Opinion
School & District Management Opinion

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

September 20, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Teaching Live Online Discussion Seat at the Table: How Can We Help Students Feel Connected to School?
Get strategies for your struggles with student engagement. Bring questions for our expert panel. Help students recover the joy of learning.
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
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management School Districts Showcase What's Working to Improve Student Learning
School leaders from 13 districts shared strategies at a national summit by AASA, the School Superintendents Association.
3 min read
David Schuler, superintendent of High School District 214 near Chicago, Ill., speaks about college and career readiness during a presentation at AASA's first annual Learning 2025 Summit on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Washington, D.C. High School District 214 is one of 13 "lighthouse" districts that were recognized for innovative work to improve school systems.
David Schuler, superintendent of High School District 214 near Chicago, speaks about college and career readiness at a summit in Washington.
Libby Stanford/Education Week
School & District Management Schools Prefer Cheaper Ventilation Options to Curb COVID: Why They Should Consider Upgrading
Most schools are opening windows and hosting class outdoors rather than investing in costlier, more-effective measures.
2 min read
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities, during an after-school outdoor program held in the High Line park in New York, NY, October 21, 2020.
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities during an after-school outdoor program in New York City in 2020. Many schools are opting for outdoor classes and other-low cost measures to maintain healthy air quality during the pandemic.
Anthony Behar/Sipa via AP Images
School & District Management Interactive Hour by Busy Hour: What a Principal's Day Actually Looks Like
From the time they wake up until they set the alarm at night, school leaders juggle the routine, the unexpected, and the downright bizarre.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
From left, Steve Ruark and Lisa Krantz for Education Week
School & District Management Photos What School Leadership Looks Like: A Day in the Life of a Principal
A look at a typical day for one elementary school principal in Texas and a high school principal in Maryland.
1 min read
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Steve Ruark for Education Week