Opinion
School & District Management Opinion

Thank NCLB I for the (Interrupted?) Birth of Practical Evaluation

September 20, 2007 2 min read

Pittsburgh’s decision to hire for-profit research firm Mathematica Policy Research Inc. to evaluate the efficacy of Harcourt’s Everyday Math in the city’s public schools is happening for one reason. Program results matter. The reason they matter is the present No Child Left Behind Act’s requirement that schools make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) towards 100% student proficiency in key subjects by 2014 or their students will be offered a range of help – and, more important, the adults in those schools will face a series of unpleasant consequences. NCLB I established a quantifiable “duty of care” for educators. Those educators, reinforced by NCLB’s requirement that federal funds be used only to purchase education programs grounded in Scientifically Based Research (SBR) (programs with positive evidence based on rigorous evaluation) are pushing an increasing amount of responsibility on providers to support that duty.

The Pittsburgh study shows districts are willing to do some of this evaluation themselves. The less than stellar outcomes of most of the growing number of efficacy studies from the What Work’s Clearinghouse suggests that providers will need to start doing or sponsoring some themselves.

Brian Gill, who will manage the Everyday Math study, is the RAND Pittsburgh office researcher who led important evaluations on Edison – sponsored by that firm, the role of EMOs in Philadelphia – sponsored by outsiders for the school system, and on the state of Pittsburgh’s reform plans, including the effect of contractors America’s Choice and Kaplan.

Gill’s move from nonprofit RAND to for-profit Mathematica may be a sign that the private sector sees a growing market for education evaluations tied directly to the operational decisions of school districts. Something similar is occurring as the Parthenon Group’s public education team turns management consulting to school districts from a localized, ad hoc, pro-bono, “social-sciency” kind of activity into a line of business nationally.

I don’t think these markets will disappear under NCLB II, but at the reauthorization’s current course and speed, their growth will be arrested. Make it easy to make AYP - the direction Congress is surely heading, make SBR implementation even less important than it has been under Education Secretary’s Paige and Spellings, and both schools and providers will not be so pressed to prove what works, or to organize in ways that maximize the prospects for success and drive more resources to the classroom.

As an aside:
The fact is that AYP and SBR as currently defined in the law constitute “stretch goals.” There is no way every school or provider will ever meet them. So what? Every firm won’t avoid losses that drive it out of business. Every kid won’t get into Harvard. Everyone won’t end up happy in their life. None the less, profitability, competitive admissions,
and the pursuit of happiness are understood to be important benchmarks for society as a whole - as hard as individual failure may be, society benefits from the overall advance they compel. And as was pointed out at the start of this posting the consequences of school failure are not hard on students - they get help when schools cant meet the duty of care; its the adults that feel the pain. I just have a hard time feeling terrible about this, although I sure understand why the affected adults want to gut NCLB I.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in edbizbuzz are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

[2021-2022] Founding Middle School Academic Dean
New York, NY, US
DREAM Charter School
Hiring Bilingual and Special Education Teachers NOW!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
DevOps Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Business Analyst - 12 Month Contract
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

School & District Management The Key to School-Based COVID-19 Testing: Cooperation of Parents and Communities
As schools launch broad testing to track cases of COVID-19, the success of their efforts relies on addressing the concerns of all concerned.
7 min read
Katie Ramirez, left, watches as her mother, Claudia Campos, swabs the mouth of her sister, Hailey, for a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Los Angeles on Dec. 9, 2020.
Katie Ramirez, left, watches as her mother, Claudia Campos, swabs the mouth of her sister, Hailey, for a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Los Angeles.
Jae C. Hong/AP
School & District Management Interactive A Year of COVID-19: What It Looked Like for Schools
This timeline offers a look at how a full year of living and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.
Education Week Staff
13 min read
Elementary 1 teacher Melissa Vozar sits outside of Suder Elementary in Chicago to teach a virtual class on Jan. 11, 2021. The Chicago Teachers Union said that its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom before they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, setting up a showdown with district officials who have said such a move would amount to an illegal strike.
Elementary 1 teacher Melissa Vozar sits outside of Suder Elementary in Chicago to teach a virtual class on Jan. 11, 2021. The Chicago Teachers Union said that its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom before they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, setting up a showdown with district officials who have said such a move would amount to an illegal strike.
Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP
School & District Management Most Principals, District Leaders Predict Their Schools Will Be Fully In-Person This Fall
EdWeek Research Center surveys track the growing trend to get more students back in school buildings as soon as possible.
5 min read
Assistant Principal Janette Van Gelderen, left, welcomes students at Newhall Elementary in Santa Clarita, Calif on Feb. 25, 2021. California's public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state Legislature if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March, according to a new agreement announced Monday, March 1, 2021, between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state's legislative leaders.
Assistant Principal Janette Van Gelderen, left, welcomes students at Newhall Elementary in Santa Clarita, Calif., last month. California's public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
School & District Management Opinion Will the Hybrid School Concept Continue After COVID-19?
In an effort to move from triage to transformation, schools should look at how they continue the hybrid model after the COVID-19 vaccine.
7 min read
Hybrid FCG
Shutterstock