Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kentucky Seeks Sane Changes in NCLB

The Louisville Courier-Journal carries a substantive piece today on the Kentucky Department of Education's effort to get approved changes made in the way it implements NCLB. These changes represent some very good thinking on a very bad law:
Now: Schools and districts receive credit only if they meet math and reading goals set for all schools, depending on grade level.
Request: Get credit for making progress, including moving students from novice, the lowest level on CATS, to apprentice, the next level.

Now: Judged on how they do in reading and math.
Request: Judged on how they perform in math, reading, science, social studies, arts and humanities, writing and practical living and vocational studies.

Now: Judged annually.
Request: Judged every two years.

Now: Judged annually on whether or not they reach a goal set for all schools or districts.
Request: Judged on whether they met individual goals based on their past performance.

Now: Schools not meeting goals must provide the transfer option as well as any other consequences, including tutoring, to all students in the school.
Request: Schools could offer transfers and other services only to students in groups that miss testing goals. For example, if a school's low-income students score too low in reading, only those students could transfer or receive tutoring.

Now: Schools that miss testing goals in the same subject at least two years in a row face sanctions, even if it's in different groups of students -- for example, if low-income students miss math goals one year, and black students miss the math goal the next year.
Request: Schools would face sanctions only if they failed to make required progress for two consecutive years in the same subject and for the same group.

Now: Schools not meeting their goals two consecutive years must allow students to transfer to better-performing schools. If they miss a third straight year, schools must provide tutoring.
Request: Kentucky would offer tutoring after two years and transfers after the third year.

Now: "Needs improvement" school districts cannot provide tutoring in-house for students.
Request: "Needs improvement" districts could.

Now: The most severely handicapped students are tested with a method other than regular pen and paper. Schools and districts can include 1 percent of proficient scores from alternative tests into final scores.
Request: Raises that 1 percent to 3 percent.
And who pops up in the article as the perennial critic of the Ky. Dept. of Ed--who else but Top Gun, Dick Innes, noted "researcher" for the Bluegrass Institute (see yesterday's post) and overall good guy concerned with leaving no child untested--particularly if the results can be used to perpetuate the belief that the wheels have come off the public schools:
"The department has been whining and sniffling and trying to get out of this since it began," said Dick Innes, a policy analyst for the Bluegrass Institute, a think tank in Bowling Green. "I think what it really does is just water down accountability."

Jim Horn

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