Mike Klein Online

Obama Gives States What They Want: Less “No Child Left Behind”

Mike Klein

No Child Left Behind has moved one step closer toward No Longer Totally Relevant.

President Barack Obama‘s administration used the White House briefing room on Monday afternoon to announce that states may apply for waivers to avoid 2014 testing mandates in NCLB.  State school superintendent John Barge said Georgia will apply for the waiver.

No Child Left Behind was the education initiative of President George W. Bush.  It was modeled on a program enacted when he was Texas governor.  It requires that 100 percent of public school students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.  NCLB is blamed for creating a “Teach the Test” mania as schools struggled to make AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress.

“No Child Left Behind, in those terms, we’re not going to see that again,” Barge said when we spoke on Monday afternoon.   “Certainly it’s not the death knell for accountability, but does it put the actual terms AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and No Child Left Behind in question, possibly.  We will still have accountability.  It will just look different.”

Addressing the White House press corps, Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes described NCLB as “a punitive system that does not allow for reform.”  Barnes said the administration moved forward with its own NCLB changes because Congress has not rewritten NCLB.

“No Child Left Behind is four years overdue for being rewritten,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  “It is far too punitive.  It is far too prescriptive.  It led to dummying down standards and narrowing curriculum … We can’t afford to have the law of the land be one that has so many perverse incentives or disincentives to the kind of progress that we want to see.”

John Barge, State School Superintendent

Barnes and Duncan made clear that states will become eligible for NCLB waivers if they embrace reforms that the administration believes are necessary to move education forward.   States that do not agree must continue to abide by the current No Child Left Behind legislation.

Whereas NCLB was a top down federal mandate on states, Barge said the national Council of Chief State School Officers has been working  on a replacement for NCLB’s single-minded reliance on standardized testing as the principal measuring stick for education success.

“We all know that a student can pass a test but that student may be anything but prepared to be successful,” Barge said.  The model being proposed to Washington by the state education chief executives will rely on some two dozen or more indicators, Barge said, including SAT and ACT scores, college credits earned during high school and other measurements to evaluate success.

NCLB is sometimes identified as the reason for a surge in test cheating scandals.

The Atlanta Public Schools test cheating scandal made national news when 178 educators were identified as participants in falsifying tests to improve school performance.  Atlanta is not alone.  Duncan has said federal officials will look into other possible cases nationwide. On Monday, he singled out Tennessee for taking the right approach to measuring achievement.

Arne Duncan, U.S. Education Secretary

“The state of Tennessee like many states had a low bar under No Child Left Behind,” Duncan said.  “They were in fact lying to children, lying to parents.  They were saying that 91 percent of students were proficient.  They did the courageous thing.  They raised the bar significantly.

“Tennessee went from 91 percent of children proficient in math to 34 percent.  That was a very tough lesson but for the first time, they are telling the truth.  The current law provides lots of penalties for that kind of courage,” Duncan said.

“We want to move those (penalties) and reward states that are telling the truth … Everywhere I go, teachers, parents, principals, school board members, state superintendents are asking for flexibility to do the right thing.”

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

August 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Slim” Chance Georgia Will Meet No Child Left Behind Goal in 2014

Mike Klein

State schools superintendent John Barge believes chances are “slim” that Georgia will meet the federal government’s No Child Left Behind 100 percent proficiency requirement in three years.   The first-year superintendent made that clear Thursday when the Department of Education released 2011 AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress – and graduation rate reports.

Notably, the state did not release 2011 AYP results for the Atlanta Public Schools system which is embroiled in a test cheating scandal.  The DOE website said results are being withheld until it “can determine which data are impacted by the investigation findings.”  Some 179 educators were identified as possible test cheaters after a ten-month special prosecutors’ investigation.

AYP is the national education measuring stick created by No Child Left Behind.  President George W. Bush signed controversial legislation into law nine years ago.  It mandates that schools nationwide improve math, languages and graduation percentage rates in successive years for schools to be judged as having met Adequate Yearly Progress expectations.

State School Superintendent John Barge

During the 2002-2003 academic year an elementary school could meet AYP if 60 percent of third graders passed reading and language arts standardized tests.  Today the minimum is 80 percent, next year 86.7 percent, one year later 93.3 percent, then 100 percent in 2014.  The formulas are similar for all elementary, middle and high school AYP standardized tests.

In a statement that accompanied the report, Barge said, “The goal of 100 percent proficiency for all of our students by 2014 is well meaning, but because there are so many variables in the lives of children that schools cannot control, the likelihood of achieving this goal is slim. There is so much more to a school’s and a child’s progress than one test score at a single point in time.”

The state DOE reported the 2011 initial high school graduation rate was 79.5 percent, nearly identical to last year, but that bears discussion later.  DOE said the percentage of schools statewide that made AYP declined to 63.2 percent from 71 percent last year.  The percentage of schools graded “Needs Improvement” increased to 17.5 percent from 15.4 percent last year. Continue reading

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment