Eight States Advance in Bid to Use NCLB ‘Growth Models’

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Eight states have made the first cut to qualify for a pilot program that would let them use so-called growth models to judge whether schools and districts meet their performance targets under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The states, chosen from 20 that applied for the pilot program, are Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, and Tennessee. The U.S. Department of Education announced the names of the states on its Web site at noon on March 31, and said it planned to post the states’ growth-model proposals later in the day.

The program, which was unveiled by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings last November, is designed to test whether an accountability system based on the academic growth students show from year to year would be as fair and reliable as the current system.

Under the current system, to make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, schools and districts must meet annual targets for the percent of students who score at least at the proficient level on state tests, both for the student population as a whole and for subgroups of students who are poor, speak limited English, have disabilities, or come from racial or ethnic minorities. With growth models, schools and districts could get credit for students who make progress over the course of the year, but who have not yet reached the proficient level.

Ms. Spellings had originally said up to 10 states would be selected for the pilot program. Twenty states met the Feb. 17 deadline to apply to the program, and federal education officials reviewed those proposals with an eye to seeing whether they adhered to seven key criteria for participating in the pilot. On its Web site this week, the department did not indicate why just eight states were chosen to move to the next level in the selection process.

The eight state proposals that made it through the first cut now go to a peer-review panel made up of testing experts, state education leaders, civil rights advocates, and representatives of national education groups. That panel’s recommendations for final acceptance into the pilot program are due to Ms. Spellings in May, according to the department.

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