July 30, 2007

George Miller press conference

I'm listening right now to California Rep. George Miller's press conference previewing his NCLB reauthorization bill. My first impression is that he's overpromising. (He's also talking too quickly, but his audience is a group of reporters, and the faster he talks, the more questions they can ask.)

Here come the questions, reported here as topics and answers.

  1. Timing on the bill in the House: Miller waffles while saying the goal for passage out of the House is still September.
  2. Who would decide what a "better test" is: Miller says he is responding to claims that state tests are of poor quality and acknowledges the need for funding for such tests. He says that the bill isprovision for K-12-university-business partnerships to create tests that assess "college-ready" or "work-ready" skills and knowledge. In other words, he didn't respond to the question, other than saying he wasn't for national standards/tests.
  3. Other measures' relationships to AYP and growth: Miller talks about a college-prep curriculum, etc.  In response to a follow-up to the waffling, Miller says schools would still have to perform well on reading and math tests, and adding other measures is "not an escape hatch."
  4. Is the bill bipartisan: Miller says yes.
  5. Performance pay and test scores: Miller says some portion "has to be tied to student achievement," and he refers to "a growth model." "We would honor... collective bargaining agreements [and would not] upset those." He says he understands the reservations given the history of merit pay as an "arbitrary system of rewarding friends." He then talks about needing to creating careers for teachers that look like other careers where teachers can be rewarded for their efforts, time, etc.
  6. Choice options: Miller says it's under discussion, not resolved, about supplemental education services and public-school choice. He acknowledges the difficult of providing choice in "jammed" districts and says the bill will reverse the order of interventions. He says he is concerned with the lack of accountability for supplemental education services.
  7. English language learners and testing: He implies that tools exist for assessing the skills of English language learners, including tests in other languages (and he notes that other countries somehow have assessment in non-English languages, because most of them don't have English as the official language). Miller mentions the "p" word (portfolios). Wow.
  8. Administration response: Miller discusses ongoing discussions with US DOE and "talks nice" about his relationship with Secretary Spellings.
  9. Spending issues: Miller says he doesn't know what additional spending is required by the bill. (WHAT???) He then talks variously about "strategic investments," the lag in spending after the first year or two of NCLB, assistance to students who move, formative testing, and then blathers a bit about the need for data systems. "There's no point in going to a growth model if you don't know where your students have been." Then he mentions supplemental appropriations for education, I think gratuitously.
  10. Portfolios? George Miller says he knows that's a minefield and will have to get back to the reporter. (Okay, it only took three questions for someone to follow up.)
  11. If additional data is not "an escape hatch" on accountability, doesn't that just add more ways for schools to fail? Miller says no... and doesn't say anything substantive. He acknowledges such as system is "not easily constructed." In response to an inaudible foll0w-up, Miller says a student would have to be close on reading or math, and the system would have to be (nonspecifically) complementary.
  12. Is bipartisanship still possible? Miller says "This bill will test that." He then waxes optimistic. Laugh line: "There are no short answers from me. I'm the Joe Biden of education."
  13. Rural districts and flexibility: Miller waffles for a few minutes.
  14. Adding assessments: Miller says that's a state decision. (I don't understand the context for this answer.) Miller then starts talking about teaching to the test (finally!). Miller acknowledges that but claims schools have been successful on the narrow measures without narrowing the test. Miller says "more time on task" in reading and math isn't all that education should be, but then repeats Riley's "learn to read, then read to learn" adage.
  15. Specialized support services for health (nurses, psychologists): No.

Later today there's supposed to be a written summary of bill provisions on Miller's website (or maybe the committee website).

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on July 30, 2007 10:58 AM |