Guest Blog by NASSP President Jana Frieler
Ms. Frieler is currently NASSP President and completes her term on June 30. She will then return to her post as Principal of Overland High School in Aurora, CO, where she has been Principal since 2005.
Vouchers will fix education. Attracting high quality personnel will fix education. Getting rid of the bad educators will fix education. New evaluation systems will fix education. A new growth model will fix education. Technology will fix education. Changing the curriculum in teacher prep programs at the universities will fix education. These are some of the thoughts articulated by members of a panel who spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center briefing “Beyond Politics, Why Education Should Not be a Partisan Issue.” Sitting on the panel were former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; outgoing Superintendent of MD’s Montgomery County Schools Jerry Weast; Pennsylvania Commissioner of Education Ronald J. Tomalis; and Director of Teacher Quality for the National Education Association, Segun Eubanks.
Despite the session’s optimistic title, the content did little to address the bi-partisan efforts that need to occur in order to create a fully functioning education system in this country. From the beginning it was easy to tell which side of the aisle the panelists were on from their remarks. Principals have been working hard to implement NCLB since its inception and we have communicated with our legislators which elements of NCLB improve student performance and which need an overhaul in the reauthorization I have visited Capitol Hill on numerous occasions to discuss the critical issues of NCLB and invariably the discussion from legislators and Hill staff addresses the political volatility now and the impasses in education and elsewhere as a result. When did we lose sight of the fact that there are kids sitting in classes who are dependent upon these legislators to create policies to ensure an effective education that are based in practice and not in theory? The political rhetoric leaves us as practitioners truly perplexed. How is that we are able take students from different backgrounds, sometimes from families who feud against one another, and sit them next to each other in a class and expect them to get along yet our own politicians cannot seem to do the same? And we hear that we, as educators are not doing our jobs?
The truth is, education is a tough field. Being an excellent administrator is a demanding, almost 24/7 job. There is no silver bullet when it comes to fixing education. Individuals who continue to throw “band-aid” fixes, mostly punitive, are missing the point. We must first understand the complexities of educating students from a practitioner’s view and perhaps then, once we have accurately diagnosed the problem, we can begin to institute the correct interventions that will address the issues we face. Margaret Spellings told the group that “We are not serious in this country about getting kids through school.” Really? I wonder when the last time was that she was in an AVID classroom or an afterschool homework club? Maybe she missed the professional learning community meetings where teachers are engaged in looking at data and trying to provide systemic interventions for kids who are falling behind. How can we, as a public, trust our legislators to make sound education policy when many of them have not stepped into a school since the day they graduated? “Initiatives” such as vouchers, new evaluation systems, growth models and accountability are spoken of in punitive terms. Secretary Tomalis boasted of a new evaluation system as if it were the absolute answer for improving education in his state. A new evaluation system is highlighted as a way to rid the system of those individuals who do not perform. But those of us in education know that a good evaluation system is not the means to an end, it is the beginning. Good evaluation systems provide individuals with another view of how they are doing. Providing substantive feedback and creating personalized plans for improvement based on that feedback is critical to the success of any system.
Perhaps the solution to education is not after all a bi-partisan effort but rather a tri-partisan one, where educators, Republicans and Democrats all work together. The fact is, No Child Left Behind changed the way we educate children in this country. We are now accountable for all students. If you combine the mandates of NCLB with the advances in technology, education has changed greatly in the past few years. We know that we cannot use the same methodology that worked for us a few years ago. Our system will not be fixed by bringing in new teachers who have demonstrated a high degree of efficacy-although it would certainly help. Equally significant is that fallacy that once you get rid of all the bad teachers, all schools in this country will meet NCLB requirements. I would like to be the first to go on record to say that this will not fix the system either. Not to worry though. For those families who are not satisfied, they will send their children to other schools with the assistance of a voucher program. Imagine their surprise when they discover that there are a limited number of those schools.
