After more than ten years under NCLB, that law’s legacy continues to be fiercely contested. This analysis of NAEP scores—focusing on Texas and on the entire nation—by former NCES commissioner Mark Schneider finds that solid gains in math achievement coincided with the advent of "consequential accountability," first in the trailblazing Lone Star State and a few other pioneer states, then across the land with the implementation of NCLB. But Schneider warns that the recent plateau in Texas math scores may foreshadow a coming stagnation in the country’s performance. Has the testing-and-accountability movement as we know it run out of steam? How else might we rekindle our nation’s education progress?

baby bundled up photo

Drop some of those onerous layers, government!
Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

For years, government has plastered new
regulations upon old, thickening the bureaucracy and making it ever harder to
move within its confines. In Colorado, for example, new rules for day-care
centers specify exactly how to execute nearly everything—including the number
of block sets (two) and the number of blocks (minimum of ten) needed in each
playroom. An anecdote, yes; but hyperbole or exception, no. Modern regulation,
as Common Good’s Philip Howard writes in the Wall Street Journal this week, “doesn’t just control undesirable practices—it
indiscriminately controls all the work of regulated entities,” arresting all
human discretion, good and bad. While the gut-wrench reaction is simply to blow
up the house, thick plaster and all, there’s a smarter way. Some old-fashioned
inputs are important (Colorado does
want to ensure that their day-care centers aren’t operating in window-less
basements filled with asbestos and chipping lead paint). But, Howard argues,
the majority of regulation should be outcomes-based. (Seattle is experimenting
with this
on the energy front now.) He’s right, as far as he goes, but may
have forgotten another key quality-control metric, articulated in our
recent paper on


Last week, 11 states applied for waivers from many of the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act’s most onerous provisions. Their
applications are now online, ready to be sliced and diced by any willing wonk. (Anne Hyslop of Education Sector has already taken a cut.) We at Fordham have tried to make the task a little bit easier by posting two compilations: First, the Common Core implementation plans for all 11 states, and second, all of their accountability proposals. Both are huge files but if your plans this weekend include a lot of downtime, have at ‘em.

Personally, I’m most interested in the states’ plans around
accountability. Partly that’s because this is the only part of this
waiver process that I find legitimate and legal;
the Department of Education has no business demanding that states adopt
and implement the Common Core standards or rigorous teacher
evaluations. But if it’s going to allow states to opt-out of the law’s
Adequate Yearly Progress system, it certainly has the right to set
boundaries around the alternatives. And partly it’s because the major
sticking point in the current negotiations over ESEA reauthorization
comes down to accountability, and how much leeway to give the states.

So what do these 11 states want to do differently on the
accountability front? Particularly when it comes to identifying schools
that should be subject to some sort of sanctions or interventions?

Political leaders hope to act soon to renew and fix the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, also known as No Child Left Behind). In this important paper, Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Executive Vice President Michael J. Petrilli identify 10 big issues that must be resolved in order to get a bill across the finish line, and explore the major options under consideration for each one. Should states be required to adopt academic standards tied to college and career readiness? Should the new law provide greater flexibility to states and districts? These are just a few of the areas discussed. Finn and Petrilli also present their own bold yet "reform realist" solutions for ESEA. Read on to learn more.
In this study of the No Child Left Behind Act system and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rules for 28 states, we selected 36 real schools that vary by size, achievement, diversity, etc. and determined which ones would or would not make AYP when evaluated under each state's accountability rules. If a school that made AYP in Washington were relocated to Ohio, would it still make AYP?
In this exciting, unique and challenging time, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute wants to congratulate President-Elect Obama and other new federal leaders. The federal government has a key role to play in creating a world-class education system in America but it's challenging to get that role right. This letter provides some guidance. Fordham experts review the current education policy landscape and its main players and offer their view of the ideal K-12 federal role. They also address the ten big policy battles looming on the horizon. The hope is that the letter will provide critical advice, insights and ideas for the new federal education leaders who are about to take on a big job.
Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First is an in-depth and alarming study of Reading First's betrayal. Under the leadership of White House domestic policy chief Margaret Spellings and with support from Congress, Reading First was to provide funding to primary-reading programs that were based on scientific research. Backlash and brouhaha followed. Aggrieved whole-language program proprietors complained bitterly that their wares couldn't be purchased with Reading First funds. Then the administration turned its back on Reading First, allowing the program to be gutted and starved of funding.
NCLB allows each state to define proficiency as it sees fit and design its own tests. This study compares state tests to benchmarks laid out by the Northwest Evaluation Association to evaluate proficiency cut scores for assessments in twenty-six states. The findings suggest that the tests states use to measure academic progress and student proficiency under NCLB are creating a false impression of success, especially in reading and especially in the early grades.
January 8, 2007, was the fifth birthday of the No Child Left Behind Act. This isn't just another milestone to be celebrated (or mourned). The law is now due for an update from Congress. But will NCLB be reauthorized on schedule? What changes are likely? No one knows for sure, but the ubiquitous 'Washington insiders' might be in a better position than others to cast prognostications. While not a 'representative sample' of thousands, their inside knowledge adds valuable insight.
Education policy leaders from across the political spectrum flesh out and evaluate several forms that national standards and testing could take.