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USA TODAY Collegiate Case Study: Assessment of Educational Progress

USA TODAY Collegiate Case Study: Assessment of Educational Progress

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The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation was designed to improve academic achievement for students in elementary and secondary school. NCLB mandates that states must show progress of this achievement by testing students in reading and math from third to eighth grade and once in high school. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education finds that some state tests and standards are too lenient, with critics charging that some states are setting the bar too low. In addition, NCLB also calls for “scientifically-based” research to measure the effectiveness of educational curriculum and resources.This case study addresses some of these controversial testing and research issues as NCLB moves towards its deadline of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014.
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation was designed to improve academic achievement for students in elementary and secondary school. NCLB mandates that states must show progress of this achievement by testing students in reading and math from third to eighth grade and once in high school. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education finds that some state tests and standards are too lenient, with critics charging that some states are setting the bar too low. In addition, NCLB also calls for “scientifically-based” research to measure the effectiveness of educational curriculum and resources.This case study addresses some of these controversial testing and research issues as NCLB moves towards its deadline of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014.

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Published by: USA TODAY Education on Mar 26, 2010
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Collegiate Case Study
States get creative to minimize federal law’s effect
By Ledyard King .....................................................................................3


Assessment of Educational Progress
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation passed over five years ago was designed to improve academic achievement for students in elementary and secondary school. NCLB mandates that states must show progress of this achievement by testing students in reading and math from third to eighth grade and once in high school. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education finds that some state tests and standards are too lenient, with critics charging that some states are setting the bar too low. In addition, NCLB also calls for “scientifically-based” research to measure the effectiveness of educational curriculum and resources; as with testing, the last five years have seen struggles in the research arena as well. This case study addresses some of these controversial testing and research issues as NCLB moves towards its deadline of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Report, suit question teacher qualifications
By Greg Toppo .....................................................................................3

Education science in search of answers
By Greg Toppo ................................................................................4-5

The standards complaint
Data suggest states satisfy No Child law by expecting less from their students
By Ledyard King Gannett News Service Almost ever y four th-grader in Mississippi knows how to read. In Massachusetts, only half do. So what's Mississippi doing that Massachusetts, the state with the most college graduates, isn't? Setting expectations too low, critics say. The 2002 federal No Child Left Behind law was designed to raise education standards by punishing schools that fail to make all kids proficient in math and reading. But the law allows each state to chart its own course in meeting those objectives. The result, according to a Gannett News Service analysis of test scores, is that many states have taken the safe route, keeping standards low and fooling parents into believing their children are prepared for college and work. Federal education officials plan to release a report today that is expected to reach the same conclusion: Many states hold students to a relatively low standard. Critics say states are more worried about creating the appearance of academic progress than in raising standards. "Ironically, No Child reforms may have the exact opposite effect they were intended to have," says Bruce Fuller, an education and public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Today’s Debate: Improving education
Our view: An illusion gains credibility ....................................................................................6 Opposing view: Key subjects get short shrift .....................................................................................7


NCLB is working, but it’s ‘a journey’
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings ..............................................................................9-10

Critical inquiry
Discussion and future implications .........................................................................................11

Additional resources

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State scores misleading The GNS analysis found that relying on state test scores to judge students' performance is misleading. For example, 89% of Mississippi fourthgraders passed the state's reading test in 2005, but only 18% passed the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test. That gap of 71 percentage points was the widest in the nation. Fuller's research suggests the gap between state test scores and NAEP scores has widened in many states since the federal law took effect. States that don't push students to meet higher standards risk sending them into the work world unprepared — even as global competition increases. More than half of 250 employers surveyed in 2006 said high school graduates are deficient at writing in English, foreign languages and math skills. "The future U.S. workforce is here — and it is woefully ill-prepared," the report concluded. State education officials deny critics' claims that they're gaming the system by making tests easier. They say it's unfair to compare state tests with NAEP, which is taken by only a small percentage of students and often includes material schools haven't covered yet. They say changes in testing policies came after careful review and federal officials signed off on them. "We didn't game anything," says Tom Horne, superintendent of public instruction in Arizona, which lowered the passing score on several tests in 2005. "We called a task force, and the state board decided to follow their recommendation." No Child Left Behind requires states to test students in math and reading from third through eighth grades and once in

high school. Ever y child must be proficient in those subjects by 2014. Schools that don't make "adequate yearly progress" risk being flagged as underperforming. Students may transfer, or the district could be forced to use its federal money to pay for tutoring. Philadelphia schools chief Paul Vallas says the answer is national standards. Every grade in every state would teach the same material and administer the same test. Vallas, who will take over New Orleans' schools in July, says students who fled the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast in 2005 were stunned to find more rigorous education standards elsewhere. "The shocker … is how poorly the kids have done in another state," he says. "It was probably a wake-up call." Focus on neglected groups President Bush and lawmakers say the punitive elements of No Child Left Behind have prompted states to reexamine standards and focus on longneglected groups of students, notably minorities and students with disabilities. Critics say the law forces schools to drill kids and emphasize testing at the expense of other learning. Tiffany Collins, 12, a seventh-grader at Robert Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Va., knows May is test time. "I just think it's really a lot of pressure," she says. States and some independent experts say comparing scores on federal and state tests isn't valid. The national exam, they say, was never designed to compare standards from state to state. It's administered to only a sample of students, each of whom takes only a portion of the test.

And teachers and students are far more focused on the state tests because those tests determine whether their schools make adequate progress and, in some cases, whether seniors receive a diploma. In Maryland, 58% of fourth-graders passed the state reading test in 2003; 32% passed NAEP. Two years later, 82% passed the state test; NAEP results stayed the same. "If it doesn't count for kids, they're not going to take it seriously," says Dixie Stack, director of curriculum at the Maryland Department of Education. Some states do take it seriously. In 2005, Tennessee reported the largest difference in the nation between eighthgrade students' scores on the state's math and reading tests and scores on NAEP. The state looked at its standards and found them largely in line with NAEP, says Rachel Woods of the state Depar tment of Education. But the Tennessee tests used a multiple-choice format, while NAEP demands more essay responses. Now, Tennessee is rewriting its tests and increasing requirements for high school graduation. That will almost cer tainly lower the number of kids scoring in the proficient range and increase the number of schools flagged as poor performers, Woods says. But, she says, "What's important is having more kids graduate with the skills they need to succeed." Contributing: Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

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States get creative in minimizing law's impact
By Ledyard King Gannett News Service WASHINGTON — The federal No Child Left Behind law requires that all public school students make "adequate yearly progress" toward mastering math and reading by 2014. But each state defines such progress according to its own rules. Some states have used those rules "to blunt the effects" of the law, said Jack Jennings, head of The Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based think tank. But, Jennings said, "The day of reckoning ultimately comes." One way states can postpone committing to the goals of No Child Left Behind is to make their standardized tests easy enough for most students to pass. But there are other options as well: u Limiting which students must show progress. In addition to boosting the performance of students overall, schools must boost the performance of "numerically significant" subgroups of minority and other students. Each state decides what numerically significant means. Maryland recognizes subgroups made up of only five students. In California, some subgroups must contain 100 students to count. u Grading on the curve. States are allowed to use statistical techniques called "confidence intervals" to rate students as proficient even if their scores on achievement tests fall slightly short of the target. Like the margin of error on a poll, confidence intervals recognize that a test is only a snapshot of a student's ability on a particular day and that the student might score higher on a different day. Most states have adopted confidence intervals between 95 percent and 99 percent. Those using a percentage on the high end of that range can count more kids as proficient. u Slowing the pace of progress. No Child Left Behind requires that every student perform at a proficient level by 2014, but each state defines proficiency its own way and sets its own pace. During the 2005-06 school year, for example, Colorado required almost 70 percent of eighth-graders to score at a proficient level on the state's math test, but Arizona required only 23 percent of its eighth-graders to do the same. u Retesting. The No Child Left Behind law requires that each state test its high school students once by 2014. Many states use their exit exam to meet this requirement. In a growing number of states, students must pass the exit exam to get a diploma, so states give them multiple opportunities to pass. The scores from these retests increase the overall number of proficient students and can be used to help a school meet the No Child Left Behind requirement.