The truth is, schools are filled with good people who care deeply about the students they work with. What are we doing to address the needs of the individuals- the administrators and teachers-who are working hard to meet the demands of NCLB but have not had the training they need to keep up with our changing world? Is there legislation that will help retrain the masses so that all teachers and administrators are up to date with the changes in instruction and technology? The fact is, educators don’t just have jobs, they have callings. They dedicate their lives to improving the lives of young people and they need support, understanding and training. Perhaps the practitioner in the room said it best. Jerry Weast said, “You are not going to have a successful system of education without engaged employees who are inspired and hard working. “ I agree. We have a moral imperative: our education system needs to improve. Let’s work together so that we can create the truly world class education system that we all desire.
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced approval of four additional states’ high-quality growth models, which follow the bright-line principles of No Child Left Behind. The states receiving approval are Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Texas. Pennsylvania and Texas are conditionally approved provided they satisfy final requirements related to their accountability and assessment systems, respectively.
In May 2006, North Carolina and Tennessee received approval to implement their growth models for the 2005-2006 school year. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida and Iowa received full approval to implement their growth model for the 2006-2007 school year. Additionally, growth models for Ohio, Michigan and Missouri were approved for the 2007-2008 school year.
“Once states had developed the framework to take a snapshot of student skills each year, as the law requires, I invited them to join me in combining those static measurements to demonstrate progress over time. After early pioneers proved that this method was viable, I invited all eligible states to adopt this more sophisticated measurement system, also known as the growth model or value-added approach,” Secretary Spellings said. “Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Texas proposed models that will support educational innovation while continuing to hold schools accountable for the goal of every student performing at or above grade level by 2014. I look forward to seeing the positive results these changes will help produce for students.”
The Department used a rigorous peer review process to ensure that the selection process was fair and transparent for all participating states. A panel of nationally recognized experts reviewed and made recommendations on states’ proposals.
The Department is gathering data to test the idea that growth models can be fair, reliable and innovative methods to measure student improvement and to hold schools accountable for results. Growth models track individual student achievement from one year to the next, giving schools credit for student improvement over time. The pilot program, which began in 2006, allows the Department to rigorously evaluate growth models and ensure their alignment with NCLB, and to share these results with other states. Fifteen states now have approved growth models: North Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Texas.
The bright-line principles for high-quality growth models are:
- 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. 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, reviewed each proposal based on the Peer Review Guidance (www.ed.gov [doc]) issued by the U.S. Department of Education as a road map for developing the models. The reviewers are as follows:
- Chair: JP Beaudoin, Research in Action
- Maggie McLaughlin, University of Maryland
- Gongshu Zhang, Guilford County, NC public schools
- Sean Mulvenon, University of Arkansas
- Daria Hall, Education Trust
- Pete Goldschmidt, California State University at Northridge
- Robin Taylor, Delaware Department of Education
For more information on the Growth Model Pilot, please visit: www.ed.gov
On October 28, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced final regulations to strengthen and clarify No Child Left Behind (NCLB), focusing on improved accountability and transparency, uniform and disaggregated graduation rates and improved parental notification for Supplemental Education Services and public school choice. The Secretary made the announcement while speaking to educators, state and local policymakers and business leaders at South Carolina Educational Television in Columbia, S.C.
“NCLB has shined a spotlight on schools,” said Secretary Spellings. “It is compelling grown ups to do the right thing by kids. And it’s working. According to the Nation’s Report Card, since 2000, more kids are learning reading and math. Since this law was passed, nearly one million more students have learned basic math skills. Children once left behind are making some of the greatest gains, but more work needs to be done. That’s why I’ve taken a responsive, common sense approach to implementing the law with today’s announcement.”
he Secretary noted that these new regulations reflect lessons learned over the past six years since NCLB was enacted and builds on work that states have made with their assessment and accountability systems. One area that there is broad public consensus around is the need for a uniform graduation rate.
Recognizing that the nation can no longer tolerate - much less prosper – with its abysmal graduation rate, particularly among minority students, the final regulations establish a uniform graduation rate that shows how many incoming freshman in a given high school graduate within four years.
“As far back as 2005, governors from all 50 states agreed to adopt a uniform, more accurate graduation rate. But so far, only 16 states have done so,” said Secretary Spellings. “Parents know that a high school diploma is the least their children need to succeed in today’s economy.”
Under the new regulations, all states will use the same formula to calculate how many students graduate from high school on time and how many drop out. The final regulations define the “four year adjusted cohort graduation rate” as the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, adjusted for transfers, students who emigrate and deceased students. The data will be made public so that educators and parents can compare how students of every race, background and income level are performing.
The final rules announced by the Secretary today also require that parents must be notified in a clear and timely way about their public school choice and supplemental education service options. The regulations seek to ensure that states make more information available to the public about what tutoring providers are available, how these providers are approved and monitored, and most importantly, how effective they are in helping students improve.
“These services can’t make a difference if parents don’t know they’re available,” said Secretary Spellings.
Several of the regulations seek to clarify elements of the law that require school systems to be accountable for results and transparent in their reporting to parents and the public. States and districts must now publish reading and mathematics results from the Nation’s Report Card alongside data from their own tests for students and include participation rates for students with disabilities and those who are limited English proficient. The regulations also state that measures of student academic achievement may include multiple question formats and multiple assessments within a subject area. In addition, in order to ensure the inclusion of all sub-groups of students, states will be required to explain how its minimum group size, or “N-size” and other components of its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) definition, interact to provide statistically reliable information and at the same time ensure the maximum inclusion of all students and subgroups.
Building on the Department’s growth model pilot program, the regulations outline the criteria that States must meet in order to incorporate individual student progress into the State’s definition of AYP. Recognizing schools in restructuring need the most significant intervention, the regulations seek to ensure that the interventions are more rigorous and that they specifically address the reasons for the school being in restructuring.
Under the new regulations, the Secretary of Education will be required to continue the dialogue and address some of the more technical needs of the states through the National Technical Advisory Council. The council is comprised of experts in the fields of education standards, accountability systems, statistics and psychometrics and it is advising the Department on complex and technical issues and ensure state standards and assessments are of the highest technical quality.
For more information about the final regulations and to view the Secretary’s full remarks, fact sheets and a webcast of the announcement, visit www.ed.gov
On January 28, President George W. Bush gave the final State of the Union Address of his presidency. While much time was spent on important issues such as the War on Terror and the economy, only in passing did Bush mention one other essential element to our nation’s future – education.
In addressing education, Bush cited the recent results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which showed gains in reading and math by low-income and minority students, and called on lawmakers to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), stating “today, no one can deny its results.”
Bush urged lawmakers to strengthen NCLB by providing greater flexibility to states and school districts while maintaining accountability and reducing the number of high school dropouts.
Bush urged Congress to help struggling students by expanding school choice options. He proposed a new $300 million “Pell Grants for Kids” scholarship program that would offer vouchers to low-income students in underperforming elementary, middle, and high schools to help offset the costs of attending an out-of-district public school or nearby private or faith-based school.
While NASSP strives to improve education for all students, there is no conclusive evidence that private schools do a better job of educating students than traditional public schools. In fact, a report released by the Department of Education in June 2007 found “no evidence of a statistically significant difference in test scores” between students participating in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program and students who did not participate in the voucher program. Choice for choice’s sake is no reason to divert much-needed funds away from America’s public schools – especially when the schools affected are often the ones in greatest need.
Unfortunately, there were several proposals missing from the short education cameo in Bush’s speech, including: principal and teacher professional development, growth models, rural education, and special education, to name a few.
“While President Bush talks about the need for a strong economy and international peace, what he fails to realize is that education is key to achieving both. A well-educated public yields a competitive workforce, and a well-rounded education leads to understanding,” said Dr. Gerald N. Tirozzi, NASSP executive director. “In the coming months lawmakers will face one of their greatest challenges – reauthorizing landmark federal education law in the face of a presidential election. The truth is that if NCLB is not reauthorized, it will not simply fade away into the annals of history. Instead the law will continue and more schools will face the rigid and unfair sanctions as a result of not meeting adequate yearly progress. It is for these reasons that Congress must reauthorize NCLB in 2008 and make significant changes that address the leadership needs of our nation’s public schools, provide needed resource for middle and high schools, fairly assess student progress, and tailor accountability to suite the unique needs of individual schools,” Tirozzi continued.
