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USA TODAY Collegiate Case Study: Assessment of Educational Progress

USA TODAY Collegiate Case Study: Assessment of Educational Progress

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Published by USA TODAY Education
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation was designed to improve academic achievement for students in elementary and secondary school. NCLB mandates that states must show progress of this achievement by testing students in reading and math from third to eighth grade and once in high school. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education finds that some state tests and standards are too lenient, with critics charging that some states are setting the bar too low. In addition, NCLB also calls for “scientifically-based” research to measure the effectiveness of educational curriculum and resources.This case study addresses some of these controversial testing and research issues as NCLB moves towards its deadline of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014.
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation was designed to improve academic achievement for students in elementary and secondary school. NCLB mandates that states must show progress of this achievement by testing students in reading and math from third to eighth grade and once in high school. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education finds that some state tests and standards are too lenient, with critics charging that some states are setting the bar too low. In addition, NCLB also calls for “scientifically-based” research to measure the effectiveness of educational curriculum and resources.This case study addresses some of these controversial testing and research issues as NCLB moves towards its deadline of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014.

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Published by: USA TODAY Education on Mar 26, 2010
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CollegiateCaseStudy
THE NATION’S NEWSPAPER
Education science in search of answers
By
Greg Toppo
................................................................................4-5
 Today’s Debate:Improving education
Our view: An illusion gains credibility....................................................................................6Opposing view: Key subjects get short shrift.....................................................................................7
States get creative to minimizefederal law’s effect
By
Ledyard King
.....................................................................................3
Report, suit question teacherqualifications
By
Greg Toppo
.....................................................................................3
NCLB is working,but it’s ‘a journey’
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings..............................................................................9-10
Critical inquiry
Discussion and future implications.........................................................................................11
 Additional resources
.........................................................................................12
Letters
...........................................................................................8
 www.usatodaycollege.com
© Copyright 2007 USATODAY, a division of Gannett Co., Inc. All rights reserved.
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation passed over five years ago was designed toimprove academic achievement for students in elementary and secondary school.NCLB mandates that states must show progress of this achievement by testing stu-dents in reading and math from third to eighth grade and once in high school. A recentreport by the U.S. Department of Education finds that some state tests and standardsare too lenient, with critics charging that some states are setting the bar too low. Inaddition, NCLB also calls for “scientifically-based” research to measure the effective-ness of educational curriculum and resources; as with testing, the last five years haveseen struggles in the research arena as well. This case study addresses some of thesecontroversial testing and research issues as NCLB moves towards its deadline of mak-ing all children proficient in math and reading by 2014.
Assessment of Educational Progress
 The standards complaint
 
By Ledyard KingGannett News ServiceAlmost every fourth-grader inMississippi knows how to read. InMassachusetts, only half do.So what's Mississippi doing thatMassachusetts, the state with the mostcollege graduates, isn't?Setting expectations too low, criticssay.The 2002 federal No Child Left Behindlaw was designed to raise educationstandards by punishing schools that failto make all kids proficient in math andreading.But the law allows each state to chartits own course in meeting thoseobjectives.The result, according to a GannettNews Service analysis of test scores, isthat many states have taken the saferoute, keeping standards low and foolingparents into believing their children areprepared for college and work.Federal education officials plan torelease a report today that is expected toreach the same conclusion: Many stateshold students to a relatively lowstandard. Critics say states are moreworried about creating the appearanceof academic progress than in raisingstandards."Ironically, No Child reforms may havethe exact opposite effect they wereintended to have," says Bruce Fuller, aneducation and public policy professor atthe University of California at Berkeley.
Data suggest statessatisfy No Child lawby expecting lessfrom their students
 
 AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S LIFE SECTION, JUNE 7, 2007
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.Page 2
State scor
 
