Spellings To NCLB: You Will Be Differentiated

Image courtesy Allistair McMillan. Used with permission under a Creative Commons License.Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced last week that up to 10 states can begin to use the progress of students’ test scores rather than their actual scores in meeting federal progress goals for No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Interested states would have to submit their proposal to the Department of Education; states with a strong history of reform such as Maryland, North Dakota, Louisiana and South Dakota would be given preference in the process.

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Spellings unveiled the term “differentiated accountability”, a concept that would allow states to “vary the intensity and type of interventions to match the academic reasons that lead to a school’s identification” as having academic achievement problems.

Under Spelling’s initiative, states would still maintain their current practice for determining AYP as well as identifying schools that are in need of improvement. What would change are the processes for categorizing schools, systems of interventions and what interventions would be used for the lowest performing schools, deviating from the one-size-fits-all interventions currently mandated under NCLB.

NEA President Reg Weaver lauded the move, saying “(This) is a long overdue step in the right direction. While we welcome the news, it….is regrettable, though, that Secretary Margaret Spellings — and her predecessor for that matter — have had the legal authority to make the changes she is planning to make now.”

Understandably, the blogosphere is awash with a variety of opinions on the matter. Some highlights:

This South Dakotan School Board member agrees with Spellings.

PREA Prez says in part: 

It brings to mind many metaphors. But like the other Bush disaster, it is a “surge” aimed at prolonging the inevitable.

Fair Test says “Differentiation is futile” and quips about deck chairs and a famous unsinkable ocean liner.

AFT’s NCLBlog notes several flags on the play, saying that in part the announcement for the new plan was made in a state (Minnesota) that is ineligible to participate.

Eduflack complains that “differentiated accountability pilot” could be replaced by the word “flexibility”, but it won’t win over the education research and policy professors in universities and colleges across the nation.

David Hoff muses about Minnesota and the other states left behind in this new announcement.

Eduwonk gives the announcement mixed reviews.