I’ve already discussed (here and here) two closely related ways some poorly performing schools in Kentucky got their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability slates wiped clean without ever meeting required academic targets. Those “slate wipes” were related to changes in the students attending the schools.
It turns out that there is a third way schools have gotten their NCLB slates wiped clean. I don’t think this one happens very often, but it does happen.
The example school for this NCLB “Get Out of Jail Free Card” is the Knox Central High School in Knox County. Knox Central’s avoidance of NCLB consequences is due to the school moving in and out of the category of “Title I School,” which refers to whether or not the school got enough federal support money each year to be held subject to the federal NCLB law.
The first table below comes from Knox Central’s 2006 Adequate Yearly Progress report. First, note that this school consistently failed to make the annual proficiency target for reading since the beginning of NCLB (Scores were not tabulated for the first, baseline year of 2001-02).
If Knox Central had been a Title I school, it would have entered NCLB Tier 1 status after the 2003-04 school term and would have been so classified for the 2004-05 school year in the right section of the table. Then, by the 2006-07 school year, Knox Central would have been in Tier 3 Status.
But, Knox Central wasn’t a Title I school until the 2005-06 school term, by which time it had amassed a record of failure for math as well as reading. Because the school was now in Title 1 status, it became an NCLB Tier 1 school for the first time after the 2005-06 term results were released and was carried in that classification in the 2006-07 term.
Now, look at the latest NCLB report for Knox Central for 2009.
Next, note that the year after Knox Central entered NCLB Tier 1 status for the first time, that it again was not carried as a Title I school. That wiped out its NCLB Tier slate completely for the 2007-08 term.
Next, note that the school moved back into Title I status for the 2008-09 school term. Because of its long-standing failure in math, it was at once renamed an NCLB Tier school, but only as a Tier 1 school. Then, for this current school term, due to continued failure in math, Knox Central moved up to Tier 2 status.
But, if Knox Central had not cycled in and out of Title I status, its string of consistent failures to make proficiency rate targets in math would make it a Tier 5 school for the 2009-2010 term.
This helps highlight the problem with the NCLB “Get Out of Jail Free Cards” I’ve been discussing. These policy actions can erase a school’s accountability history under NCLB in a number of ways even though the schools have not demonstrated acceptable academic progress.
The “Get Out of Jail Free” cards also work to deny students important benefits such as the right to transfer to better schools and the right to receive supplemental education services like extra tutoring.
As far as I can tell, the “Get Out of NCLB Jail Free Card” schools get to start the accountability process all over again. It seems that these schools could enjoy as much as five more years before they can again be identified by NCLB as a lowest-performing, Tier 5 school. That just isn’t acceptable.
Overall, it looks like 21 schools used one of the NCLB “Get Out of Jail Free Card” Trifectas to have their entire NCLB accountability reset for the 2009-2010 school term. Six of those schools that got this procedural “slate wipe” were in NCLB Tier 5 status last year, the very worst performance category. If the Kentucky Department of Education had kept its long repeated promise to look at Alternative Governance in those schools, the staff in these schools would have faced some consequences. Instead, it looks like the school staff are getting a free ride, perhaps for as long as five or six more years. We need to fix that.
I will have some ideas on how we can better monitor the “Get Out of Jail Free” schools, and I’d love to hear your ideas, too. Our comments feature in this blog is very easy to use, and you can do it anonymously.
What do you think about schools getting out of all NCLB accountability based on non-academic technicalities? Should their NCLB status be completely reset to non-Tier status? Should they be allowed to work up from Tier 1 to Tier 2, Tier 3 and so forth all over again if they fail NCLB again next year? Should a school be allowed to stop supplemental services to students just because the district makes some zoning changes, even though the staff in that school isn’t changed? What do you think?