In 2007, NASSP worked with lawmakers and other education groups to help craft legislation that would make important changes to NCLB, and we were pleased that many of our recommendations were included in the discussion draft circulated by the House Education and Labor Committee. In 2008 we remain steadfast in our commitment to working with lawmakers from all parties to help pass legislation that significantly improves NCLB. Click here to view NASSP’s legislative agenda.
An unlimited number of states are now eligible for participation in the growth model pilot program, according to a December 7 announcement by U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Prior to this announcement, the program had been limited to ten slots, of which nine had been filled by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee.
“A growth model is a way for states that are raising achievement and following the bright-line principles of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to strengthen accountability,” Spellings said. “I believe that extending the growth model pilot for the 2007-2008 school year will promote two important goals. It will allow states another effective way of measuring adequate yearly progress (AYP) by measuring individual student growth over time, and it will continue to expand the flexibility available to states under No Child Left Behind.”
In response to the program’s expansion, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and a chief author of the House proposal to reauthorize NCLB, issued the following statement:
“Schools should receive the credit they deserve for the yearly achievement gains made by their students. As part of our efforts to improve No Child Left Behind, we have proposed allowing all states to develop and use growth models – a proposal that we believe is essential to providing states and schools with much-needed flexibility and fairness. I welcome Secretary Spellings’ announcement as confirmation of our proposal.”
NASSP applauds the decision to expand the pilot program. In our legislative recommendations for No Child Left Behind, we recommend that states calculate AYP on the basis of state-developed growth formulas and have worked with a diverse array of education associations to advance this goal. We believe the most accurate measures of student and school performance are those that analyze progress from year to year, and were very pleased to see growth models included in the House discussion draft to reauthorize NCLB.
The Bush Administration and Democratic leadership in Congress are currently at loggerheads on a number of issues, yet the expansion of the pilot program is demonstrative of the fact that there are areas of agreement between these two. While Congress will not likely vote to reauthorize NCLB this year, perhaps this means there is hope in 2008.
“Throughout our schools and communities, the American people have a very strong sense that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair. That it is not flexible. And that it is not funded. And they are not wrong,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, at a late July press conference where he clarified – for the first time publicly – his priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
After reviewing recommendations from over 100 education, civil rights, and business organizations, and dozens of hearings and meetings, “a consensus about needed changes” to ESEA has emerged, said Miller, whose reauthorization priorities include:
- Supporting teachers and principals;
- Improving America’s high schools;
- Increased fairness and flexibility;
- Encouraging a challenging learning environment and promoting best practices;
- Continuing to hold schools accountable for students’ progress.
Specific elements of the chairman’s reauthorization proposal include: growth models; a voluntary performance pay program for principals and teachers; a system for tailoring the consequences of missing adequate yearly progress (AYP) to better address the unique needs and challenges of schools; and the addition of high school graduation rates in the determination of AYP. Multiple measures such as end of year course exams, AP/IB course participation, and college attendance rates may also be used for determining AYP, although Miller was quick to point out that schools will still primarily be held accountable for increasing student proficiency in reading and math, adding that additional measures of student achievement would not be “an escape hatch” for schools. High schools will also be a target of reform, and schools will be encouraged to work with institutions of higher education and businesses to alight their curricula with college and industry standards.
As Congress prepares to go on its August recess, Miller seems confident that he will be able to reauthorize the ESEA before it expires in September of this year. Not everyone is in such a hurry however. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a press statement that “the content of the legislation is far more important than the calendar, and any attempts to weaken the law will be met with stiff resistance from House Republicans who have already joined with the civil rights community and business leaders in expressing concerns that some of the Democrat proposals will undermine transparency for parents and the ability to hold schools accountable for student performance.” McKeon added that “changes to the law that weaken any of [the] three pillars of NCLB – accountability, flexibility, and parental choice… are likely to be a fatal blow to the reauthorization process.”
Echoing McKeon’s concerns, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a prepared statement that “we must not roll back the clock on accountability for our schools or the progress our poor, minority and special education student have made since we created No Child Left Behind… While we all hope to see action on reauthorization soon, a comprehensive bill that has bipartisan support and holds firm to the goal of every child reading and doing math on grade level by 2014 is worth the wait.”
