President Obama’s Not-So-Secret Faculty Accountability Plan

President Obama’s Not-So-Secret Faculty Accountability Plan. Method again in March of 2010, President Obama launched his blueprint for reauthorizing the training legislation that’s generally generally known as No Baby Left Behind (NCLB). In it, he referred to as for altering the way in which colleges are recognized for enchancment from the criteria-referenced system that NCLB makes use of, the place states set an goal “proficiency” benchmark and maintain accountable all colleges that fail to fulfill it, to a norm-referenced system that prioritizes enchancment efforts centered on a set share of faculties which can be the bottom performing. When you perceive this fundamental lens by way of which the Obama administration* sees the world, all of its main schooling initiatives—resembling Race to the High, Faculty Enchancment Grants, and NCLB waivers—make much more sense.


Three years later, we’re nonetheless working as if the blueprint by no means occurred, as if three years of policymaking hasn’t occurred. The most recent instance comes from the Marketing campaign for Excessive College Fairness, which found that (shock!) the Obama administration is permitting states to determine fewer faculties for enchancment than they’d beneath NCLB. The Related Press breathlessly reported the discovering that, “Tens of millions of at-risk college students might fall by means of the cracks because the Schooling Division offers states permission to disregard components of No Youngster Left Behind.” However this wasn’t some unintended consequence of NCLB waivers; it’s the administration’s concept of motion.

The Obama administration hasn’t all the time been absolutely forthright about this, particularly Secretary of Schooling Arne Duncan. He has boasted that state waiver requests “seize” tens of hundreds extra college students by utilizing decrease thresholds for the variety of college students who rely towards accountability. For instance, if a state beforehand had a threshold of 40 college students, a faculty with solely 39 AfricanAmerican college students wouldn’t have been accountable for African-American college students. Below the waiver initiative, many states have dropped these thresholds all the way down to 20 or 30 college students, that means extra poor and minority college students “rely” towards a faculty’s score. Whereas Duncan is technically proper that extra colleges are held accountable for extra subgroups of scholars, he’s additionally letting extra faculties keep away from NCLB’s penalties. He can’t have it each methods.

The administration is betting on states to focus their efforts on a small, finite variety of low-performing faculties. These colleges are actually topic to sturdy enchancment efforts, backed by billions of dollars in federal help. Cheap individuals can disagree about whether or not that was guess: Will states observe up on their guarantees, and can their faculties truly have the ability to enhance? It’s additionally truthful to ask whether or not the chances Obama set (within the NCLB waivers, it’s 5 % of the bottom performing faculties and one other 10 p.c of faculties with massive achievement gaps) are the precise ones.

Prefer it or not, the world of schooling accountability is headed in a normative course—42 states, the District of Columbia, and eight giant faculty districts in California are all making normative choices now—and this could change how we look in any respect types of points. For instance, if and when states implement new assessments aligned to the Widespread Core, it received’t actually matter for accountability functions if proficiency charges fall. Accountability is now largely tied to how faculties evaluate to one another, not some pre-determined “proficiency” bar. There is no such thing as a secret agenda, and we have to begin interested by the way it impacts all of our schooling insurance policies.

-Chad Aldeman

*Disclosure: I labored on the Division of Schooling from April of 2011 via August of 2012.

This weblog entry first appeared on The Quick and the Ed.