Rewritten No Child Left Behind law will lessen emphasis on testing

Dec 10, 2015 by

Pennsylvania schools are still developing an understanding of what will — and won’t — change with the approval of legislation rewriting the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Local education officials and stakeholders agree: More localized control of standards and enforcement could pave the way for a more comprehensive, holistic look at student achievement with a minimized emphasis on testing.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation after it was approved Wednesday in the Senate in an 85-12 vote.

The bill would limit the role of the federal government in determining measures of student achievement. Instead, states and school districts can develop their own assessments for school and teacher performance, as well as intervention processes for struggling schools.

John Callahan, assistant executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said the Pennsylvania Department of Education has already begun to implement some of the provisions seen in this “next generation of the bill.”

“This is a huge bill,” he said Wednesday. “There’s a lot already that we do. But the bill acknowledges that there are other ways to measure school district and student success in the classroom than by testing.”

The legislation comes as the state looks to revamp its primary measurement of school evaluation — School Performance Profile scores. The SPP scores, which grade individual schools on a scale of 107, are largely based on student performance on standardized tests. State education officials want to add increased consideration of factors other than test scores, including graduation rates, school safety, participation in Advanced Placement courses and attendance.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, as the rewritten federal law has been dubbed, states are still required to intervene in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, high schools with high dropout rates and schools with persistent achievement gaps.

Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director for teaching and learning at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, said school districts have had to take a “cookie-cutter approach” to interventions in low-performing schools under No Child Left Behind.

“It is some of the same schools who are identified as low-achievement and intervention schools every year,” she said.

“Yet the communities are very different, resources are very different, but we keep saying that you have to do the same thing for each. What I’m hoping is that this will allow those community assets and resources to really direct what does student improvement look like in this particular school.”

Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools, an education advocacy group, said the law would also increase the necessity for continuous community monitoring of “opportunity and achievement gaps” in schools.

“There’s an opportunity here, and there’s a risk as well, for the power that states have and the freedom to create interventions to be tailored toward a local community,” A+ Schools spokesman James Fogarty said. “There’s also the risk that those plans won’t actually move the dial for children if not properly implemented.”

Source: Rewritten No Child Left Behind law will lessen emphasis on testing | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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