es misleadingThe GNS analysis found that relying onstate test scores to judge students'performance is misleading.For example, 89% of Mississippi fourth-graders passed the state's reading test in2005, but only 18% passed the NationalAssessment of Educational Progress(NAEP) test. That gap of 71 percentagepoints was the widest in the nation.Fuller's research suggests the gapbetween state test scores and NAEPscores has widened in many states sincethe federal law took effect.States that don't push students to meethigher standards risk sending them intothe work world unprepared — even asglobal competition increases. More thanhalf of 250 employers surveyed in 2006said high school graduates are deficientat writing in English, foreign languagesand math skills."The future U.S. workforce is here —and it is woefully ill-prepared," thereport concluded.State education officials deny critics'claims that they're gaming the system bymaking tests easier. They say it's unfair tocompare state tests with NAEP, which istaken by only a small percentage of students and often includes materialschools haven't covered yet.They say changes in testing policiescame after careful review and federalofficials signed off on them."We didn't game anything," says TomHorne, superintendent of publicinstruction in Arizona, which loweredthe passing score on several tests in2005. "We called a task force, and thestate board decided to follow theirrecommendation."No Child Left Behind requires states totest students in math and reading fromthird through eighth grades and once inhigh school. Every child must beproficient in those subjects by 2014.Schools that don't make "adequateyearly progress" risk being flagged asunderperforming. Students may transfer,or the district could be forced to use itsfederal money to pay for tutoring.Philadelphia schools chief Paul Vallassays the answer is national standards.Every grade in every state would teachthe same material and administer thesame test.Vallas, who will take over New Orleans'schools in July, says students who fledthe hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast in2005 were stunned to find more rigorouseducation standards elsewhere."The shocker … is how poorly the kidshave done in another state," he says. "Itwas probably a wake-up call."Focus on neglected groupsPresident Bush and lawmakers say thepunitive elements of No Child LeftBehind have prompted states to re-examine standards and focus on long-neglected groups of students, notablyminorities and students with disabilities.Critics say the law forces schools todrill kids and emphasize testing at theexpense of other learning.Tiffany Collins, 12, a seventh-grader atRobert Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Va.,knows May is test time. "I just think it'sreally a lot of pressure," she says.States and some independent expertssay comparing scores on federal andstate tests isn't valid.The national exam, they say, was neverdesigned to compare standards fromstate to state. It's administered to only asample of students, each of whom takesonly a portion of the test.And teachers and students are far morefocused on the state tests because thosetests determine whether their schoolsmake adequate progress and, in somecases, whether seniors receive a diploma.In Maryland, 58% of fourth-graderspassed the state reading test in 2003;32% passed NAEP. Two years later, 82%passed the state test; NAEP resultsstayed the same."If it doesn't count for kids, they're notgoing to take it seriously," says DixieStack, director of curriculum at theMaryland Department of Education.Some states do take it seriously.In 2005, Tennessee reported the largestdifference in the nation between eighth-grade students' scores on the state'smath and reading tests and scores onNAEP.The state looked at its standards andfound them largely in line with NAEP,says Rachel Woods of the stateDepartment of Education. But theTennessee tests used a multiple-choiceformat, while NAEP demands more essayresponses.Now, Tennessee is rewriting its testsand increasing requirements for highschool graduation. That will almostcertainly lower the number of kidsscoring in the proficient range andincrease the number of schools flaggedas poor performers, Woods says.But, she says, "What's important ishaving more kids graduate with the skillsthey need to succeed."Contributing: Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
 
Page 3
 AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S LIFE SECTION, JUNE 7, 2007
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
By Ledyard KingGannett News ServiceWASHINGTON — The federal No ChildLeft Behind law requires that all publicschool students make "adequate yearlyprogress" toward mastering math andreading by 2014. But each state definessuch progress according to its own rules.Some states have used those rules "toblunt the effects" of the law, said Jack Jennings, head of The Center onEducation Policy, a Washington-basedthink tank.But, Jennings said, "The day of reckoning ultimately comes."One way states can postponecommitting to the goals of No Child LeftBehind is to make their standardizedtests easy enough for most students topass.But there are other options as well:
u
Limiting which students mustshow pr
 
ogress.In addition to boostingthe performance of students overall,schools must boost the performance of "numerically significant" subgroups of minority and other students. Each statedecides what numerically significantmeans. Maryland recognizes subgroupsmade up of only five students. InCalifornia, some subgroups must contain100 students to count.
u
Grading on the cur
 
ve.States areallowed to use statistical techniquescalled "confidence intervals" to ratestudents asproficient even if their scores onachievement tests fall slightly short of the target. Like the margin of error on apoll, confidence intervals recognize thata test is only a snapshot of a student'sability on a particular day and that thestudent might score higher on a differentday.Most states have adopted confidenceintervals between 95 percent and 99percent. Those using a percentage onthe high end of that range can countmore kids as proficient.
u
Slowing the pace of progress.NoChild Left Behind requires that everystudent perform at a proficient level by2014, but each state defines proficiencyits own way and sets its own pace.During the 2005-06 school year, forexample, Colorado required almost 70percent of eighth-graders to score at aproficient level on the state's math test,but Arizona required only 23 percent of its eighth-graders to do the same.
u
Retesting.The No Child Left Behindlaw requires that each state test its highschool students once by 2014. Manystates use their exit exam to meet thisrequirement.In a growing number of states,students must pass the exit exam to geta diploma, so states give them multipleopportunities to pass. The scores fromthese retests increase the overallnumber of proficient students and canbe used to help a school meet the NoChild Left Behind requirement.
States get creative in minimizing law's impact
 
By Greg ToppoUSATODAYA federal lawsuit and a new reportchallenge the Bush administration's ruleson teacher credentials, saying they fail toensure that students have a highlyqualified teacher. But the lawsuit and thereport offer diverging recommendationsfor fixing the problem.The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in SanFrancisco by several civil rights groups,challenges the U.S. EducationDepartment's regulations for "highlyqualified teachers," saying thedepartment has watered down thestandard by allowing thousands of teachers-in-training in California andelsewhere to be declared highly qualifiedbefore they even finish training.Poor and minority students, the suitsays, are more likely to be taught byinterns; in many cases, about 12% of poorstudents' teachers are interns. Statewide,only about 3% of teachers are interns.Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust, anadvocacy group, says the EducationDepartment "has failed miserably" inensuring that all students have highlyqualified teachers. She also says the stateof California and its school districts "havesought to undermine the intent of thelaw at every turn."The Education Department did notimmediately respond to a request forcomment.The report, from the Center onEducation Policy, a Washington thinktank that has monitored Bush's No ChildLeft Behind education reform law, saysthe law has had little effect on eitherstudent achievement or thequalifications of the teacher workforce.But it recommends the federalgovernment give states more leeway, notless, in how they define a qualifiedteacher.
Report, suit question teacher qualif 
 
ications
 AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S LIFE SECTION, AUGUST 22, 2007

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