As Congress determines the fate of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act,  it is important for parents and educators to understand the latest proposal being circulated by Senate Republicans.

According to the latest draft bill, Senate Republicans are proposing two options to fix NCLB. Option one consists of no changes to the current law. This means schools will continue to operate under the same restrictive testing mandates. Option two would give states back control of its testing accountability practices. If option two is passed by Congress, it would give states greater autonomy.

Benefits of Option Two

Proposed option two would allow state educational agencies to decide their own testing schedule that works for each region.  It would sanction districts to use multiple assessments to evaluate proficiency and not solely relying on traditional standardized tests. More importantly, option two would permit public schools to measure student academic achievement using a “growth model approach.”  If states are allowed to use this method, schools will be now judged how well they are continually improving academic achievement.

Option Two Favors a Growth Model Approach

[A growth model approach gives] school districts credit for improving student achievement at all points on the achievement scale (e.g., credit for schools that move students from below basic to basic or from proficient to advanced), and for improving student achievement over time (NEA Education Policy and Practice Department, 2010).

This method would permit previously label “under-performing”  schools or districts an opportunity to quantify how much change or “growth” there has been in student achievement outcomes from year to year. It also would recognize public schools gradual progress towards proficiency; rather than, punishing these school sites for missing their proficiency targets by 5-10 points. Remember, under the current NCLB system, schools and students are more likely to be classified as under-performing  even though testing data reveals progress towards academic proficiency.

Option Two, On Paper, Feels Like a Better Approach Than the Current System.

However, there is always an unintended consequence that results from many of these policy directives. In this case, it is money, which dictates if states make any changes to their current testing practices. Many states have invested a significant amount of money and training into their existing assessment system, which is aligned to the current NCLB mandates. Whichever option passes, states might just continue to use the system they have in place to save money.


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