Ross Wiener, policy director for The Education Trust, on allowing current AYP provisions to be applied retroactively
(Washington, D.C.) — ”Today, Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman George Miller are introducing legislation to bring consistency to school accountability decisions by allowing the retroactive application of new rules adopted by the U.S. Department of Education. Allowing current AYP rules to be applied retroactively to school accountability determinations from 2002-03 would be both appropriate and beneficial.
“The rule changes adopted by the U.S. Department of Education represent important progress in the implementation of NCLB by addressing accountability for the achievement of limited-English proficient (LEP) students and students with disabilities, as well as participation-rate issues. These changes make AYP determinations more fair and accurate, while maintaining the rigor and focus on closing achievement gaps that are the cornerstones of AYP.
”It is hard to understand why it took the U.S. Department of Education so long to develop and implement these rules. It is even harder to understand why the Department refuses to allow their application to last year’s results.
”The Department’s refusal to allow retroactive application of the rules in all three areas – LEP, Special Education and participation rates – is especially confounding because it has already allowed retroactive application of the rules in one of those areas – Special Education. In a June 27, 2003 letter to chief state school officers, the Secretary of Education unequivocally allowed new rules for students with disabilities to apply retroactively to the 2002-03 school year. This makes the Departments current refusal to officially allow all three rules to be applied retroactively inexplicable. These mixed signals from the Department have caused confusion in the field and added to the push-back against NCLB.
”Allowing the current AYP rules to be applied retroactively would bring more consistency to the process and strengthen acceptance and public understanding of school accountability determinations. Because these are the rules by which schools will be evaluated this year and in the future, re-examining last years results would ensure consistency without compromising accountability standards.
”The U.S. Department of Education has often been criticized for overly legalistic interpretations and too-rigid enforcement of NCLB, and this time they deserve the criticism. The Department should not wait for this legislation to move through Congress - it should reverse course now.”
The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and forever closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth.