Feds consider change in how school progress is measured
Associated Press
Jul. 8, 2005


WASHINGTON - Education Secretary Margaret Spellings showed growing support Friday for letting states change how they score student progress, a potentially major policy shift.

Under the No Child Left Behind law, schools are gauged based on how their current students perform compared with last year's students on math and reading tests.

State leaders say that system does not account for yearly changes in the student population and does not credit students who make big gains but fall short of school goals.

Spellings, addressing a gathering of the American Federation of Teachers, gave her strongest indication yet that she may embrace a "growth model" - that is, one that measures the academic growth of individual students as they move among grades.

Some states are experimenting with such an idea, but a federal policy on the topic could trigger a broad shift in how progress is measured nationwide. Spellings has appointed a group to study a growth model, and she told AFT members she is committed to working on it.

"We need to have an understanding of what we mean by that, and what the necessary conditions are," Spellings told reporters after her comments to the AFT. "And then, I'm hopeful that netting out of that conversation will be a way to allow people to get credit for the progress they've made. And I believe in that as a policy matter."

Asked whether such a change is likely to happen, she said: "I'm not going to handicap that yet, I don't know. I just put the people to work."

The issue is significant because schools that receive federal poverty aid but don't make "adequate yearly progress" for at least two straight years face mounting penalties.

The AFT says the current federal measure of progress doesn't measure progress at all.

Spellings said there will be no change in the requirement that states give math and reading tests to students in grades three to eight yearly, and at least once in high school. Such testing, she said, must be the cornerstone of any effort to chart student progress.

The federal education law sets the unprecedented goal of ensuring all children are proficient in reading and math by 2013-14. States decide exactly what proficient means.