saying that about half of the states are delaying the pain for schools under NCLB. (See the edweek.org story from last week.) They've made it easy for schools to make AYP in the early years of implementation and are expecting (or just hoping?) that schools will escalate achievement gains when the goal of universal proficiency looms in 2014.

BoardBuzz and Joanne Jacobs compare this "backloading" to a balloon payment on a mortgage. Back in November, Kevin Carey released a report identifying such backloading as one of several ways states have made it easier for schools to make AYP.

With 2014 six years away, it's a safe bet no state will achieve 100 percent proficiency. When the backloaded goals kick in, states will use confidence intervals, safe harbor, and other ways to let schools off the hook. (Indeed, eduguru gives a math lesson proving that the safe harbor makes it possible for schools to make AYP without coming close to universal proficiency.)

When Congress does reauthorize the law, it'll have to answer the question: Does the federal government really expect all children to be proficient, or is substantial improvement good enough?

4 Comments

How about the built in LOOP HOLE that pertains to the words "consecutive years of failure to make AYP?"
For instance, what if a poor performing school for 2 or 3 years finally makes AYP the following year? We know that a school must make minimal gains the following year to be out of the NI category.
So, it seems to me when pass or fail scores are intermittently earned, we may see those schools still making progress in 2014. I understand the ideal goal to achieve a 100% proficiency for all students. However, in reality, some folks are going to be forced to become very creative in their ability to collect, interpret, and present the data to our legislators.

Isn't it shocking that states would backload? In my personal experience, we were upfront about the purposes of those loopholes, and others. We looked to Ohio, and tried to copy them as much as possible. Our logic, of course, was that Ohio might be important in the 2004 election, and we wanted to be able to get away with everything they got away with.

But please remember, the educators in the room were accountability hawks and we would have gladly adpoted a real accountability system.

The balloon mortgage is a misleading analogy because when you buy a house, you have something tangible and valuable. When you meet NCLB goals, however, you probably don't have anything more than hot air.

The better approach is to not throw our educational pearls to the swine of NCLB, and focus on policies that help real kids.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a pundit, editorialist, or politician accused public schools of gaming the system, using loopholes to skirt accountability, or lowering their standards. Well, DUH!!!

Set an absurdly impossible to reach standard and of course schools will do what they can to survive. And remember Campbell's Law and the book by David Berliner and Sharon Nichols, "Collateral Damage".

The only real beneficiaries of this law are business interests. It is time accountability was turned on its heels.

I love this statement from John:

"The balloon mortgage is a misleading analogy because when you buy a house, you have something tangible and valuable. When you meet NCLB goals, however, you probably don't have anything more than hot air."

So--John and Tauna--what would you recommend in terms of building greater accountability in schools? John--I agree that the job of schools is to focus on policies that help real kids. But that only begs the question--how will we know that they are helped? I am personally aghast at the extent to which schools have elected to game the system and push test prep in preferance to improving teaching (and schools and curriculum) in ways that would result in improved educational outcomes (measurable by test scores).

I "get" the balloon payment thing. In a mortgage you bank on having an increased salary by the time it comes around. In education the presumption was that improvements would tend to be cumulative (six years down the road, the sixth graders would have had improvements all the way through, etc). But the danger is in assuming a higher salary with no basis--or pushing the higher educational goals down the road in the hope that a different political environment would be more amenable to tossing the whole thing out.

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