"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

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:
EARNING CREDIT
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.

SUBJECTS
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.

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

TESTING GOAL
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.

STUDENT ELIGIBILITY
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.

"NEEDS IMPROVEMENT"
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.

STUDENT TRANSFERS
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.

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

ALTERNATIVE TESTING
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."
Charming.

Jim Horn

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