Report, suit question teacher qualifications
By Greg Toppo USA TODAY A federal lawsuit and a new report challenge the Bush administration's rules on teacher credentials, saying they fail to ensure that students have a highly qualified teacher. But the lawsuit and the report offer diverging recommendations for fixing the problem. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in San Francisco by several civil rights groups, challenges the U.S. Education Department's regulations for "highly qualified teachers," saying the depar tment has watered down the standard by allowing thousands of teachers-in-training in California and elsewhere to be declared highly qualified before they even finish training. Poor and minority students, the suit says, are more likely to be taught by interns; in many cases, about 12% of poor students' teachers are interns. Statewide, only about 3% of teachers are interns. Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust, an advocacy group, says the Education Department "has failed miserably" in ensuring that all students have highly qualified teachers. She also says the state of California and its school districts "have sought to undermine the intent of the law at every turn." The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The repor t, from the Center on Education Policy, a Washington think tank that has monitored Bush's No Child Left Behind education reform law, says the law has had little effect on either student achievement or the qualifications of the teacher workforce. But it recommends the federal government give states more leeway, not less, in how they define a qualified teacher.

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Education science in search of answers
By Greg Toppo USA TODAY The Education Department made big news last July when it released a long-awaited study that compared the test scores of children in more than 7,500 public and private schools. With most other things being equal, public school students often do better and sometimes a lot better than private-schoolers, the research found. But four days later, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings stood in the expansive hearing room of the House Education Committee to unveil a $100 million proposal to use taxpayerfunded vouchers to send public school students to private schools. Spellings called the study irrelevant, saying it was small and flawed. Other advocates of vouchers, such as Har vard University researcher Paul Peterson, agreed. Advocates of public schools, including teachers unions, say the Bush administration chose to ignore a study that didn't support its agenda. In the end, it was a pretty good metaphor for the state of educational research: More than five years after President Bush's No Child Left Behind law told educators to rely on "scientifically based" methods, the science produced is often inconclusive, politically charged or less than useful for classroom teachers. And when it is useful, it often is misused or ignored altogether. A focus on practicality As the 88th annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) takes place this week in Chicago, critics say the USA's huge community of education researchers — 14,000 are attending — often studies topics that do little to help schools solve practical problems such as how to train teachers, how to raise skills, how to lower dropout rates and whether smaller classes really make a difference.

Research's usefulness is called into question
"Some good work is getting done, but the balance of influence in AERA is not with people doing rigorous, carefully designed, obviously important research," says Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Hess made waves last year when he and a co-writer plucked dozens of titles from AERA's conference program for a tonguein-cheek National Review piece. It bemoaned the dearth of serious work on practical matters, noting papers with "utterly incomprehensible" titles such as "Postcolonial Reading of Classroom Discourse on the Imperial Rescue of Oppressed Hawaiian Women," "The Formation of the Subjectivity of MailOrder Brides in Taiwan and Their Educational Strategies Toward Their Children" and "Vygotskian Semiotic Conception and Representational Dialogue in Mathematics Education." "It seemed useful to kind of cast a spotlight on this and hope that it might urge the serious folks at AERA to pay a little more attention, to be sure that they're not being tarred unfairly by less serious work," Hess says. Part of the problem is few researchers have the means to conduct large-scale, long-term studies, which usually require the cooperation of at least one school district. But districts often are reluctant to agree to trials that could cast them in a less-than-favorable light. Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, who directs the Education Department's Institute of Education Sciences, says researchers are producing more large-scale studies that pose vital, practical questions. Five years ago, his agency financed 65 research grants; this year's budget finances 350. But Hess has a point: "There's an awful lot that goes on that is off-target if your target is solving problems," Whitehurst says. Others defend AERA's work and that of researchers in general but say the patchwork system of public schools makes it hard even for relevant research to reach the classroom.

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"We have a separation in that some of us who do the research aren't running the schools," says William Tate, a math researcher at Washington University in St. Louis who will take over as AERA's new president this month. No system for dissemination Tate points out excellent research, for instance, on dropout prevention, released in February by Columbia University, which identified five cost-effective ways to boost high school graduation rates. The study should be in the hands "of every superintendent in America," Tate says. But they probably won't see it because, unlike in medicine, there's no systematic way for important research to be disseminated. "We don't have that kind of infrastructure," he says. "It's just not there." A few leaders go out of their way to take in the latest findings. Evelyn Holman, superintendent of Bay Shore Union Free Schools in New York, says she gathers her principals every other month for a day of training on the latest research. "You need that incubation time to really reflect on, 'Where are we going, what are we doing, how could we do it better?'" she says. Budget cuts do make it hard for many of her colleagues to take time for such sessions. "It's seen by the public sometimes as just a chance to go play, rather than a chance to stay up with the latest trends in your field," she says. Research budgets limited Funding also limits research. As with medical research, universities, foundations and corporations all underwrite education research. But federal support for education pales next to medicine.

