No Child Left Behind is up for renewal this year. The bipartisan Aspen Commission’s report is filled with ideas on how to improve NCLB, including basing teachers’ employment on their students’ score gains, creating voluntary national standards and adding science to math and reading in school accountability measures.
Teachers’ unions hate the idea of judging teachers’ effectiveness by student scores. Even accountability buffs think we’re not good enough at evaluating effectiveness to make this work.
Education Gadfly’s Checker Finn and Mike Petrilli call the report No Idea Left Behind. There are good ideas, dubious ideas and no “coherent vision for NCLB version 2.0.”
First, though, some raisins in this pudding: the Commission outlines an interesting and politically plausible path toward voluntary national standards and tests based on NAEP. It proffers some solid thinking about end-of-high-school academic expectations for students and how these might be married to NCLB. It has some good thoughts on longitudinal data systems. It would give principals the authority to bar weak teachers from transferring into their schools. It would allow states to use growth models in their accountability systems, giving credit to schools whose students are on track to reach proficiency within three years. (This is especially important for charter schools, which often enroll students who start out several years behind.) It seeks to ensure that needy schools get an equitable share of state and district resources before the federal Title I dollars are added on top. (This would give high-poverty schools the buying power to recruit and retain top-notch teachers — especially if they are also allowed to offer incentive pay.)
But the commission’s “basic approach to NCLB reform ignores the major lesson of the past five years: While it’s hard to force recalcitrant states and districts to do things they don’t want to do, it’s impossible to force them to do those things well.”
Eduwonk thinks Aspen offers sensible ideas to improve NCLB, even if it has no grand vision.
Those that just want to â€œfixâ€ NCLB wonâ€™t love it because it doesnâ€™t provide much cover for gutting the law, in fact in some subtle ways it draws a harder line on accountability than the administration does right now. And, there will be complaints that the emphasis on accountability and results means low-performing schools continue to be â€œpunished.â€
Eduwonk has more on the politics, and thinks the teachers’ unions would be wise to “grasp that they work for and are part of a public trust where the public does have some prerogatives, itâ€™s not some sort of oligarchy.”