February 14, 2007

The "tough love" talk begins on Aspen Commission

The spin has begun, with Diane Schemo's NYT article Tougher Standards Urged for Federal Education Law, Leo Casey's pointing out that growth models can't accurately measure teacher contributions to student achievement,  Michele McLaughlin's identifying problems with the commission's way of framing teacher effectiveness, Andy Rotherham's saying it has plenty of small actionable ideas, and Kevin Carey applauding it for pushing the idea of changing the way teacher quality is defined.

Those of us peons who didn't get access to the report until yesterday's release and who have day jobs (though I started my drive down to the Sarasota-Manatee campus at 6:20 to get here in time for a search committee meeting) will have to digest it in chunks. At least my prediction of a recommendation to include growth models came true, but that wasn't much of a risk. Here are the themes I've identified in the report:

  1. Not enough: That phrase or variants of it pop up repeatedly, with the implication that while NCLB had great goals, neither all of the framework nor the implementation was great.
  2. Effective: This is the most obvious theme that is targeted within a specific area (effective teachers and principals).
  3. Knowledge and tools: I've only spotted this phrase once as a unit, but the idea is sprinkled throughout, especially with the explicit push for formative assessment.

What's missing?

  • Any way of addressing teaching to the test, test preparation, and other unintended consequences. The introduction briefly discusses concerns on p. 19 and then quickly dismisses them with a straw-man argument about rumors (on the bottom of p. 19) and displacing the responsibility away from NCLB and accountability policies in general. The failure to address these unintended consequences is a huge missed opportunity for the Aspen Commission to gain "classroom cred" on the realities of high-stakes accountability.
  • A discussion of the set-aside requirements for schools identified as "needs improvement." In at least one set of recommendation (on tutoring), the commission's recommendations would actively make the problem worse, forcing school districts to waste the funding held in the set-aside through an entire year.

I'll have plenty to say about this report as I chug through it. 

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on February 14, 2007 8:43 AM |