Saturday, July 07, 2007

Weak NCLB Growth Models

There are many critics of NCLB. Some people complain that it causes states to lower standards, others complain that it's unrealistic, still others say that it lacks funding, while others complain that "tests" don't really measure learning and the whole premise is wrong.

To counter some of these arguments, several states have been approved to use so called growth model formulas, including my future home state of Alaska (45 days and counting). When I first heard of the concept, I was pretty excited, after all I figured that growth models would make it harder for school districts to ignore students who already meet the low expectations that is required of them.

I was wrong.

Alaska's growth model only uses growth if a student doesn't meet standards. In other words if little Johnny scores two grades below grade level, Alaska can still get credit for him passing as long as he is on target to pass the test within the next few years, or by 10th grade. 3rd graders and 10th graders must test on target.

So basically, there is still no incentive to improve performance of those already making the grade.

I need to find a state that sets their education target at ensuring all kids make AT LEAST one year of progress in one year of school.

Oh well, NCLB is a crappy law but it's less crappy than nothing. I am so pragmatic.


Brett said...

Hey Rory,

Tennessee is still the standard-bearer here: they make school-level data available for every elementary/middle school in the state. (They also have teacher- and student-level data, but only those behind the curtain get to see them).

One of my clients, the Education Consumers Foundation, gathered all the value-added data on these schools (which was a nightmare, given the less-than-friendly interface from the state) and used it to come up with rankings of schools based on their effectiveness. Take a look at the elementary and middle school interactive charts linked from their home page: (They're in the first paragraph of the "Highlights from the Foundation" section.)

We've hit our first milestone of gathering this data and making it easy to access and understand; the next step is to spread the word in Tennessee. We'll see what kind of response we get - but I certainly wish we had something like this in NC...

Parentalcation said...

Awesome website... though I would like to see a few more options.

It would be cool to filter the data to get winners by specific demographic groups, i.e. find out who does the best improving free lunchers, who does the best with special education, who does the best with black kids not eligible for free and reduced lunch, etc...

A school might do a good job teaching the majority of its students and have great numbers, but suck at teaching some specific group.

Brett said...

Subgroups is an interesting idea - I'd love to see that data as well. Unfortunately the state won't provide those breakdowns to the public. The best we can do is take the school-level data they provide and overlay other school-level information on top of it, like the free/reduced lunch percentages.

Speaking of which, you might be interested in this as well - we mashed up the two and found virtually no correlation between poverty and school effectiveness. If you're interested, go to, scroll down to Section II, and look at the "Poverty versus Performance" chart - it blew me away.