Education Sciences gets about $234 million for research on regular and special education, which is less than 1% of the $400 billion spent each year on K-12 education, according to the nonpartisan Aspen Institute. Aspen compares the funding with the $27 billion received by the National Institutes of Health and recommends doubling Whitehurst's budget. Tate says he foresees more researchers focusing on the effectiveness of programs, and cost-benefit analyses. "We're putting a lot of money into this good called education, and people want to know what kind of benefits they're getting from the investment they're making." In 2002, Whitehurst unveiled the What Works Clearinghouse, which uses a six-point scale to judge programs available to schools such as math and reading curricula and dropout prevention and character education programs. In the process, it accepts or rejects prior research on each program. After 4 1/2 years and $23 million, it has rated about 50 products, finding 75% of studies unacceptable — and prompting education pundits to call it the "Nothing Works Clearinghouse." But even this level of skepticism may not satisfy critics. After the clearinghouse last month found the popular Reading Recovery program showed "positive effects" on student achievement and "potentially positive effects" on comprehension and fluency, critics weighed in. They zoomed in on the fine print and found the endorsement was based on four acceptable studies out of 78. Whitehurst says progress is slow but steady: "It used to be that the glass was nearly empty, and now it's a quarter full." "Some good work is getting done, but the balance of influence in AERA is not with people doing rigorous, carefully designed, obviously important research."

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Today’s Debate: Improving education

An illusion gains credibility
Our view: A step forward on ethics, but the first or the last?
At the recent CNN/YouTube debate among the Democratic presidential candidates, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was asked about education. Richardson replied that he'd scrap the No Child Left Behind law in favor of "a major federal program of art in the schools." Much applause from the audience. "Music, dancing, sculpture and the arts," he continued. More applause. Richardson was tapping into a misleading story line that's increasingly taken for conventional wisdom. The stor y line goes like this: Schools are abandoning such courses to focus relentlessly on only two subjects, math and reading, because those are what get tested as part of the federal No Child law. As a result, the theor y says, children are deprived of well-rounded educations. And if your child attends a school in a high-pover ty neighborhood, chances are the school needs to zero in on basics. According the "nation's report card," as the National Assessment of Educational Progress is known, the reading gaps between low-income schools with mostly minority children and middle-class schools with mostly white students are unacceptably wide. If children aren't solid readers by third grade — the time students go from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" — their chances of becoming successful students are limited. And high school math is the key to learning sciences in college, according to a study just published in Science. Some schools in low-income neighborhoods have indeed gone too far in focusing on math and science to the exclusion of other subjects. But it doesn't have to be that way:

Reading gaps
Fourth-graders reading below the basic level: African-American White Poor Non-poor


25% 54% 23%

Source: 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Education Department. By Alejandro Gonzalez, USA TODAY

The perception is widespread. Other leading Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., have echoed Richardson. And the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, raises "narrowing of the curriculum" as one of its many objections to No Child, a law designed to bring accountability into the classroom. Critics point to a recent survey of mostly urban school districts by the Center on Education Policy; 62% reported increasing time for literacy or math at the expense of history, music, art, social studies or recess. There is, however, more to the story. If your child attends a successful school in a well-to-do neighborhood, chances are the curriculum hasn't narrowed.

u Nearly 600 public schools using the innovative "Core Knowledge" program wrap reading and math skills into an unusually rich curriculum that teaches elementary students about everything from Egyptian culture to the Italian Renaissance. At P.S. 124 in Queens, near New York's JFK Airport, 97% of the students are minorities and 90% live in poverty. And yet this school turns in math and reading scores that rival schools in middle-class areas. u At KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), operating 57 charter schools in 17 states, literacy skills are part of every subject, which helps explain KIPP's high reading scores. The "narrowing of the curriculum" line is one you'll hear often in the presidential race. It isn't entirely without foundation. In general, however, if students are getting more math and reading instruction, it's because they need it.

