Thursday, February 9, 2012

Colorado "Exempted" from NCLB

It was announced today by the Obama Administration that Colorado is among ten states exempted from the most onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind. Specifically, rather than being required to have 100% of students "at grade level" by 2014—a patently absurd standard when dreamed up a decade ago—Colorado and nine other states will be allowed to devise a new test achievement standard. For example, a state-designed test could be used to measure growth. Measurement experts will put together precisely what it takes to make certain that the state reaches its goal. Of course, the exemption comes at some cost. Now the exempted states must show that they are evaluating teachers and principals by a system that includes, in some proportion, student test data. Arguably, this is an even worse requirement than having to have all students at grade level by 2014.

Nothing in this exemption addresses the major problem with these crude accountability systems. Obama himself twice stated publicly—once when announcing the availability of exemptions and again later in his 2012 State of the Union address—that NCLB had produced teaching to the test and abandonment of teaching such subjects as history and science. He was right. But the substitution of "growth on a state-designed test" will do nothing to correct the problems of teaching to the test and narrowing of the curriculum.

Nearly all states will eventually be exempted from NCLB worst requirement, and nothing good will change in the schools.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

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