Monday, June 26, 2006

Growth Modeling and Grad Student Training

Not sure when we will get some publications out of this, but we are running a set of meetings between our NSF-sponsored Interdisciplinary Training Program and the Value-Added Research Center. Here is our internal announcement. I'll post content as it becomes available.


ITP/VARC Summer Workshop

The Interdisciplinary Training Program and the Value-Added Research Center at WCER will jointly sponsor a summer workshop on "Growth Models for Adequate Yearly Progress."

When it comes to labeling good and bad schools, NCLB is caught on the horns of a dilemma: Use absolute targets to set the same standards for all schools, or focus on growth to recognize progress relative to student starting points. Until now, NCLB has taken an extreme position by focusing exclusively on absolute targets, which rise at varying rates but must reach 100% proficient by 2014.

Secretary Spellings recently granted waivers to two states -- Tennessee and North Carolina -- to pilot a "growth model" approach to Adequate Yearly Progress. Have these states solved the dilemma of recognizing growth while maintaining absolute standards? That is the question we will consider in our summer workshop. We will also examine the 6 unsuccessful applications to see why they were rejected and whether we like their solutions any better. Finally, we will examine real data from Milwaukee to see how the growth models will play out.

The summer workshop will be held on the following schedule in the 13th floor board room of Education Sciences:

Wednesday, June 7, 12:00-1:00pm -- Introduction: Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB
--In this session we will review AYP, examine the call for growth models and the instructions to peer reviewers, and select state proposals for study.

Wednesday, June 21, Review of State Proposals and Peer Reviews

Wednesday, June 28, Review of State Proposals and Peer Reviews
--In these two sessions, participants will (a) describe selected state proposals; (b) present the reviewers' critique; (c) present their own critique; and (d) reach a conclusion on how close the proposal comes to solving the fundamental dilemma. As a group, we will decide which approaches are worth trying out with real data.

Wednesday, July 5, Conclusion: Application of Growth Models to Milwaukee
--In this concluding session, we will use data from Milwaukee to carry out the procedures selected in our review of state proposals, and reach a conclusion about the prospects for growth modeling under NCLB.

Friday, June 23, 2006

AEI weighs in on the politics of NCLB

Frederick Hess and Michael Petrilli lay out the history of NCLB. They explicitly focus on the frustration felt by members of Congress about the lack of results from decades of reforms intended to address the achievement gap. There was a consensus that high expectations were important, but the censuses did not extend to root causes. Some thought that low expectations themselves were key. Others identified lack of resources for low achievers as the most important problem to address. A third explanation was school culture and a lack of effective organizational structures that led to institutional paralysis. However, the censuses that all students should be able to learn and all schools should be able to produce significant achievement gains bridged these different understandings.

Politically, the attraction of the NCLB consensus was that it allowed public officials to embrace high standards and champion equal opportunity without having to prescribe uncomfortable solutions or explain exactly what strategies would enable schools to succeed....Ultimately, NCLB was intended to provide political cover to superintendents and school board members to encourage them to take controversial and difficult steps to root out mediocre teachers and administrators, shift resources to poorer schools, challenge collective bargaining provisions regulating teacher transfer and preventing efforts to link pay to teacher quality, and overhaul central office processes.
Hess and Petrilli do a good job laying out the history and the trends that are likely to find their way into the reauthorization. The consensus around high expectations seems to be holding. The major change is the inclusion of growth in student learning as an additional feature (not a replacement of attainment requirements).


Monday, June 12, 2006

More folks looking at NCLB as a deeply flawed policy instrument

Utah is officially adopting state legislation that preferences state standards over NCLB. Many states are moving to lower proficiency standards because NCLB expectations for 100% proficiency for all groups is unachievable.

"In some ways it's creating a race to the bottom," [Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Foundation] said. States are obliging schools' and parents' requests to make the tests easy enough to achieve "socially acceptable" pass rates, he said.

How do we keep the best of NCLB - the notation that all kids deserve a good education and that we should be able to know that they are getting it - without the ugly incentive to dumb things down?


I'm off to chaperon a bunch of middle and high school choristers on a 10 day tour. Back on the 22nd of June.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

More info on the Sanders study of learning benefits of board certification

The Greensboro News-Record provides a little more detail on the study done by William L. Sanders "found that students of nationally certified teachers make no greater classroom gains than do other students".

Not exactly what folks arguing for greater professionalization and higher qualitative standards in the teaching workforce are the key to greater student learning. One worry is that tying incentives to board certification may overlook equaly effective teachers.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

North Carolina - Sorry about that test, do your best.

It turns out that North Carolina decided not to use this year's new test to evaluate student performance. Teachers are instructed to use grades, classroom tests, and other tradtional measures to judge student proficiency for promotion. Hmmmm. This is one of the two states that is going to be allowed to use growth modelling? It seems that the last time the state delivered new tests, it go the cut points for proficiency wrong - based on the fact that too many students scored poorly on the tests. The state plans to spend the summer getting those numbers correct.

That seems a little strange that the numbers can be so subjective. I guess the right percent proficient is the one that shows most schools making their AYP numbers. That must be right.



Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Even Florida doesn't get the Growth thing right.

Florida is widely thought to have to most comprehensive student information system in the US. This piece lays out the impact of not being selected for as a growth model pilot in pretty stark terms.
If it had been accepted, an estimated 43 percent of Florida's schools would have made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under NCLB. Without it, only 29 percent are expected to make AYP, down from 36 percent last year.
With numbers like that, it is no wonder that states are concerned about access to this alternate method to show student progress.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Schools Matter - A not very flattering analysis of the recent growth model choices (and NCLB in general)

Schools Matter takes on both the recent decision to allow only North Carolina and Tennessee and tinkering with sanctions to allow more supplemental services before schools become accountable. Blogger Jim Horn notes (as do many others) that NCLB seems designed to crush public schooling by showing nearly all schools to be failing under the law's inflexible and (probably) unachievable metrics.


Friday, June 02, 2006

NSBA outlines recommendations for the next round of NCLB modifications

While most observers do not expect there to be significant changes in NCLB until an eventual reauthorization in 2009, the National School Boards Assocation is pushing for a series of fixes to the existing legislation.