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Today’s Debate: Improving education

Key subjects get short shrift
Opposing view: Mandates prevent students from getting a wellrounded education.
By Reg Weaver Many school administrators now view time spent on the arts, social studies and science as a waste of time. With a federal mandate to improve test scores in reading and math, and demonstrate "adequate yearly progress" under No Child Left Behind, public schools are giving other subjects short shrift. Unlike reading and math, science and civics don't count toward a school's evaluation. The irony? The very students NCLB is most aimed at helping — those who are low-income, minority and academically struggling — actually stand to gain most from a well-rounded education, as studies have consistently shown. In our effort to narrow the achievement gaps, we are narrowing the opportunities for our most disadvantaged students by depriving them of the broad curriculum available in affluent schools. In a national sample of school districts, about 62% have increased time for English or math in elementary schools, while 44% cut time from non-tested subjects in the quest for higher test scores. These findings confirm what the nation's educators have experienced firsthand since NCLB was passed five years ago. According to the theory behind the law, the increased pressure to raise test scores would force schools to improve. The reality is quite different. It turns out that while pressure cookers are a great way to make a tender pot roast, they are a poor way to improve learning. The Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University found that increased testing pressure did nothing to improve fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores or eighthgrade math scores on the widely used National Assessment of Educational Progress. Yet there are measurable unintended consequences: dropout rates have increased, and school administrators make more time for test preparation at the expense of other important subjects. We must arm children with critical thinking and problemsolving skills to survive and thrive in the 21st century. History, science, art and music build the knowledge to do this. It's shortsighted to push these subjects to the back burner when we need to provide students with a diverse curriculum for future success. Let's keep the pressure cooker in the kitchen and out of the classroom.

Reg Weaver is president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union.

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Achievement gap is narrowing
I want to commend USA TODAY for its editorial "An illusion gains credibility" (Our view, Improving education debate). Unfortunately, in his opposing view, Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, enlarges the education illusion (“Key subjects get short shrift,” Opposing view, Improving education debate, Aug. 6). Weaver claims dropout rates have increased in the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but this isn't what the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) says. In its Digest of Education Statistics: 2006, NCES says the percentage of high school dropouts among people 16 through 24 years old dropped from 10.9% in 2000 to 9.4% in 2005. The four-year graduation rate of freshmen increased from 71.7% in 2000 to 74.7% in 2005. Weaver claims math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have not improved since NCLB. But according to the Nation's Report Card, the rate of improvement in fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourthgrade reading has accelerated since 2000. Improvement for African-American and Hispanic students has generally exceeded that of whites, who also improved. Thus, the achievement gap is narrowing after years of widening. Weaver claims NCLB has narrowed the curriculum. Despite abundant anecdotes suggesting the contrary, the Digest of Education Statistics: 2006 shows the following: High school graduates in 2005 took more courses in history/social studies, science, foreign languages, arts and computers than did graduates in 2000. As for the elementary grades, a recent NCES study of first through fourth grades shows that the percentage of the school week used for teaching the four core academic subjects of English, mathematics, social studies and science has not changed significantly between 1998-99 and 2003-04. Children had about a third of their school week to spend on other subjects and activities. Indeed, because the length of the student school week has increased a full hour since 1987-1988, and the total time spent delivering instruction is up 1.7 hours a week, it could actually be that more time is being spent broadening students' education. Sandy Kress, former senior education advisor to President Bush Austin

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NCLB is working, but it’s ‘a journey’
The ambitious and oft-assailed law is set to expire. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings takes on critics' concerns while arguing that No Child Left Behind should be fixed — not upended or abandoned.
The No Child Left Behind education law is about to undergo the most intense congressional scrutiny since its passage in 2002, as lawmakers will consider whether to renew it. The most prominent domestic achievement of the Bush presidency has been criticized for being heavy-handed and underfunded, and for ultimately driving standards lower. Though the law requires all students to be "proficient" by 2014, proficiency is measured by 50 different state standards, and some states game the system to produce "better" scores. Even so, the law has produced dividends. Independent studies have shown that students are performing better, and perhaps most significantly, minority students have seen gains. Congress will be working on a short timeline over the next few weeks, as the law is set to expire at the end of September. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings discussed the law with USA TODAY's editorial board. Her comments were edited for length and clarity. Question: NCLB has elicited frequent criticism from school administrators around the country. What are you hearing, and what is the best way to ease these concerns? Answer: We're shining a bright spotlight on under-achievement in this country, and it makes a lot of grownups uncomfortable. No doubt about it. But that's the point. And, you know, the law is really very simple on its face. Test every kid every year. Disaggregate the data. Get them on grade level by 2014. Q: Many educators view the testing regimen required in the law as onerous and responsible for creating a teach-to-the-test world. Are these criticisms fair? A: We passed the best law we could five years ago. We had about half the states doing annual assessments, and everybody else was doing a snapshot -- third-graders, eighth-graders, 11thgraders. We didn't know very much. There's no way to chart progress over time when you're measuring third-graders, eighthgraders and 11th-graders. We can now do a growth model (that compares kids year to year). Everybody's whining about too much testing, but let's have more testing. Q: With those five years of experience, what do you see as the primary problems of the law and the areas that could be improved? A: We have about 90,000 schools in this country; 70% are making the NCLB requirements. But 2,300 out of 90,000 are chronically underperforming. I mean, that doesn't seem like an unbelievably high amount to me, knowing that half our minority kids are getting out of high school on time. This is about finding the right balance and peeling the onion and telling states, "You need to do this work in exchange for federal dollars." Q: You mentioned the 2,300 chronically underperforming schools that have gone five years without meeting the NCLB standards. Yet it seems that all they're doing is swapping an assistant principal in and out or shifting the curriculum a bit. Meanwhile, the states are throwing up their hands and saying, "We don't have the money to fix this," and daring the feds to come in and do something. So in the end, nothing happens, right? A: That's one of the big issues in NCLB reauthorization. For those schools, right now the menu and the statute of what constitutes restructuring — real restructuring — is hugely anemic. It says charter, re-establish, anything else you feel like. So the accountability trajectory in NCLB actually gets less robust than more robust. The things that happen in the early years are more vigorous than the anemic options later, which is why we need to change it. Q: So what should change? A: We need more intensity around these chronic underachievers. The president believes that ought to be real school choice, tutoring, charter schools. … I mean, serious, serious intervention. So more intensive resources, not only for those schools, but also for those schools at risk of drifting that way. Q: One radical fix hasn't been tried: cross-district transfers. Should the reauthorization include this as a way of helping these trapped kids? A: I think that would be certainly allowable under the president's concept. But the budget also includes parochial schools and other sorts of educational offerings. We must give states more vigorous tools to confront the chronic underperformers.

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Q: Can a school district be required to take a child who is seeking a transfer? A: These are decisions that would be made locally. But we're going to say, OK, real school restructuring has to happen. This is the menu. And these are some resources. Q: Will the reauthorization consider new ways to measure school performance? A: This law can be made a lot worse, and I'm not interested in that. I hear people say, "Let's have a lot of measures, let's use teacher grades, let's use somebody's opinion, let's use a parent survey, let's whatever," and so on. No. That is not valid, reliable, comparable accountability. Do you let your employees rate themselves for their performance reviews? Can we make this law better? Can we improve it to the good of minority and poor kids? Yes, we can. But it can also be watered down, and we cannot have that. Q: The reauthorization effort is occurring in the middle of the 2008 presidential election campaign. That can be a political highwire act. How are you handling this? A: The politics of education are fascinating because the civil rights community and the unions — both core Democrat constituencies — find themselves at odds with one another (over NCLB). The good news is we got a very strong statute on the books right now. And if we can improve it, we're for it. They're for it. Q: Why not push the date back if nobody really believes all the kids will be at grade level by 2014? A: I reject that. There's plenty of flex and give in this law. I am not willing to say that all of the kids who are left as a part of the accountability system, that they cannot read on grade level. We're not asking people to be rocket scientists. We're asking the schools to have our children read on grade level. I mean, what do you want for your own kids? Q: If students are allowed to transfer from a non-performing school to a high-performing school, often the only children who benefit are the ones with highly motivated parents. As a result, aren't we merely skimming the cream away from poorly performing schools?

