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Peer Reviewers Return 'Differentiated' Plans for Rewrite

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Why did only six states win approval to participate in the "differentiated accountability" pilot project? After all, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said she would let up to 10 states into the program.

The answer comes in the Word document summarizing peer reviewers' perspectives on the proposals.

The methods appeared largely to be based on methods of convenience rather than a focus on the underlying causes of schools inability to meet AYP.

The boldface is in the original. That's like getting a D- on the paper you stayed up all night to write. Never a good day when that happens.

The folks at Ed Sector aren't impressed either. Andy Rotherham calls the plans "underwhelming" and suggests Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' decision were "pretty political." (Another blogger uses Georgia's participation in the program as a chance to make a political attack.) Chad Aldeman says the pilot project "backtracks" on NCLB's core principles of disaggregating data and helping students in those groups. "Millions weren't spent today to tarnish NCLB," he writes. "The secretary did it herself."

Susan Ohanian is outraged (as she usually is when NCLB is in the news). This time, she complains about the quality of curriculum offered in the states participating in the pilot project.

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I read to the bottom of Ohanian's column--where there was a link to "further NCLB outrages," which I found amusing.

I think that one reason that so many of the proposals are luke-warm, at best, is that they are responding to charges that are largely overstated. There is "outrage" that "failing" schools (who may only have missed because of a few students with disabilities or non-English speakers) face "draconian" penalties under NCLB. The problem is that it takes five to seven years of pretty pathetic stats to get to anything that might be termed "draconian." And there are various "safe harbor" options available (averaging improvements over several years, percentage improvement instead of meeting the absolute AYP goal, etc). And during that time, there are increasing sanctions that include making a plan to respond to problems, implementing the plan, evaluating progress and revising the plan. In five to seven years, the population of an elementary school has totally changed and moved on. At that time, among the options to be considered is changing out any personnel that might be related to the problem. I'm sorry--I just don't see the problem with that. It doesn't require a revolving door, but it does open the door to getting staff who cannot help out of the way.

So--the alternative plans haven't done a whole lot more other than restated the obvious, which to me is "get your undies out of a bunch, and start focusing on identifying meaningful change to improve the education of the kids on the bottom of your pile." We can talk about the freedom to be more targetted if that makes people feel better--but otherwise, lets just get on with it.

BTW--I didn't find perusal of recommended summer reading lists to be particularly indicative of a state's curriculum.

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