Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Corrupting Education, NCLB's consequences

Yeah, yeah. The Fed and State Depts of Education whose only function seems to be the extortion of so-called "school accountability" from school districts, keep shoveling the steaming brown idea that NCLB somehow provides metrics of student achievement.

The only people who believe these fabulisms don't know anything about math or its application to quality control. But that sad fact is neither here nor there.

Today's NCLB outrage addresses who's measured, who isn't, and why.

States Omitting Minorities' Test Scores

By NICOLE ZIEGLER DIZON, BEN FELLER and FRANK BASS, Associated Press Writers Tue Apr 18, 12:21 PM ET

"We're forcing districts and states to play games because the system is so broken, and that's not going to help at all," said Kathy Escamilla, a University of Colorado education professor. "Those are little games to prevent showing what's going on."

Under the law signed by Bush in 2002, all public school students must be proficient in reading and math by 2014, although only children above second grade are required to be tested.

Schools receiving federal poverty aid also must demonstrate annually that students in all racial categories are progressing or risk penalties that include extending the school year, changing curriculum or firing administrators and teachers.

The law requires public schools to test more than 25 million students periodically in reading and math. No scores can be excluded from a school's overall measure.

But the schools also must report scores by categories, such as race, poverty, migrant status, English proficiency and special education. Failure in any category means the whole school fails.

States are helping schools get around that second requirement by using a loophole in the law that allows them to ignore scores of racial groups that are too small to be statistically significant.

furthermore...
"It's terrible," said Michael Oshinaya, a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in New York City who was among a group of black students whose scores weren't broken out as a racial category. "We're part of America. We make up America, too. We should be counted as part of America."

Spellings' department is caught between two forces. Schools and states are eager to avoid the stigma of failure under the law, especially as the 2014 deadline draws closer. But Congress has shown little political will to modify the law to address their concerns. That leaves the racial category exemptions as a stopgap solution.

"She's inherited a disaster," said David Shreve, an education policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The 'Let's Make a Deal' policy is to save the law from fundamental changes, with Margaret Spellings as Monty Hall."

The solution may be to set a single federal standard for when minority students' scores don't have to be counted separately, said Ross Wiener, policy director for the Washington-based Education Trust.

While the exemptions were created for good reasons, there's little doubt now that group sizes have become political, said Wiener, whose group supports the law.

"They're asking the question, not how do we generate statistically reliable results, but how do we generate politically palatable results," he said.

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