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

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Options from Forum for Educational Accountability

From the Omaha World-Herald:
WASHINGTON - A Nebraska official and other education experts called Thursday for replacing the No Child Left Behind Act's annual multiple choice tests and its penalties for lagging schools.

They called for more frequent state and local assessments and broader measures to determine which schools are teaching kids best.

"We have the accountability horse pulling the learning cart," said Pat Roschewski, director of statewide assessment for the Nebraska Education Department, at a Capitol Hill press conference.

"Tests won't solve the problem; it will be people's actions based on those tests. None of us need the sanctions. What we really need is support, not intimidation," Roschewski said.

She was joined by other members of the Forum on Educational Accountability, a coalition of 130 education, civil rights, religious, children's, disability and civic organizations.

Roschewski is part of the group because Nebraska's education system has emphasized local district accountability, but that is headed for some major changes with the Legislature's approval this year of new statewide testing.

. . . .

The educational forum, which opposes the law's penalties for struggling schools, proposed:

• Ensuring that all students have access to resources and information needed to learn.

• Providing incentives for states and districts to develop more local assessment of student achievement and teaching.

• Supporting research to ensure that English language learners and students with disabilities receive attention.

• Developing multiple ways of assessing student performance from state and school district data.

• Encouraging states to use all subjects not just reading, math and science in evaluating quality of teaching and student learning.

• Providing help to struggling schools, such as professional development, curriculum improvements or help in retaining high-quality teachers.

Nebraska's education system, which has opposed standardized testing under the No Child Left Behind law, has drawn attention from Time magazine, educators and lawmakers.

They include Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a key backer of the No Child Left Behind Act. Roschewski has a personal note signed by Kennedy in blue felt-tip marker expressing interest in Nebraska's system.

But the Nebraska Legislature recently approved a new statewide reading test by 2009-10, and a new statewide math test the year after. That will allow the public to compare test results among school districts. The state already has statewide testing in writing.

Roschewski said she hoped the new tests would complement the state's existing system that emphasizes local assessments of student learning.

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