As the reauthorization of ESEA moves forward, you can be sure that NASSP is working hard to promote intelligent reforms based on proven research that will benefit both school leaders and students. Please visit NASSP’s Principal’s Legislative Action Center (www.nassp.org/plac), click the link under “Help Improve No Child Left Behind!”, and send a letter to your Senators and Representative urging them to support joint recommendations for the reauthorization of ESEA supported by six groups representing principals, teachers, school board members, superintendents, and other school staff directly responsible for increasing student achievement! Together we can help improve No Child Left Behind and help every child to succeed!
The tide towards including growth models in assessing adequate yearly progress (AYP), and their possible inclusion in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) continues to swell, as evidenced by the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) recent approval of growth model proposals in Ohio and Iowa. ED has already fully approved growth models for Arkansas, Delaware, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and has conditionally approved Florida’s model, leaving only three open slots for the pilot program.
Currently, most states measure AYP by comparing the test scores of one year’s students to the scores of the prior year’s students. Growth models, in contrast, would measure the progress of the same group of students over time as they move toward grade-level proficiency, and the approved states have come up with creative ideas for utilizing this alternative method.
Delaware, for example, uses a system in which each subgroup of students is assigned a target point value. Students in the subgroups who make academic progress over the prior year earn points toward their subgroup, and if a subgroup’s total points meet or exceed its target value, then it is considered to have met AYP.
Many other states, including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee, use a system in which students who fail to meet the state’s proficiency goal may still be considered “proficient” if they show they have made significant progress over the previous year and are on target to meet that proficiency goal.
The possible inclusion of growth models in NCLB still remains uncertain, but several states are clamoring to win approval of their growth model proposals from ED, including: Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
The month of March saw a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill, focusing on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act and how to improve the educational experience and achievement of students. Here are highlights from the hearings, which took place between March 6 and 29.
“More needs to be done to recruit the better teachers for high-need schools,” said Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA). “They deserve better financial incentives, better training, better opportunities to advance in their careers, and stronger support in taking on the added challenge of teaching in high-need schools.”
While most of the hearing focused on strategies to attract teachers and measure their effectiveness in the classroom, Jon Schnur of New Leaders for New Schools stressed the importance of training and supporting principals. He urged Congress to expand the School Leadership program and create new federal programs, including a principal and assistant principal recruitment and training R&D fund, a pilot program to place principals with a track record of success in the lowest-performing schools, a $500 million pilot project to ensure educator quality. Schnur also suggested that states be allowed to overhaul certification and licensure for school leaders and teachers and that a national blue-ribbon program be created to give honors to principals and school leadership teams “that have demonstrated the most dramatic and sustained gains in their high-need schools over time.”
Holding the first bicameral hearing on NCLB, the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate HELP Committee heard proposals from education experts, including representatives from the Aspen Institute Commission on No Child Left Behind, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Business Coalition for Student Achievement, the Council of Great City Schools, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Witnesses shared their suggestions for improving the law, including allowance for a growth model that would measure individual student achievement over time, higher content standards and a stronger focus on math and science, professional development for teachers and principals, more support for schools in need of improvement, and “differentiated sanctions” for schools that have narrowly missed making adequate yearly progress (AYP).
NASSP submitted written testimony for the hearing that included concerns over the fairness, consistency, and flexibility with how law has been implemented and recommendations for growth models, multiple assessments for measuring student performance, amending the graduation rate, and fully funding NCLB to provide the capacity required for success. To read the full testimony, go to www.principals.org/testimony.
“We’ve been sleeping for years and we need to wake up,” said Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, repeating an oft-quoted story of Rip Van Winkle awakening after 100 years to find that everything has changed—except U.S. education. How to create that change has been a topic of intense debate, and no less so in the Senate Finance Committee, which recently examined American competitiveness.
Witnesses called for greater investments in secondary schools, targeted funding for dropout prevention programs, and greater collaboration between schools and businesses to better prepare students for the workforce. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) highlighted the central role that principals play in the direction of their schools, stating that “leadership in every school makes the difference,” and successful schools have good relationships among principals and teachers.
Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, testified that 90% of today’s fastest growing jobs require at least some higher education.
While this committee has not always been heavily involved in education, this hearing served as a reminder that education affects us all, and that we all have a stake in our student’s future.
The House Education and Labor Committee heard from a “stacked panel,” with all witnesses unanimous in their support for growth models for measuring student achievement.
NCLB would be “strengthened and more effective” with an accurate measure of individual student growth, said Allan Olson, chief academic officer and cofounder of the Northwest Evaluation Association, who also claimed that measuring individual student growth is the “best possible way to improve capacity for learning.” Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Peter McWalters stressed that the current AYP measurement does nothing to explain why a school has missed performance targets.
With 27 states already having the three “critical data elements” for growth models in place, it seems likely that Congress will approve their implementation nationwide.
English Language Learners
“English language learners [ELLs] face unique challenges. They have to face the challenge of learning a new language while still learning math and reading,” said Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee’s Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee. With ELLs estimated to reach 25% of the student population by 2025, there is a real concern among lawmakers and those in the education community that they are being left behind. As Kildee pointed out, this is especially true in light of the fact that ELLs have excessively high dropout rates.
Despite some commonly held beliefs, this problem is not confined to just a handful of states but has spread across the nation, testified Peter Zamora, cochair of the Hispanic Education Coalition, who went on to state that many schools are being driven into “in need of improvement” status under NCLB on the basis of ELL scores alone. One reason for this may be that students are not always tested in their native language, and their poor test scores may be the result of their limited English proficiency, rather than their lack of ability or subject mastery. Increased language flexibility for testing was suggested by several witnesses and committee members as a partial solution.
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), ranking member of the committee, suggested that schools in need of improvement should have a stepped-up ELL instruction plan as part of their strategy to improve their status. He also noted that principals are central to the process of improving schools and ensuring that teachers are adequately prepared to address the complex educational needs of ELLs.
Engaging Parents and Community Members
By the time you count to 10, another student will have dropped out of school; to make matters worse, even the most rigorous courses and highly qualified teachers will not, by themselves, improve the situation, said Daniel Cardinali, president of Communities in Schools, a community-based education organization, at a Senate HELP Committee hearing on effective strategies for engaging parents and communities in schools.
Although many schools host events specifically designed for parents, these programs are not always designed to be the most informative, said Anne Henderson, senior fellow of the Community Involvement Program. Moreover, teachers and school administrators often have trouble understanding data on student achievement and, as a result, have difficulty conveying this information to parents, said Philip Ritter, senior vice president of Texas Instruments.
By engaging teachers, pa
rents, and community members, principals can break away from the status quo and lead the effort toward schoolwide reform and increased student achievement.
Students With Disabilities
NCLB is working for students with disabilities, said witnesses at a hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee’s Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee.
Balancing rigor with flexibility has long been a concern for lawmakers, who understand that students with disabilities face additional challenges as they seek to learn and achieve their potential. Yet NCLB, with its push towards greater rigor, data gathering, and accountability has yielded some success for students with disabilities, testified Rachel Quenemoen, a senior research fellow at the National Center on Educational Outcomes of the University of Minnesota.
In educating students with special needs, educators must be careful not to lump them into one group, as each student with a disability is unique, and given appropriate accommodations, many can achieve at high levels. Moreover, those with significant cognitive disabilities can often overcome challenges if given time and appropriate tools, Quenemoen testified.
Witnesses cautioned against lowering standards and achievement goals for students with disabilities. Instead, they should be required to meet the same rigorous goals as other students but be allowed more time to do so. Witnesses expressed concern that if standards are lowered, students with disabilities would not be equipped with the skills needed for college or the workforce.
The importance of principals in school improvement efforts is finally acknowledged in a recently released report by the Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind, but the recommendations included in the report fall short of truly addressing the needs of today’s middle level and high schools.
The Commission recommends establishing a definition of Highly Effective Principal (HEP). Under the proposal, states would have four years to implement a system to designate principals as HEPs. Principals who are employed by a school that does not make adequate yearly progress could have his or her HEP status revoked if the school does not make AYP after corrective action interventions.
