One of the great strengths of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) school accountability program over our old CATS assessments is the focus on not leaving any subgroup of students behind. While CATS never had any penalties for a school that failed with say, its African-Americans or its kids in poverty, NCLB does. Furthermore, we get separate, easy to understand data on those subgroups in the NCLB reports.
Thus, the NCLB performance reports for 2009 make it easy to see the lagging performance of Kentucky schools with major student subgroups.
This table includes data taken from both the Kentucky Department of Education’s 2008 and 2009 NCLB Briefing Packets.
The table shows how many schools failed to make their NCLB goals with African-Americans, poor students in the federal free and reduced cost lunch program, and students with learning disabilities for both years.
I used data in the table to compute the rapid rises in failing schools, as shown in this graph. Across the board, there was no improvement for either of these student subgroups in either reading or math.
Clearly, the under-performance of schools with these populations is not acceptable, and neither is the weak excuse from the Kentucky Department of Education that the rises are due to the NCLB targets moving somewhat higher in 2009. Let’s talk about that excuse.
First of all, you have to consider that KERA is nearly 20 years old. We didn’t start this reform yesterday. We didn’t even start back in 2002 when NCLB got started. We’ve been trying to make education work better for our kids for nearly two decades.
Next, let’s really look at those target proficiency rates, which did increase a bit this year. Well, the real targets look pretty unimpressive once you consider all the Kentucky NCLB loopholes that shoot holes through the nominal numbers we are told schools had to meet. Some of those NCLB loopholes include:
Thanks to all the loopholes, we see things like Ballard High School in Louisville “passing” the NCLB math test for its poor kids even though their actual proficiency rate in 2009 was only 37.5 percent – that’s all! We see Bardstown High getting credit for success with its African-American students in math even though the percentage of proficiency was just 33.33 percent. Imagine that, 20 years after KERA started, and Bardstown is officially doing just fine despite the fact that only one in three of its African-Americans can do an acceptable job in math.
And, thanks to the new “Get Out of Jail Free Cards,” we see Hazelwood Elementary School in Jefferson County get its NCLB Tier 5 failing status summarily wiped away without any apparent change in the school’s leadership, and despite the fact that the school promptly failed again with its new students. Those kids just lost their right to transfers out of this school along with important supplemental tutoring services, but it looks like not much really changed in the school.
(Note: find these schools’ individual “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS REPORT – 2009”, with the Web access tool here).
Hey, Kentucky! After almost 20 years of education reform, is that the kind of performance you think should be passing muster? We don’t need more of the same old, same old tiresome excuses. We don’t need more warmed over versions of tried and failed reform attempts.
We need to come to grips with the idea that some of our schools really need a stem to stern reworking including a major staff overhaul. One way we could make that happen is with charter schools, and the new NCLB results make it clear we are well past the point where we should have already made that decision.