Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Test or invest? How NCLB treats schools serving the nation’s neediest students

by Linda Darling Hammond

The biggest problem with the Act is that it mistakes measuring schools for fixing them. It sets annual test score goals for every school—and for subgroups of students within schools—that are said to constitute ‘Adequate Yearly Progress.’ Schools that do not meet these targets for each subgroup each year are declared in need of improvement and, later, failing. This triggers interventions (notification to parents of the school’s label and a three-month period to write a school improvement plan). Students must be allowed to transfer out of ‘failing’ schools at the school’s expense; schools stand to be reconstituted or closed, and states and districts stand to lose funds based on these designations. Unfortunately, the targets—based on the notion that 100% of students will score at the ‘proficient’ level on state tests by the year 2014— were set without an understanding of what this goal would really mean.

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