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Federal Government Exploring Individual Student Growth Under NCLB

By Lynn Olson — June 30, 2005 3 min read

The U.S. Department of Education is exploring different options for measuring progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, based on how much growth individual students make over time, according to attendees of the first meeting of a working group on growth models held in Washington June 22. “My sense was that they are very serious about it, and they’re looking at a range of options,” said Jim Mahoney, the executive director of Battelle for Kids, a nonprofit group based in Columbus, Ohio, that is working with some 115 districts in that state to track the headway that individual students make from year to year.

Mr. Mahoney was one of 14 people—representing a mix of researchers, state and local officials, nonprofit organizations, and interest groups—who were invited to the first of a series of meetings sponsored by the Education Department on using so-called growth models under the federal law.

Several states, including Florida and Tennessee, have already submitted proposals to the department that would enable schools that miss their achievement targets under the NCLB law to demonstrate that they are still making substantial progress by using such growth measures.

“We had states this year who asked for growth models,” said Holly Kuzmich, a senior policy adviser in the federal Education Department. “We put them on hold and said wait until we’ve finished the working group.”

It is already too late for states to incorporate the use of growth models into their calculations this summer showing whether schools have made adequate progress under the federal law. But many states are hoping the department will release some guidelines or criteria in the next few months that would enable them to use such measures for next year’s accountability determinations.

“We don’t really have a timeline,” said Ms. Kuzmich. “Obviously, we want to work on this as quickly as possible and get an answer to the secretary as quickly as possible, but we need to gather all the right information.”

Future Meetings Planned

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings indicated in April that she might be willing to consider the use of accountability models based on growth. But she said that she would first form a working group to advise her on the issue.

In addition to Mr. Mahoney, those invited to last week’s meeting were: PatriciaBrenneman, the superintendent of the Oak Hills, Ohio, school district; Michael D. Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of Great City Schools; Mitchell Chester, an assistant superintendent in the Ohio education department; Chrys Dougherty, the director of research for the National Center for Educational Accountability in Austin, Texas; Lou Fabrizio, the director of accountability for the North Carolina education department; Brian Gong, the executive director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment in Dover, N.H.; Eric Hanushek, a professor of education at Stanford University; Kati Haycock, the director of the Washington-based Education Trust; Ted Hershberg, a professor of public policy and history at the University of Pennsylvania; Tom Houlihan, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers; Lana Seivers, the commissioner of education in Tennessee; Richard Wenning, the accountability program director for the Denver-based Colorado League of Charter Schools; and John L. Winn, the commissioner of education in Florida.

Ms. Kuzmich said the Education Department plans to convene a series of meetings with other interested groups. “Next time,” she said, “we’ll bring in some special educators because that group is interested in growth.”

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