To the Editor:
U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House education committee, has joined the growing list of politicians who have come forward to demand revisions to the federal No Child Left Behind Act (“Miller Outlines Proposed Changes for NCLB,” www.edweek.org, July 30, 2007).
One of Mr. Miller’s key arguments is that the accountability required under NCLB comes at the cost of fairness. While schools get credit for their number of students meeting cut scores, they get little to no credit for progress students make over time. Mr. Miller’s bill calls for a shift from the current practice of comparing cohorts from subsequent years to using growth models that track individual student data. He also proposes that in addition to test scores, multiple measures of accountability, such as graduation rates, be taken under consideration.
Mr. Miller’s comments echo what has long been argued by educators across the country. While it is laudable that he has joined the bandwagon, it is surprising that the inequity of accountability under NCLB is still being debated. For the amounts of time, energy, and money that have been spent researching this issue, a more equitable solution should have long since been proposed and adopted.
Mr. Miller’s recommendation for multiple measures of determining whether a school is meeting adequate yearly progress will certainly be met with concurrence from both sides. It is, however, puzzling that he cited graduation rates as one such alternative. Given the many inconsistencies in how graduation rates are calculated, their reliability as a performance measure is severely undermined. One wonders why he did not mention measures such as classroom-based information or school-quality reviews instead.
If Mr. Miller is correct in saying that the NCLB law will not be reauthorized without significant revisions, perhaps many educators will be returning to work this fall with a new spring in their steps.
A version of this article appeared in the August 15, 2007 edition of Education Week