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Report Calls for Expansion of NCLB Subjects



A new report released by the RAND Corporation calls for an expansion of the criteria used to determine compliance with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Then-President George W. Bush signs the No Child Left Behind legislation into law in 2001.

RAND, a non-profit analysis group, said expanding measures of school performance beyond mathematics and English language arts will give educators better information when evaluating the academic achievements of schools.

“Schools have a variety of performance measurement tools at their disposal, and they should use them,” said Heather Schwartz, the report’s lead author and an associate policy researcher at RAND. “A federal mandate for states to broaden their measures of schooling may give teachers and principals more information to better evaluate their own schools and their students’ performance.”

When it was authorized by Congress in 2001, the NCLB Act established a system of school accountability based primarily on student performance on tests of math and language arts. The legislation has been criticized by educators because it prioritized these two subjects at the expense of other important goals. Researchers find that an expanded set of measures allows for more accurate assessment of school outcomes that are widely valued, but often overlooked because of the current focus solely on math and language arts.

“Expanding the way educators measure a school’s performance could have tremendous benefits,” Schwarz said. “But there are trade-offs to consider. For example, the balance between breadth (representing more of the outcomes that matter) and focus (highlighting a few key areas where educators should concentrate their efforts.)”

The study also finds that many states already measure student achievement beyond what is required in the NCLB Act, including test performance in additional subjects and growth in student performance over time.

In conducting the study, researchers with RAND convened a panel of experts on school accountability policies, reviewed published research, conducted interviews with educators and reviewed the measures employed in each state that publishes its own school ratings in addition to those required under NCLB.

Researchers found 20 states that published ratings of schools in 2008-2009 or 2009-2010 based on an expanded set of measures going beyond those required for NCLB.

The study also identified three other types of measures that are becoming more common—indicators of a safe and supportive school environment, indicators of risk for students not graduating on time and results of interim academic assessments.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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