Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Spellings Report: More Big NCLB News!

The Washington Post has some big news about the No Child Left Behind Act:
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced yesterday that under a new pilot program, North Carolina and Tennessee will be the first states permitted to change the way they assess student progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The "growth model" assessment will allow the schools to be in compliance by measuring the progress of individual students annually, instead of an entire grade of different students.

Spellings said that those states were selected because they have a sophisticated data-collection system already in place for assessing students.

Many schools prefer the growth model to the current policy because they believe it gives them more flexibility to meet the standards by showing that individual students are improving. Low-performing schools are subject to fines if they do not meet the No Child Left Behind assessment standards.

Spellings yesterday said that the pilot schools would still be obligated to meet the 2014 deadline for grade-level proficiency. She dismissed the suggestion the new model would leave room for lax assessments.

"That is completely untrue. . . . This is simply a different way to understand the progress that is being made," Spellings said at a lunch with reporters. "It is potentially equally as rigorous. It might be as good a way as the static model. . . . We're about to find out."

Spellings announced last year that she was open to allowing up to 10 states into the pilot. In the end, only 13 states applied and only the two were approved. Several states that came close but were rejected because they did not meet Spellings's requirements, will be given early consideration if they apply again. They are Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida and Oregon.

"These are two states that have very sophisticated rich data," she said. "This is not for the faint of heart. It was a rigorous review process. It wasn't an open invitation to everybody. A state that has never done annual assessment before this isn't going to be able to do this."

Spellings added that she had the support of congressional leaders who "want to know if there's a better way."

"I do want the world to know if there is a better way to calculate and show progress," she said. "I'm open-minded about this."

Spellings allowed that, in general, schools were going to have to "pick up the pace" if they were going to meet the 2014 deadline. In particular, she said the Education Department is going to closely watch whether districts are placing their best teachers in the most challenging schools.
Read the press release over at The Department of Education right here.

At least Secretary Spellings did not utter her arrogant and trite
trademark phrase "Put on your big girl panties and deal with it," when she turned down the applications of those other states that were seeking to participate in the "growth model" pilot program.

It's so nice to see that the Secretary is being, as she calls it, "Open Minded." I wonder if she'll ever be "open minded" enough to call for parents to step-up and do their part in helping to ensure that their children have the greatest chance of achieving academic success by getting kids to school on time, well rested and prepared to learn?

Maybe Spellings would be "open minded" enough to come into my classroom and model for me exactly what I should do when the parent of one of my 173 students refuses to come to the school for a conference, answer the phone, or even come to the door and speak with me or any other school employee?

Nope. I'd better not hold my breath.

The House of Spellings will continue to hold public school educators solely responsible for making sure that 100% of the nation's kids achieve grade-level proficiency in reading, math, and science.

When things don't work out, (as they probably won't as Spellings and Company will consider a 99% success rate to still be a failing grade under NCLB) it will be so much easier for Washington's well-entrenched-and-well-paid-EduCrats-for-Life to blame front-line teachers and administrators for coming-up short while saying nothing about negligent voters parents who leave their own children behind.

Scapegoats come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, they appear in the form of classroom teachers, principals, and district superintendents.

Related: I wasn't surprised to learn that Education Sector's has
some thoughts on the matter.
See this week's edition of The Carnival Of Education here and our latest posts over there.