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Spellings' Advice to Duncan: Keep NCLB's Accountability


In The Washington Post today, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings tells her prospective successor to keep NCLB. If you've heard her speak in the past two years, you wouldn't learn anything new. Test scores are up, she writes, especially among poor and minority children. The backlash against NCLB's accountability rules, she writes, "speak[s] to the harsh truths it reveals."

NCLB can be improved, she says, and she's all for it. But she doesn't want to undermine its "core accountability provisions," she writes. She doesn't say it, but from past statements, she probably means the goal for universal proficiency by the end of the 2013-14 school year; annual assessment; and disaggregation of student scores into subgroups representing races, ethnic minorities, and participation in programs for special education and English-language learners.

She also says there's a unique coalition that supports the law, led by civil rights activists and business leaders. What she doesn't say is whether she'll be a public spokeswoman for the law after Jan. 20. I'm betting she will be.

P.S. In yesterday's Post, Spellings and others gave their advice to Arne Duncan. Like Spellings' op-ed, much of it was predictable. But Michael Dannenberg's offered a fresh idea. The New America Foundation fellow proposed a horse-trade: Win the teacher unions' support for teacher-pay initiatives with multi-billion-dollar increases for NCLB. Politically, it may be possible. Financially, wait and see.


I think that it is critical that NCLB is revised to promote multiple measures for evaluating the success of a school rather than simply standardized test scores. Just like with intelligence testing earlier in the century, relying on one standardized test to judge a person's ability is pseudo science that creates misleading data and inappropriate conclusions.

As a parent with two kids who found most of their public schools inappropriate and unsatisfying, I think the current NCLB accountability procedures need to be completely rethought to evaluate schools in a more holistic way to allow public school alternatives to flourish that are non-instructional in nature and more holistic.

All the public schools my kids attended were fixated on transmitting authorized knowledge rather than letting them explore their own unique talents and interests.

Cooper Zale

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