Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Warning: Education Policy Wonkery. Approach with caution!

NCLB update:

A dicusscion draft has emerged from the Ed committee laying out some of the changes that are under discussion in the NCLB re authorization. I wanted to point out a few interesting highlights:

Multiple Indicators/Assessments -
a step away from the time and motion approach of a single measure to a more modern and useful approach.
Growth Models -
A common and legitimate critique of NCLB's approach has been that schools who make real progress but don't quite meet the AYP are labeled as failures, even though they are moving in the right direction. This has the benefit of improving the measuring and denying critics of a club to beat the law with.

N size and Confidence Intervals.
manipulation of the N size, the minimum number of students each subgroup, (African American, Latino, Economically disadvantaged, etc) that the school must have to have it tracked and made accountable for, is one of the little tricks some states engage in to avoid getting dinged on AYP. It's nice to see this obvious problem is being addressed. The same for setting confidence interval standards where a similar game is played.

This one in particular I think is going to really start a brawl so I'll include it entirely:
Graduation Rates – Makes improving graduation rates a priority by:
• Graduation Rate definition:
Sets a single definition of graduation rate to be used across states. The rate includes the option for a 4 or 5 year rate.
• Graduation Rates AYP:
Ensures real accountability for graduation rates by requiring disaggregation of data and by requiring a rigorous, but reasonable, rate of growth that all schools must meet to make AYP. States will either require schools to meet an average growth target of 2.5 percentage points per year to make AYP (3 percentage points if a 5 year rate is used) or may develop an alternate system that is equally rigorous and results in closing the achievement gap between subgroups by 2019-2020.
• Credit for Meeting Full Graduation Rate Requirements:
If schools meet the full state growth target for specific groups of students, it can get credit of up to 15% of their AMO in determining AYP for that group. Creates a single measure for reporting and requires high schools to meet benchmarks for increasing graduation rates with an end goal of a 90% rate. Requires disaggregation of graduation rate data. Allows students who graduate in 5 years to count towards the school’s definition of graduation rate

The trick here is to cook up a system that can actually provide a useful number on grad rates. Tracking students in a society that is so mobile in a public school system that is so decentralized and data collection averse is going to be a hefty challenge. Props to them if they can pull this off.

There's plenty more, including some changes in the intervention piece for schools that don't make AYP so go take a look if you have an interest. This is the preliminary round, so the brawl is just beginning. But so far I like what I see. What we don't see here because it's beyond the scope of a law like NCLB is the teacher quality piece, which would require a hard look at the teacher training and recruitment process, and that means getting into the higher education side, a lobby that makes the teacher unions look tame by comparison. I'm working on a piece on that side as well I'll throw up in a week or so to explore those issues.

The politics on this NCLB re authorization are going to be complicated. A law authored by liberals, built on the previous reforms of a Democratic President, pushed forward and supported by a reviled GOP President, loathed by conservatives and their arch foes, the teacher unions. That's quite a stew that cuts across typical lines of political allegiance.

Political Science geeks, fire up your models, this one will be fascinating to watch.

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