MERCER: After NCLB, how many are too many to still be behind?PIERRE — Is 77 percent good enough? That’s the question we face this summer regarding our school children throughout South Dakota.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — Is 77 percent good enough? That’s the question we face this summer regarding our school children throughout South Dakota.
The 77 percent reflects how many of our students performed at the acceptable levels of proficient or advanced on South Dakota’s standardized tests for No Child Left Behind last year.
The federal NCLB law requires states to reach 100 percent next school year. South Dakota won’t be one of them. We’ve been trying for eight years.
Unable to break through that wall, the Daugaard administration received a federal waiver for South Dakota from the Obama administration this summer.
The state Board of Education holds a public hearing Aug. 23 on new rules for school accountability that would fulfill the requirements of that waiver and replace the NCLB system in South Dakota.
Eighty-seven pages of rules that were created for NCLB would be repealed. The proposed system would dilute the scoring impact of standardized tests. But the tests, which the formed the core of NCLB, will still be there.
As we prepare for this change, we have to consider what good NCLB did for South Dakota.
NCLB certainly helped change the dialogue about K-12 education. We look at our children, and our teachers, and our families, and our schools, in different ways now.
We have statewide standards for basic education. We have statewide testing. Those components allow us to discuss and analyze results in ways that have deeper meaning.
NCLB was demonized from the start by many teachers and administrators and school board members. They argued against measurement of performance using consistent standards and methods within a state.
Now our state government has demonized NCLB, too. South Dakota can’t reach the inescapable, and perhaps impossible, intent that no child be left behind.
The waiver probably is a good thing, however.
Results from the 2009 standardized tests showed 24 percent of students below the proficient level in math, and 23 percent below proficient in reading. The 2010 results were 23 percent below in each of math and reading. 2011 saw no change.
So the time has arrived to try some different things.
Under the proposed rules, at the pre-secondary level for 2013-2014, there would be two criteria for judging a school’s performance: Student achievement, 80 points, and school attendance, 20 points.
For 2014-2015 the pre-secondary criteria would spread wider: Student achievement, 25 points; school attendance, 20 points; academic growth, 25 points; effective teachers and principals, 20 points; and school climate, 10 points.
At the secondary level, for 2013-2014 there would be three criteria: Student achievement, 50 points; high school completion, 25 points; and college and career readiness, 25 points.
High school completion would be determined one-half by high school completion and one-half by graduation rate.
College and career readiness would be based solely on ACT participation and results. One-half of the readiness score would be based on percentage of students who take the ACT.
The rest of the readiness score would be based on performance. One-quarter of the score would reflect percentage of students whose ACT math score is 20 or above. One-quarter of the score would reflect percentage of students whose ACT English score is 18 or above.
For 2014-2015 at the secondary level there would be more criteria: Student achievement, 25 points; high school completion, 25 points; college and career readiness, 20 points; effective teachers and principals, 20 points; and school climate, 10 points.
The standardized tests that have been used for NCLB would remain. Student achievement would consider math and reading scores equally.
Under the new system, the goal would be to reduce, rather than eliminate, the percentage of students scoring at basic or below-basic in math and reading. The goal would be to reduce the percentage of under-performers by one-half over the course of six years. The school would be expected to achieve an annual goal of accomplishing one-sixth of the reduction goal.
The performance ratings for effective principals and teachers would be based on the minimum professional performance standards established by the state Board of Education.
Those aren’t specifically defined in the proposed rules. Instead there is this statement that promises there will be definitions some day:
“Performance ratings shall include multiple measures approved by the Board of Education”
For school climate the proposed definition says the department “shall assess the major aspects of school life such as, but not limited to, safety, relationships, teaching and learning, and a healthy environment that are associated with academic achievement and that can positively impact student learning.”
Yes, those are loose. But they reflect the change in what we consider important for our schools. They result directly from NCLB.
Last winter the Legislature gave the state Department of Education the authority to make changes to accomplish the waiver. The law had to pass before the Legislature adjourned for the year at the end of March and therefore needed to be loose.
Final approval didn’t come from the Obama administration until this summer.
The 2013-2014 school year was to be the deadline for public schools throughout South Dakota and throughout our nation to meet NCLB’s goal.
Now it’s instead described as a transition year for South Dakota.
Let’s pretend that, by the end of this decade, we reach the six-year target of cutting in half the percentage of students who aren’t proficient or advanced.
The good news is we would have moved off dead center. But we would still have more than 10 percent of our children left behind.
How many is good enough? Seems it’s time we all get aboard.