Friday, February 24, 2006

The Spellings Report: Big NCLB News From The Secretary

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is announcing the formation of a committee that will take a close look at a number of states that are attempting to alter the formulas used to measure progress under The No Child Left Behind Act:
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced the names of the 11 new outside peer reviewers chosen to evaluate the growth-based accountability models submitted by 20 states. While continuing to meet the goals of No Child Left Behind, states participating in this pilot program are able to receive credit for student improvement over time by tracking individual student achievement from year to year.

"We continue to work closely with states to provide flexibility in implementing No Child Left Behind while maintaining focus on accountability and proficiency for all by 2014," Secretary Spellings said. "This pilot program allows us to test the idea that growth models show promise as fair, reliable and innovative methods of giving states credit for student improvement over time."

Growth models for Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah must be based on the following seven principles of No Child Left Behind:

Ensure that all students are proficient by 2014 and set annual state goals to ensure that the achievement gap is closing for all groups of students;

Set expectations for annual achievement based upon meeting grade-level proficiency and not upon student background or school characteristics;

Hold schools accountable for student achievement in reading/language arts and mathematics;

Ensure that all students in tested grades are included in the assessment and accountability system, hold schools and districts accountable for the performance of each student subgroup, and include all schools and districts;

Include assessments, in each of grades 3 through 8 and high school, in both reading/language arts and mathematics that have been operational for more than one year and have received approval through the NCLB standards and assessment review process for the 2005-06 school year. The assessment system must also produce comparable results from grade to grade and year to year;

Track student progress as part of the state data system; and

Include student participation rates and student achievement as separate academic indicators in the state accountability system.

The peer reviewers, who represent academia, private organizations and state and local education agencies, will review each proposal based on the Peer Review Guidance ( issued by the U.S. Department of Education as a road map for developing the models.
The Queen of All Testing then goes on to name her committee members.

Significantly, as is the case with nearly all of her committees, not a single member of this group is a practicing classroom teacher, principal, or Anyone Else who actually works with children.

Shame on the secretary for not including at least one representative from an actual public school campus.

But then again, people like Spellings really don't have much empathy for those of us who are, as she puts it, "held accountable" for student progress even when those students engage in violent behaviors, don't attend class regularly, and refuse to even attempt school work. Neither Spellings nor any of her Washington minions ever mention of the need for parents and the students themselves to also be responsible for their own academic success.

Spellings places full responsibility for insufficient pupil academic progress on, as she calls it, "failing schools." By this she means individual campuses in general and classroom teachers in particular.

People such as Spellings and her ilk do not view classroom teachers as dedicated and hard-working professional educators but as little more than the "service providers in the classroom." In their view, classroom teachers are not worthy of having a place at the table of education-policy formulation, but are only servi-motors who receive orders and are tasked (and then "held accountable") with doing the actual work.

Spellings and company would do very well to read
this post from's guest blogger Alice in Eduland. It might just help arrogant educrats well-intentioned-folks-who-wouldn't-work-in-an-actual-classroom-with-real-children-on-a-bet have some appreciation for what it's really like out on the front lines of education reform. That is to say, in the classroom.

The high-born EduCracy that inhabits the well-appointed Washington palaces belonging to The Royal House of Spellings would do very well to remember that they can generate all the paperwork, reports, and mandates that they wish. But if the EduCracy can't get good peasants people who'll actually roll-up their sleeves and do the "hard work" of teaching children in our public school classrooms, their high-falutin "reforms" will exist only on paper, at
the conferences they attend at five-star resorts around the world, and in their collective imaginations.
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