Recommendations from The Education Trust for No Child Left Behind Reauthorization
Washington, DC – The Education Trust today released its recommendations for the reauthorization of NCLB. The recommendations, which give states the option of raising standards to college- and career-ready and adjusting their timelines and student achievement goals, call for a number of new and better targeted federal investments in high-poverty schools. In addition to focusing on federal funds, the Education Trust is recommending shifts in state and local school funding patterns that the group says will help ensure that schools serving high concentrations of low-income students get their “fair share” of resources.
”In the months ahead, many education groups will argue that the current law demands too much and that Congress should return to something closer to its traditional role of providing money, while asking only for bookkeeping in return,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust. “Giving in to that argument would be a terrible mistake and a huge step backward in Americas uneven march toward educational opportunity for all. Instead of asking less, Congress should ask more of our schools. But this time, Congress should provide more and better supports–particularly to high-poverty schools and schools struggling to improve.”
AYP and Standards Choices for States
Some have complained about NCLBs approach to standards and accountability. The Education Trust’s recommendations offer states three choices:
- States may keep the current status model AYP system and the goal of 100 percent proficient by 2014. However, states with particularly large proficiency gaps between their own assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) would be required to set achievement goals for increasing by 50 percent the proportion of students achieving at the advanced level, including goals to close gaps at the advanced level; or
- States can choose to move to a growth model that counts students as proficient if they are on a trajectory to meet proficiency in three years. States electing this choice would have to have data systems that link student and teacher records, publish certain reports annually, and be required to set growth targets for all students, including those already at the proficient level; or
- States could move to new accountability goals if they raise their standards to a college- and career-ready level by convening a task force of K-12, higher education, and business leaders to develop high school proficiency standards that would guarantee a students placement, upon admission, into credit-bearing courses at the states public colleges and universities. The high school standards would have to be mapped backwards into lower grades and evidence of their rigor would have to be accepted by a peer review panel appointed by the Secretary of Education.
According to Haycock, the third optiongetting students to college- and career-ready standards would be ”a serious stretch” for states. “The standards in too many states are just too low–so low that meeting them doesnt even come close to ensuring that students are adequately prepared to meet the real world challenges of college and careers. Some states are telling parents that their children are proficient even when those same children are performing below even the basic level on the NAEP.”
In recognition of the challenge that states choosing “college- and career-ready standards” would face, the Education Trust recommends that states that are “doing what’s right” be given 12 additional years to get no less than 80 percent of the students from each group to a level of preparation that would ensure their placement in credit-bearing courses upon admission to public colleges and universities. In addition, no less than 95 percent of the students in each group would need to be educated to at least a basic standard, indicating preparation for active citizenship, military service, and entry into postsecondary education or formal employment training.
”If we want to encourage higher level teaching, and diminish educational practices that focus inordinately on low-level instruction and rote learning which have characterized too many of our classrooms in both the pre- and post-NCLB era, this step is essential. More than three-quarters of our high school graduates are entering college now, and the numbers are growing every year. Yet, more than one-third of them land in remedial courses that provide them with no college credit, cost them precious tuition dollars, and imperil their chances of ever earning that critically important college degree.”
It makes no sense to continue sending so many students off to college unprepared, said Haycock. “Too many states are telling schools they are successful when their students are not.”
Among the other recommendations put forward are:
Better Tools for Teachers and Administrators:
- A new $750 million curriculum fund for states to develop high-quality, high-level curriculum materials linked to their standards and assessments, and to provide teachers with professional development in using the new materials. Fifty percent of this fund would be set aside for high schools, where the need for innovative and effective materials is most acute.
- $400 million annually in continued federal support for state assessment development so that states can improve the quality of their assessments, with special attention to improving assessments for English-language learners and students with disabilities.
- A new $100 million annually for state data systems to support growth models, and just as importantly to link student data to teacher data over time so administrators and policymakers can make informed evaluations of budget and policy choices, and so teachers themselves can use data to improve their own practice.
”Teachers and administrators need substantially more help,” Haycock said. “The laws challenge to the profession is the right one, but it needs to be balanced with more support. Educators need well-designed curricular materials, diagnostic assessments, and intensive assistance in interpreting data and acting on it.”
More Resources for High-Poverty Schools and School Districts:
- Fifty percent of all Title II funds would go to high-poverty schools to support school-based initiatives to improve teacher quality.
- School districts would be required to focus their use of Title II funds on systemic efforts to address staffing issues at high-poverty schools
- New Title I funds would be sent to states through a formula that rewards states that have been successful in narrowing the funding gaps between high- and low-poverty school districts. States that failed to address funding inequities would see their share of new Title I dollars decrease.
- The comparability provision of Title I would be amended to require school districts participating in Title I to end all practices that shortchange high-poverty schools within five years. During the interim, school districts would be required to publicly report the names of Title I schools that they are shortchanging and the amounts by which such school are shortchanged.
Of the recommended change in the comparability rules Haycock said: ”Schools that serve concentrations of poor, minority or English-language learners need more resources than other schools, not less. The federal government can and should help provide the extras that such students often need, but federal funds should not be forced to make up for an inequitable base of state and local funds. At the moment, though, thats exactly what Title I of NCLB does. Because of a so-called comparability requirement that is full of holes, districts can claim their full share of federal dollars even if they woefully shortchange high poverty schools. Thats wrong, and Congress ought to fix the comparability provisions now.”
Better Teaching in High-Poverty Schools
Title II would be amended to require that states write and publish plans, with annual measurable goals for ensuring that low-income students and students of color are not taught at higher rates than other students by teachers who are not highly qualified, who are novices, or who are teaching on emergency credentials. In cases in which states were not making significant progress in reaching their goals, the Secretary of Education would withhold Title II funds from states and distribute those funds directly to schools with the most acute staffing needs.
“Good teachers are the most important educational resource there is, yet too often low-income and minority students are denied this resource. Current law asks that that these students get at least their fair share of qualified and experienced teachers, but the Department of Education has been slow to act on this requirement and states and school districts have all but ignored it. For students to learn at high levels they must be taught at high levels. Its time to put some teeth in the teacher provisions of the law.”
“No federal education law has been more maligned or misunderstood than the No Child Left Behind Act. Yet, no federal education law has accomplished more,” Haycock said. “Although we have not yet reached the laws goal of universal proficiency, schools all around the country are focused on student learning as never before and educators are working hard to raise the achievement of all groups of children.”
We must continue to work to close gaps between groups of students. Nothing is more important. But we must simultaneously press to ensure that the standards our students are working toward are genuinely high enough to support success beyond school. Again, we must do more, not less.
Haycock said: ”We believe that our recommendations, which marry higher goals with better supports, are the right next step for Congress, for our country, and most importantly, for our students.”