Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Deja Vu All Over Again...Redux

We seem to be at another point in time where state-wide accountability systems have a chance for improvement. Maybe. 

This is an old story now, and I hate to say I told you so, but the foreseeable problems associated with piling NCLB's inflexible standards on top of the CATS assessment ultimately over-emphasized the test and killed the cat.

Is it possible that Ed Secretary Arne Duncan will allow states the flexibility he recently signaled?  Or was that simply political-speak meant to spur reluctant members of Congress toward reauthorization of NCLB?

I worried that we would get to this mess about a decade ago when President George W Bush was first comtemplating NCLB. The federal measure layered one accountability system on top of another, confusing its purposes and ultimately, its methodology. It was a correct idea, implemented punitively, and 180 degrees backward, as states were allowed to determine their own proficiency. States gamed the system, moved the bar and did some amount of damage to the classroom environment in the process.

On January 27 2001, in the Herald-Leader, former Prichard Committee Executive Director Bob Sexton expressed his concern, and I expressed my fears, this way:

"The focus on academic achievement, measurable results and no excuses for poor performance is right on target and very similar to what we've been working on in Kentucky," Sexton said. "What we have to avoid is having two different sets of accountability. Kentucky's going to have to fight to be able to use its own testing system."

Richard Day, principal of Cassidy Elementary School in Fayette County, fears another test will create a "crazy quilt of assessment."

"I would like to see a seamless, comprehensive testing system that flows from local to state [to] federal levels; that doesn't interfere with each other," Day said. "I'm afraid that what we're going to get instead is just another test layered on top of what we already have."

In Fayette County, the district has implemented math and reading tests three times a year in addition to the state assessments already required." Another test on top of what we are presently doing would be a brick on the load that we just don't need," Day said. "We'll have gone too far and begin hurting children."
And more tests did come along. We implemented tests to show how we were going to do on other tests. So MAP is seen as a predictor of CATS.  The EXPLORE predicts, to some degree, how sudents will fare on the PLAN which predicts, to some degree, how sudents will fare on the ACT which predicts, to some degree, how students will fare in college.

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:

Holliday to Duncan:
AYP waiver request seeks new state role,
not new federal direction

Follow-up letter provides additional details
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Friday that Kentucky’s request to replace No Child Left Behind school progress targets with state-developed goals is no appeal for more Washington, D.C. guidance, but rather part of a broader proposal for new state roles under the federal statute.

In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Holliday provided support materials for Gov. Steve Beshear’s June 20 letter, asking Duncan to waive the existing Adequate Yearly Progress for the 2011-12 school year, and allow school improvement to be measured using the yardsticks of the accountability model that is being finalized. A copy of the letter was included in the commissioner’s regular Fast Five on Friday e-mail to state education leaders.

“Kentucky would prefer to dispense with the use of two parallel, sometimes conflicting systems – as we have done since the implementation of NCLB,” Holliday wrote. “Kentucky’s accountability model…provides clear disaggregation of data to address achievement gaps between subgroups and to provide analysis and support for each school.

“Kentucky’s plan has added another element to disaggregation, which will include a review of individual subgroups and potential school supports/interventions where there is significant underperformance in that regard (beyond the substantial inclusion of ‘gap’ analysis for each school and full reporting of disaggregated data),” the commissioner said. “After running existing data through its model, Kentucky found that schools with significant achievement gaps are not “masked” by being part of a broader, compensatory scoring system.”

A significant portion of Holliday’s letter emphasized that Kentucky wants to go its own way in measuring school progress, not just get a new set of road rules from the federal government.

“This request is NOT about seeking federal ‘regulatory relief’ or federally driven flexibility,” he said. “NCLB includes express authority for states, not the federal government, to propose improved, innovative strategies for carrying out the core reforms included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It is in that context that Kentucky advances this proposal.” ...
Duncan has a powerful motivator in his possession - his ability to withhold federal dollars from any state that refuses to toe the federal line. Perhaps it's not fair of the Secretary to use our greed against us, but we apparently don't want to raise state taxes, or have our children hurt for not having done so. We'd rather blame the federal government. We don't know those folks.

Each state has given away some portion of its autonomy. What are the chances Duncan will simply abandon his leverage and give back to the states the authority each has given away when they accepted the federal funds in the first place? 

Many Kentuckians have complained about NCLB and some have called its insistance on certain testing strictures as a conservative plot to hurt the public schools and provide incentives to re-privatize schooling in America. In fact, the feds stranglehold on money for states as a means of forcing compliance began as a liberal plot - one intended to desegregate the schools.

Ten years after Brown v Board of Education II (yes, there was a second Brown case) the south was still deeply committed to incrementalism - an intentional and illegal foot-dragging - that was announced in 1955 when 101 of 128 southern legislators signed the Southern Manifesto and declared they would not follow the Supreme court ruling.

Not unlike George W. Bush, Lyndon B. Johnson, another of America's Texas presidents, used the political capital he possessed following the assassination of John F Kennedy to drive the political agenda as far to the left as he could. After 911, W used the same political capital but headed right.

Part of Johnson's effort was to put some meaning into the Supreme Court's words - "all deliberate speed." To accomplish desegregation in the muleish south, Johnson thought it was necessary to use a two-pronged attack; a "carrot and stick."

The "stick" was already in place with the signing of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964.

His "carrot" was the $4 billion Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

With the Supreme Court's confirmation in Green v County Board of Education, for the first time it became possible for the federal government to punish school districts that were still refusing to desegregate. Do what the feds say or lose your funds. In 1963-64, barely 1% of black students were attending school with whites. By 1972 that number had grown to 75%.

The approach that did not escape President Bush. The No Child Left Behind Act—the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965—is central to many education policy debates today.

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