48% of schools missed progress goals

Forty-eight percent of public schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress, according to the Center on Education Policy.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who predicted 82 percent of schools would miss AYP, also failed to reach his target.

Civil rights, disability groups trash Harkin bill

Adequate Yearly Progress bites the dust in Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind, now out in draft form. Instead, students would have to make “continuous improvement,” reports Ed Week.

There would be no specific achievement targets, either for entire groups of students, or for particular subgroups, such as minority students, English-language learners, or students with disabilities. In the vast majority of cases, states would decide how—and whether—to intervene in schools.

Harkin worked with Republican Sen. Mike Enzi on the bill.

Where’s the teeth? ask critics.

. . .  Democrats for Education Reform already likened the draft’s “continuous improvement” standard to saying you’re losing weight without ever getting on the scale.

Advocates for poor, minority and disabled students complained the bill has “no meaningful mechanism” to hold schools, districts or states accountable in a letter to Harkin and Enzi. The groups included the National Council of La Raza, the Education Trust, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The lack of goals is “a total deal breaker,” said Amy Wilkins, the vice president for government affairs and communications at the Education Trust.


Not so flat

Reading and math achievement have improved significantly in the last 40 years, writes Richard Rothstein on National Journal, countering Bill Gates’ charge that we’re spending more than twice as much with little to show for it. In particular, blacks have narrowed the achievement gap by improving more than whites, Rothstein points out.

Looking at long-term trends for all students on the Nation’s Report Card, nine- and 13-year-olds improved in math till 2004, when scores leveled off.  Scores for 17-year-olds leveled off in 1990. Reading scores from 1971 to 2008  improved significantly for nine-year-olds, improved slightly for 13-year-olds and did not improve for 17-year-olds.

While Rothstein concedes that education spending has doubled in real dollars, “less than half of this new money has gone to regular education (including compensatory education for disadvantaged children, programs for English-language learners, integration programs like magnet schools, and special schools for dropout recovery and prevention). Special education consumed less than 4% of all K-12 spending 40 years ago; it now consumes 21% of education dollars.

Unless No Child Left Behind is modified, 82 percent of U.S. schools could fail to meet “adequate yearly progress” targets next year, estimates Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Currently, 37 percent are failing to meet targets, but many states set achievable goals in the early years in hopes that performance would soar in the final years.  — or that the targets would be lowered.  Duncan’s credibility is under attack — will the number of AYP losers more than double in one year? — but nobody thinks the goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 is achievable, even with some states defining “proficiency” as “barely literate.” The Obama administration wants to set a new goal: Students will be ready for college or careers by 2020. I don’t believe in that one either. Only the lowest-performing 5 percent would face “turnaround” or “transformation.”