What to do about NCLB

The “discussion draft” of changes to No Child Left Behind is a “work in progress,” says Rep. George Miller, D-California. Miller and Republican Buck McKeown plan to introduce a NCLB reauthorization bill after Labor Day. The draft uses growth models to measure schools’ effectiveness, reports Education Week.

In outlining the use of growth models, which track individual student progress instead of comparing different cohorts of students, the document says that states would need to measure schools’ and districts’ progress toward the goal of universal proficiency in reading and mathematics by the end of the 2013-14 school year. That’s the goal set in the current No Child Left Behind Act, which President Bush signed into law in January 2002.

The draft adds a clause that could extend the deadline, saying that students in all the demographic, racial, and ethnic subgroups that the current law tracks would need to at least be “on a trajectory” toward proficiency for a school or district to be determined to be making AYP.

In addition to reading and math scores, states could choose to evaluate science and social studies scores, graduation rates and college-enrollment rates.

The plan suggests different interventions for schools that miss one or two subgroup targets and those that miss most targets. Gadfly calls this idea the Suburban Schools Relief Act: Middle-class schools with good scores overall could escape sanctions if a low-income minority lags behind.

Students who aren’t fluent in English could be tested in their native language for five years. That would relieve the pressure to bring these students up to speed quickly.

Education Trust warns of “dumbing down” accountability for educating all students.

Although the staff draft creates an accountability fig-leaf by preserving the requirement that all students reach proficiency in reading and mathematics by the 2013-14 school year, the heart of the law has been hollowed out. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), as proposed in the draft, would be confusing and reverse the federal commitment to ensuring all students can competently read and do math.

Eduwonk calls the draft a reasonable starting point.

A reputable first shot, writes Kevin Carey at The Quick and The Ed. But the system would be much more complex. Is it OK if nobody understands it?

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings discusses NCLB’s future with USA Today.

The House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on NCLB reauthorization on Sept. 10. Comments can be sent to ESEA.Comments@mail.house.gov and will be considered through Sept. 5.

About Joanne


  1. Clearly what we need are “achievement offsets”, similar to “carbon offsets”. Under this scheme (I use that word in the British sense), low-performing schools could buy some of the higher-achievers’ points, most likely using Federal funds. This would unfortunately lower the better schools’ standings, but, in the interests of Leaving No Child Behind, would accomplish truly worthy aims.

    Then, of course, we’d need a clearing-house, and oversight committee, a few companies to handle the details, …

  2. I wonder who many actual educators will be invited to the hearings? Or will it be simply people like Sandy Kress who buy their way into “expertise”?

  3. Probably about as many as the number of truck drivers who are invited to hearings concerning the building of a new freeway.

    It’s public policy. It ought to be decided by the public not by a group with a special interest.

  4. The difference allen is that the people who engineer the freeways are well versed on the issues that matter to the truck drivers. The people who make many of these policy issues haven’t a clue about pedagogy, child behavior or educational statistics.

  5. With that said, I support measuring progress on a student-by-student basis and making accomodations to standards upward or downward as appropriate. Inidividual achievement is absolutely the direction the metrics should be going.

  6. Tom: Based upon RESULTS, I might suggest that most of the ‘educators’ don’t have a clue about pedagogy, child behavior, or educational statistics – the last especially, as it inolves math – either.

  7. Scott: I’m not debating that there are an unfortunately large number of teachers who don’t deserve to be considered professionals. There are still more than enough educators who do have a clue who could be involved so my point still stands.

  8. Tom, NCLB is a policy decision. Expertise may be consulted, maybe, but it’s a decision that has to be made among a number of contesting parties, each with their own goals and agenda.

    Mike in Texas just represents one of those contesting parties so he quite naturally tries to inflate his importance. Nothing unusual in that but nothing admirable either.

    The position, and the goal, is to return educational policy back to when there wasn’t any accountability which is Mike’s golden age of public education. It isn’t my idea of a golden age and on the basis of the support the idea has on both sides of the aisle, it isn’t a golden age as far as Congress is concerned. As a public policy decision, that’s as it should be with the representatives of the people deciding public policy.

  9. Ahh, back to the the insults I see. I like Tom’s engineer and bridge building analogy, its one I’ve used myself.

    When it comes to the highways you and your family drive over, do you want the engineers designing the specifications or the construction companies that contribute millions to politicians?

    So it should be with educucation.

  10. Consult an ophthalmologist.

    The highway I and my family drive over has to meet certain standards as do the engineers who design it. If either performs poorly enough there are consequences. Those standards are *not* set by the people who’ll be measured by them.

    Also, I notice that you’ve left union lobbying for highway funding off your list. It seems to me that if construction companies shouldn’t be allowed to pursue their ends by accessing the political process then neither should unions. If self-interest is bad for the goose it’s bad for the gander.

    > So it should be with educucation.

    Endlessly rising budgets and hysteria at a whiff of accountability. I’d say the problem is that that’s the way it *is* in education.

  11. Believe it or not Allen, as a teacher I had to meet certain standards too.

    I left off unions bitching because as I’ve pointed out to you repeatedly, here in Texas there basically are no teachers’ unions. By law we lack the right to strike or collective bargain, making the unions nothing more than insurance providers and conveyors of information.

    I noticed when John Stossl aired his “Stupid in America” series he blamed South Carolina’s low ACT/SAT scores on the all powerful teacers’ unions. Then quickly panned the camera over the list, forgetting to mention Texas has the 2nd lowest scores in the country, and no powerful teachers’ unions.

