Real success:'No Child' should help students, not bend the rules
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More schools in the state are likely to meet federal quality standards this year, but that's not necessarily good news.
Outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings gave conditional approval for schools in Pennsylvania to change the way they keep score under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Generally speaking, the target for the state's schools in the 2007-08 academic year was to have at least 63 percent of students proficient in reading at their grade levels and 56 percent in math.
We say generally speaking because there are other ways that schools can be judged as meeting the goals beyond having a hard-and-fast percentage of students do well on standardized tests. One that's commonly used gives schools credit if they show at least a 10 percent reduction in the percentage of students scoring below proficient compared with the prior year.
That and other alternatives already give schools credit for making improvements, so we don't understand why Ms. Spellings now wants to give them another way to stay off the list of underachievers. The new rule uses a model based on growth -- how much better the students did compared with previous years, regardless of how far below the targets they were performing. Buildings could be in compliance even if the vast majority of their students didn't pass the tests just as long as they made strong progress and are considered on track to be proficient by 2014, the date imposed by No Child Left Behind.
Eleven states already are doing this, Colorado and Minnesota got the green light for it last week and Texas also received conditional approval. To quote Mom, though, just because everybody else is doing it doesn't mean it's right.
We understand that schools want credit for student growth, but parents, students and taxpayers deserve to know if their buildings aren't making adequate progress.
Yes, the goal of No Child Left Behind, and virtually all other education programs, is improved student achievement. But the standards for reading and math were set to hold schools accountable for making sure that all students become proficient in basic tasks necessary for further education and future employment. In other words, they need to finish the job.
There are some real problems with No Child Left Behind, most notably the failure of the federal government to provide adequate resources to help schools improve.
But this rule change doesn't solve a problem -- it simply lets more than 200 Pennsylvania schools off the hook. If they're not pushed to do better, will they push their students as hard as they should?
First Published January 16, 2009 12:00 am