“While it is important to acknowledge the role principals play in influencing student achievement, the Commission’s recommendations on HEP are not designed to build incentives for a profession which has become increasingly difficult to perform,” stated NASSP executive director Gerald N. Tirozzi, “if enacted, this recommendation will discourage aspiring principals from applying for available positions, for fear of facing additional sanctions without the necessary resources.”
NASSP is also concerned about the Highly Qualified Effective Teachers (HQET) recommendation, which requires teachers to demonstrate effectiveness in the classroom through the learning gains of their students using a “value-added” methodology. No matter how well students perform, only 75% of teachers can obtain HQET status in a single year and 25% will always be underachievers.
“While the problem the recommendation seeks to address is real—the least qualified teachers are assigned to the most vulnerable students—the recommendation will only exacerbate the situation. Why would anyone choose to work in a Title I school under these circumstances? The result will be good teachers and principals fleeing to the suburbs where schools don’t have to rely on Title I funding.”
While NASSP supports recommendations around growth models, longitudinal data systems and the creation of voluntary national content standards, overall, the commission’s report can be described as a highly intrusive, sledgehammer approach to what is a very complex issue.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) released a major proposal to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) following the president’s January 23State of the Union Address. While several proposals in the administration’s plan align with NASSP’s recommendations, many are simply unacceptable or too vague to cause any real jubilation.
Building on Results: A Blueprint for Strengthening the No Child Left Behind Act outlines five goals for the law’s reauthorization: every child performing at or above grade level by 2014, providing flexibility for innovation at the state level, challenging students and preparing them to succeed, helping teachers close the achievement gap, and strengthening public schools and empowering parents.NASSP is pleased that growth models-–which measure individual student progress from year to year–would be expanded if states can demonstrate that all students will be proficient in reading and math by 2014 as required under current law.
In line with NASSP’s Legislative Recommendations for High School Reform, the proposal would require states to increase academic rigor by making more Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes available to students; develop academic standards for English and math that would prepare high school students to succeed in college or the workplace; and report school-level, disaggregated results of their four-year cohort graduation rates in state accountability calculations by the 2011-12 school year.States would also be required to report their proficiency results on state assessments and the National Assessment for Educational Progress. In addition, ED would provide a platform for the public to compare state standards across the nation. NASSP supports the creation of national standards as long as adoption of these standards is voluntary and enough resources are provided to support states in that effort. NASSP takes a position that having 50 different definitions of academic proficiency does not allow for a fair and accurate depiction of student achievement on a national level.
Yet, several measures in the administration’s proposal are unacceptable to our nation’s public school leaders. Most egregious, students in schools not meeting adequate yearly progress would be able to transfer to a private school or an out-of-district public school. Under the proposal, federal funds would follow students to their new schools, and this money would be supplemented by a federal scholarship of $2,500. The administration also proposes extending requirements for equitable participation by private school students and teachers in all federal programs. This proposal represents the third attempt by the president to establish a national voucher program without any provisions for accountability and by dramatically reducing public school funding.
This is the worst form of hypocrisy. The administration would measure public school performance with a micrometer, yet gladly turn those education dollars over to private schools with no accountability provision. Further, vouchers have no foundation in “scientifically based research,” and the most recent research—conducted by ED’s own National Center for Educational Statistics–found that children in public schools performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools.
NASSP is encouraged by other provisions that would improve middle level and high schools but is concerned that the administration will propose to pay for these initiatives by eliminating other important programs, Perkins most prominent among them. The blueprint calls for:
- Increasing Title I funding for high schools (though the proposed formula isn’t entirely clear)
- Expanding the Striving Readers program
- Recognizing schools making significant progress in moving English language learners toward language proficiency
- Expanding the Teacher Incentive Fund for teachers and principals
- Establishing the Math Now for Middle School Students programs.
NASSP calls upon the 110th Congress to consider the importance of school capacity as it works to reauthorize NCLB. If school leaders are to be held accountable for school performance, they should be given the resources to ensure that every student achieves.