If accountability is good for schools, it's also good for the
Department of Education itself, or so says a draft strategic plan put
together by the agency.
Department leaders have talked a lot about urging schools to focus on helping all students learn—the big emphasis in the new federal education act. Now, they may expect results from their own employees in making the law work.
"The No Child Left Behind Act serves as a mandate for the transformation of the Department of Education," the Jan. 14 draft says. "Department employees will be held accountable for the implementation and success of this plan, from top to bottom."
Senior officers at the department will be placed on "performance contracts" and rewarded if they achieve results.
The strategic plan lays out a vision and goals for the agency. The foundation of that vision, the draft says, is to change the culture of the U.S. education system "from a culture of compliance and susceptibility to instructional fads to a culture of achievement, professionalism, and educational excellence."
The draft includes an array of performance measures, with specific targets between now and 2007. It calls for annual hikes in the number of states in full compliance with Title I accountability standards, and biennial growth in the percentage of students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds deemed proficient on standardized tests.
In addition, the draft sets a precise target for reducing violent crime in schools by 2007. Such crimes should fall by 36,800 for students ages 12 through 18, the draft says.
The plan also portends a get-tough attitude about dispensing federal aid.
"For a long time, schools, districts, and states assumed that it did not matter whether or not they produced results; the money from Washington would keep flowing," the draft says. "If that assumption has not yet changed, it will soon."
—Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 21, Issue 20, Page 23