A: The parents have every right to seek a high-quality educational option for their kid, irrespective of whether highly motivated, low motivated, rich, poor, whatever. So that's what they've done; that's what the law says they can do. Every kid on a campus, whether they're a failing kid or just a regular kid in a failing school, has that option. Fine and dandy. That's their prerogative. But as far as the creaming issue, I don't think the intensity to improve that school is likely very acute, and that's the point of No Child Left Behind. That's why we need $500 million to intervene and get resources for those schools. I mean, this is a walk-and-chew-gum deal. We ought to improve those schools. But I don't think the three or four kids who were on grade level and left the school pose a huge impediment for improvement at the school. Q: What's your response to folks who say that NCLB is confusing the standards movement and ultimately giving educators less useful information than they had before? A: I reject that. We had the ostrich approach five years ago. We didn't know anything. And I guess we thought we were complacently happy about how it was going. But now we know that yes, some people are gaming the system. Anyway, no, I don't think it has set the standards movement back. I think the transparency has moved it forward. The very idea that we can even have this conversation is huge progress. Q: But is the federal government simply winking at the low standards that states are using and saying, "It's OK with us"? A: People in those states are smart and well-motivated, and they're going to act on them in due course. I believe that. But you can't just say, "You know what, we're not going to graduate any kids in Texas this year from high school, not any of them. No one in Houston will get a diploma this year because we're not suddenly going to have national high standards." You have to bring the system along and move it forward over time. And that's something that state officials calibrate. But they're paying the bills. And you know, we've got some powerful tools on the transparency side that I think are having a good effect. But this is a journey.

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1. Make a chart listing the similarities and differences of the NAEP test and those tests administered by the states. Is it fair to compare these different types of assessments? With a peer share your list and opinions.

2. Evaluate the findings of Department of Education’s report (and Gannett News Service’s analysis) on state testing. Can you think of any other factors not mentioned in the case study that might be relevant? Write a 2-3 page report evaluating what the analysis found in regards to state testing and the NAEP test, citing examples from the articles in the case study as well as current articles from USA TODAY. 3. What else, aside from making tests easier, does this case study describe states as having done to minimize the impact of NCLB? Do you agree or disagree with these methods? Write a quick 3-minute persuasive essay defending your position and engage in a class discussion on the validity of these methods. 4. What is the status of educational research today as mandated by NCLB? In small groups of 3-4 students, list the issues involved in creating valid educational research. Discuss as a group and decide which issue is the most critical and why. Share your results with the class as a whole. 5. Bruce Fuller, education and public policy professor, states, “Ironically, No Child reforms may have the exact opposite effect they were intended to have.” Divide your class into groups of three or four students, and list the arguments from the case study that support this statement and those that refute it. From this case study, which arguments are more compelling? As a group, discuss whether you agree or disagree with Fuller’s statement.

1. Do you believe states should be responsible for their FUTURE IMPLICATIONS own standards and testing or should we have national standards and tests? Using the articles in the case study as well as current articles in USA TODAY, write a persuasive essay defending your position. Conclude this activity with a class debate on the issue. 2. How do other countries test their students? Choose a country and, using current issues of USA TODAY and other resources, research how the country measures student achievement and compare these methods to the U.S. Prepare a 2-3 minute oral presentation for your class. 3. Research test results in your own state. Compose five questions based on issues from this case study and interview a local or state education official. Do their responses shed new light on the case study? Did you uncover additional issues? Write up your interview and findings in a 2-3 page report. 4. Describe the differences between medical and educational research. Do you think the amount of federal dollars allocated to each is equitable? Compose a 2-minute quick write defending your opinion, then discuss with a peer who has the opposing view. 5. What are the latest initiatives from the federal government and the states to improve student achievement? Do you agree or disagree that these initiatives are enough to meet the deadline of making all students proficient in math and reading by 2014? Use current issues of USA TODAY to conduct your research. Present an oral report to the class. For more information, log on to www.usatodaycollege.com Page 11

Additional Resources
v NAEP Report, “Mapping 2005 State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales” http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/studies/2007482.asp v Gannett News Service coverage http://gns.gannettonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Catego ry=NCLB v Gannett News Service NAEP Test Interactive Map http://gns.gannettonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20 070606/GNSVIDEO50/70606002/-1/NCLB v US Department of Education: NCLB http://www.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml v AERA (American Educational Research Association) http://www.aera.net/ n v Institute of Education Sciences http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ies/index.html v “Are They Really Ready to Work” Partnership for 21st Century Skills http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/documents/FINAL_REPO RT_PDF09-29-06.pdf v Center on Education Policy “Answering the Question That Matters Most: Has Student Achievement Increased Since No Child Left Behind?” http://www.cep-dc.org /index.cfm?fuseaction=document.showDocumentByID&no deID=1&DocumentID=200

For more information, log on to www.usatodaycollege.com

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