Let's make a deal!
On Sunday, 158 Montana public schools were slated to join the state’s other “failing” schools—per federal AYP designations. On Monday, that number plummeted to three. Yet this change in labeling had nothing to do with student achievement. Instead, the feds allowed education officials in big-sky country to simply redraw the state’s schedule of testing targets—retroactively back to 2005. Why? The Treasure State had revamped its own state assessment that year, yet hadn’t reset its proficiency standards (something the NCLB accountability workbook allows). Duncan’s crew found this loophole and let Montana rewrite its proficiency targets from 2005 on. For this year, that means that Montana’s required proficiency rates will be slightly above the state’s original 2007 levels. A possible contributing factor to ED’s willingness to find a work-around: a desire on Duncan’s part to save face after Montana's flagrant and continued refusal to raise its proficiency standards—even after the Secretary’s threat to withhold Title I funding. Yet Duncan’s clumsy wielding of the NCLB stick, as well as this back-bending for states, may have serious negative consequences. So, Mr. Secretary, take heed of Jeb Bush’s good advice: Be a leader. A thought-out plan on how to pass responsibility to the states is more pragmatic than defusing potentially embarrassing situations.
|Click to listen to commentary on Montana's "new deal" on NCLB from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
“State Challenges Seen as Whittling Away Federal Education Law,” by Sam Dillon, New York Times, August 14, 2011.“Ed. Dept. Allows Montana to Rewrite Its NCLB History,” Michele McNeil, Education Week, August 15, 2011.
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