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The "Program Evaluation" Bar - Why Just for SES Providers?

Today, I was struck by how easy it is for states to run with No Child Left Behind’s standards of effectiveness for its school districts' new business competitors – Supplementary Educational Services (SES) providers, and how hard it seems to be for them to implement comparable rules for districts' traditional business partners. The traditional structure of public education isn't opposed to business involvement in teaching and learning, but to new businesses entering the field.

Consider New Jersey’s revised SES application:

Under NCLB, each State is responsible for defining acceptable evidence of effectiveness. Criteria developed for selection, approval and monitoring of providers must include, but are not limited to the following...

1. A demonstrated record of effectiveness in improving student academic

Without exception, all applicants must provide a clear, concise narrative including evidence program effectiveness in improving academic achievement.

Note: New and renewal applications will be evaluated on the extent to which there is a demonstrated record of effectiveness in improving academic achievement. Weighted consideration is given to evidence of positive impact on student achievement measured by State and district assessments. Evidence of positive impact on additional outcomes (e.g., school grades, family/parent satisfaction, student discipline, student attendance, and/or retention/promotion rates) is also considered as well as provider conducted studies, data on student outcomes, and other sources of evidence. Please note that priority will be given to third-party, independent research....

1. Provide evidence that the program has had a positive impact on student achievement as demonstrated through a State, district, and/or other independent, valid, and reliable performance test, particularly for low-income, underachieving students.

Readers of edbizbuzz and listeners to my podcasts at SIIW Online know I’ve been very hard on SES providers' failure to make the evaluation of results a high priority. Rest assured that this is not an argument in their defense. All providers of products, services and programs aimed at improving student academic performance should have to demonstrate their value-added.

This is an effort to point out that our current system of public education is perfectly capable of making informed judgments about the quality of educational products, services and programs – when it is incentivized to do so.

In the context of NCLB - SES providers are seen as competitors and their services a form of financial punishment. Lowering the bar of school accountability by weakening the calculus of Adequate Yearly Progress is one reaction. Zealous enforcement of the laws on Research-Based requirement is another. Both are aimed at reducing competetion.

Why not extend the program review to, say, textbooks? Because textbook providers are part of the traditional system, fundamental to the status quo. Disrupting those business relationships is contrary to the system’s institutional stablity.

But, hey, now we know that regulation based on SBR is not fundamentally a problem of capacity. It's one of interest.

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