How to improve NCLB

Education Trust credits No Child Left Behind with improving education, but calls for giving states a choice on how to show progress toward proficiency. Congress shouldn’t “return to something closer to its traditional role of providing money, while asking only for bookkeeping in return,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust. Instead, Ed Trust recommends three options:

· States may keep the current status model AYP system and the goal of 100 percent proficient by 2014. However, states with particularly large proficiency gaps between their own assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) would be required to set achievement goals for increasing by 50 percent the proportion of students achieving at the advanced level, including goals to close gaps at the advanced level; or

· States can choose to move to a growth model that counts students as proficient if they are on a trajectory to meet proficiency in three years. States electing this choice would have to have data systems that link student and teacher records, publish certain reports annually, and be required to set growth targets for all students, including those already at the proficient level; or

· States could move to new accountability goals if they raise their standards to a “college- and career-ready level” by convening a task force of K-12, higher education, and business leaders to develop high school proficiency standards that would guarantee a student’s placement, upon admission, into credit-bearing courses at the state’s public colleges and universities.

Many states set such low standards that graduates aren’t prepared to train for a skilled job or to earn college credits, Haycock says.

Some states are telling parents that their children are proficient even when those same children are performing below even the basic level on the NAEP.”

Ed Trust suggests states choosing the college-or-career option get 12 years to get at least 80 percent of graduates prepared for to earn college credits (not just take remedial classes in college) and at least 95 percent prepared for “active citizenship, military service, and entry into postsecondary education or formal employment training.”

Ed Trust also wants to target more federal money to the neediest schools.

The goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 — or 3014 — isn’t realistic unless proficiency is defined as “has a pulse.” But preparing 95 percent of students for work or college shouldn’t be impossible.

According to federal data, only 18.4 percent of ninth graders will graduate from high school in four years, go on to college and earn a degree within six years. About 30 percent don’t complete high school on schedule.

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