Senior House Republicans and Democrats recently announced a new bi-partisan effort to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It’s a good sign for some real progress, both for education specifically and Washington in general, but there’s been no word on whether the Senate is so inclined. The “proposals” put forward so far by the Department of Education and at yesterday’s announcement are light on details, so this post is my attempt at rectifying some of the major issues around No Child Left Behind.
No More Pass/ Fail
One of the more frequent criticisms of the law concerns its binary pass/ fail system. If a school fails to meet a single academic benchmarks in a single grade in a single subject by a single sub-group of students, it is said to not meet “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP. If it does not meet AYP for multiple years in a row, the school is subject to a series of consequences that become more punitive the more years it misses targets.
The strengths of this arrangement came from protecting under-served populations. Because a school would be held accountable for all groups of students, it focused much more attention on achievement gaps and did not let a school hide its problems educating important sub-groups behind school-wide averages.