    I’m not afraid of accountability at all. In fact, I’m quite proud of the job I’ve done and continue to do. I do object to an accountability system which is designed to label every school and every teacher a failure, as I believe NCLB is designed to do.

  12. > Believe it or not Allen, as a teacher I had to meet certain
    > standards too.

    I don’t. Your propensity to “edit” facts to fit your preferences – your claims about the state of Texas’ admitting to underfunding education comes to mind – necessitates objective support.

    > I left off unions bitching because as I’ve pointed out to you repeatedly, here in Texas there basically are no teachers’ unions.

    And as I’ve written repeatedly, I don’t put the state of American public education at the feet of the unions. The unions are doing what unions are supposed to do: get the best deal for their membership that the law allows and maybe more.

    That includes making it borderline impossible to fire a bad teacher. I know you prefer to avoid confronting that issue, preferring everything too firing for incompetence but for those who don’t share your bias it’s pretty straightforward: if you can’t do the job, you’re gone. But even that isn’t the fault of the union, it’s a fault in all unions, i.e. part of their proper duties.

    > I’m not afraid of accountability at all. In fact, I’m quite
    > proud of the job I’ve done and continue to do.

    How nice for you. Is this supposed to indicate that all teachers aren’t afraid of accountability and proud of the job they do? Thanks but as Ron Reagan said “Trust but verify”.

    > I do object to an accountability system which is designed to
    > label every school and every teacher a failure, as I believe
    > NCLB is designed to do.

    So the only accountability measure that qualifies for the use of the term isn’t up to your standards. Well color me shocked.

    What’s really kind of funny is that NCLB, or any accountability measure, is the best friend the class room teacher has or has had.

    Who do you think becomes more important as accountability takes hold? The superintendent or any central office functionary? Of course not. The best thing they can do is stay out from underfoot and make sure the bills get paid. That being the case, the next exciting new methodology that gets extruded from an ed school gets a distinctly chilly reception. If it doesn’t help keep scores up nobody whose job depends on keeping scores up is going to want to hear about it.

    When the principal’s job depends on the care and feeding of teachers who know how to keep scores up the administrative ass which was formerly kissed starts to look much more like it ought to have a boot applied to it. Does that work for you?

    You want that respect to which you think you’re entitled? Then what you do has to be measured and there have to be real, painful, timely, appropriately targetted consequences for not measuring up.

  13. Allen,

    The only place I have a propensity to edit facts is in your narrow mind, where you refuse to accept facts as they are.

    My so called “claims” about Texas underfunding schools were proven over and over, as I repeatedly provided you with links to the judge’s ruling, as well as the page numbers they were on in his ruling.

    Here’s the direct link to the ruling:

    Here are some choice tidbits:

    Dr. Reschovsky and Dr. Imazeki concluded that the additional costs (on top of 2001-02
    spending levels) to meet the 55% measure (in 2004 dollars) range from nearly $1.653
    billion (Definition 1) to $6.171 billion (Definition 3) for the State as a whole.

    Taylor removed the discussion relating to these higher performance targets at the request
    of certain legislative leaders, who were concerned that the higher costs associated with the
    higher performance targets would be the focus of attention. The omitted analyses
    confirmed that the higher performance standards required additional revenues to meet.
    For example, the Taylor Study found that a 90% performance standard on TAKS would
    cost an additional $3.6 billion per year in 2004 dollars.

    To reach the 60 percent passing rate standard would require an additional $2.519 billion
    statewide, while reaching the 70 percent and 90 percent passing rate standards (under the
    “Definition 1” model) would increase costs statewide by $4.665 and $10.06 billion,

    Read them for yourself Allen, then visit the small little corners of the mind where you can warp this into I’m editing the facts.

  14. Well it looks like I’ve reduced you to hurling insults. Wouldn’t be the first time.

    Just in case anyone’s wondering what this is about, back in the 80’s a bunch of Texas school districts filed one of the “educational equity” law suits. The nickname for the result, Robin Hood funding, tells you everything you need to know about the idea.

    Then, when Texas enacted some sharp-elbowed accountability measures an identically irresponsible bunch got a judge to agree that the funding was simply inadequate to meet the state requirements so some judicious, or rather judicial, budget adjustments were necessary.

    The judge couldn’t just pull a number out of his butt so he hired an economist who pulled a number out of her butt. It amounted to a 55% increase in per pupil spending although you won’t read Mike admit that. I’m going to have to find a less disagreeable metaphor that’s equally pithy.

    Since Mike has trouble with arithmetic that doesn’t give him the answer he wants I was forced to do the arithmetic to find out what that 55% increase meant.

    Turns out that a couple of years ago Texas was spending 42% of the state budget on K-12 education. A 55% increase would have bumped the percentage of the state budget devoted to education to 72%.

    At this point Mike, I believe you’d respond in a way that would get you kicked off a sixth grade forensics team with a “those are your numbers not mine”.

    I think that was a reasonably concise and accurate interpretation of some of our past exchanges or would you prefer to reprise your own role yourself?

  15. It doesn’t matter what the % of the state budget is, Allen. The feds want 100% passing, the state of Texas wants 100% passing.

    You couldn’t do your job at a 100% rate with 55% funding, and neither can anyone else.

    You can do the math and figure out what % of funding is missing, can’t you?