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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

NCLB vs. Texas Accountability

Here is a comparison between NCLB and Accountability in Texas that I thought readers might find helpful. I want to thank Monty Neill of FairTest for helping me to construct this. -Angela

o NCLB requires testing in grades 3-8 and again at the exit level (mostly at grade 10 but also at 11th grade [as in Texas]). In terms of school and district reputation as well as the possibility of a change in the school/district governance structure, NCLB makes all schools and districts high stakes in the nation. The latitude exists with high stakes at the student level. (Note: NCLB mandates that science will be added at a later point-once in elementary; once in jr. high.)

o TEXAS Beginning in the 2002-2003 school year, TAKS is administered in grades 3-9.
o TAKS reading, grades 3-9;
o TAKS writing at Grades 4 and 7;
o TAKS English Language Arts at Grades 10 and 11;
o TAKS mathematics at Grades 3-11;
o TAKS science at Grades 5,10, and 11;
o TAKS social studies at Grades 8, 10, and 11.
o Spanish TAKS is administered at Grades 3 through 6 (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/assessment.html)

o NCLB doesn't demand high stakes for the students (i.e., in terms of grade retention/promotion or graduation from HS) but leaves this up to the states to demand this if they so desire. States that do this may have either no stakes attached to social promotion or graduation or they may have them attached to either or both.

o TEXAS attaches high stakes to both social promotion (i.e., retention or promotion) and graduation (see the specifics of the law below in the section titled “Texas Administrative Code.”)

Incidentally, there are about 20 or 21 states like Texas that attach high stakes to graduation. This number will go up by at least two or three more states in the next couple of years to include California, Utah, and Arizona. With California in the mix, this total will result in close to 70% of the country's students being faced with high-stakes assessment. States that do not do this include Midwestern and Rocky Mountain States, as well as smaller or sparsely populated ones.

Re: high stakes attached to promotion/retention, there are 7 (maybe 8 states if you count Wisconsin where it's at district option). These states are Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, and Missouri).

o NCLB allows the high-stakes test (at the school & district level) to be a norm-referenced test (NRT like Stanford or the Iowa Test of Basic Skills) provided that the test adequately covers the state standards and also that levels of achievement are used-i.e., “lacks proficiency,” “proficient,” “advanced.”

o TEXAS the high-stakes test in Texas is NOT a NRT, but criterion referenced test which theoretically means that 1) the items on the test match state standards and 2) that conceivably, every child could pass the test if they've mastered the curriculum. It dicey from here though because inappropriate test use sets in again. Specifically, Texas' criterion reference test is used like an NRT whenever Texas sets a norm, or passing standard or cutoff score (at 70 currently). This is an arbitrary cutoff point that reflects politics more than sound testing. Although all districts in Texas are required by law to administer an NRT (most typically Stanford), the high-stakes are based not on this but on the TAKS test for both state and federal reporting.

o NCLB testing is high stakes for schools & districts in the most general sense of school & district reputation, as well as in the sense of giving students the chances of going to another school of their choice if the school is low performing. This child may transfer IF the school is a public school; IF the school is in the same dist; IF the receiving schools is making “adequate yearly progress” (AYP); and IF there's space in the receiving school. All of this is at district expense with the district covering transportation costs.

This last issue of space for transfers is murky. The law says that if there is an issue of space, low-achieving students get 1st priority followed by their higher-achieving counterparts and so on. (None of this is monitored.) There are various published reports about higher-achieving students from more educated families being the prime beneficiaries, of this law. Anecdotally, there are also reports of schools creaming higher-scoring students. The overwhelming reality of all of this, however, is that not many students transfer schools to begin with.

TEXAS abides by federal law.

o NCLB allows for the use of multiple measures for evaluating students.

o TEXAS does not allow multiple measures at the exit (11th grade) level; it allows multiple measures at the levels affected by social promotion (grades 3, 5, and soon 8), but only after the student has failed the test 3 times (so this means a decision would be rendered mid summer in July but only after the kid has been labeled a failure three times).

Some of you are aware that State Rep. Dora Olivo has tried to change this with bills that say that multiple criteria should kick in after the FIRST failure for students in grades 3, 5, and 8.

o NCLB requires that if a school or district is low performing for four years (I believe), the governance structure of the school or district must change. What happens to the district sounds draconian and is unclear in the law. What will the feds do? Reconstitute school boards and hire CEOs to run districts? I need to inquire further about this aspect. Consequences to schools are more clear. The law gives states the choice to do this in the following ways:

o States may choose one or more options-
o state will replace principal and relevant staff (school reconstitution);
o state will take over and operate the schools;
o state will turn school over to a private management company (like Edison);
o state will turn over to a public charter school; OR
o something else (which could be anything)

o TEXAS law currently lists all of these possibilities EXCEPT turning schools over to a for-profit management firm (like the Edison Project, or some other firm [see “Profiles of For-Profit Education Management,” Sixth Annual Report (2003-2004) by Alex Molnar, Glen Wilson & Daniel Allen at CSHB 2 added this possibility, a necessary move for the privatizers since NCLB didn't mandate this as an option but rather provided it to the states as an option, thus requiring state approval.

Texas Administration Code

§101.7. Testing Requirements for Graduation.
(a) To be eligible to receive a high school diploma, a student must demonstrate satisfactory performance as determined by the State Board of Education (SBOE) on the assessments
required for graduation as specified in the Texas Education Code (TEC), Chapter 39,
Subchapter B.

(1) To fulfill the testing requirements for graduation, a student must be tested by either a
Texas school district, Texas education service center, open-enrollment charter school,
the Texas Education Agency (TEA), or other individual or organization designated by the
commissioner of education.

(2) On the tests required for graduation, a student shall not be required to demonstrate performance at a standard higher than the one in effect when he or she was first eligible to
take the test.

(3) A foreign exchange student who has waived in writing his or her intention to receive a
Texas high school diploma may be excused from the exit level testing requirement as
specified in the TEC, Chapter 39, Subchapter B.

(b) Beginning with the 2003-2004 school year, students who were enrolled in Grade 8 or a
lower grade on January 1, 2001, must fulfill testing requirements for graduation with the
Grade 11 exit level tests, as specified in the TEC, §39.023(c).

(c) A student receiving special education services under the TEC, Chapter 29,
Subchapter A, who successfully completes the requirements of his or her individualized
education program (IEP) shall receive a high school diploma.

(d) According to procedures specified in the applicable test administration materials, an eligible student or out-of-school individual who has not met graduation requirements may retest on a schedule determined by the commissioner of education.

§101.9. Grade Advancement (or Social Promotion) Requirements.
Each school district and charter school shall test eligible students in accordance to the grade advancement requirements as specified in the Texas Education Code (TEC), §28.0211(a).
These requirements pertain to the reading test at Grade 3, beginning in the 2002-2003
school year; the reading and mathematics tests at Grade 5, beginning in the 2004-2005
school year; and the reading and mathematics tests at Grade 8, beginning in the 2007-2008
school year.

(1) The Texas Education Agency (TEA) shall provide three opportunities for the tests
required for grade advancement as specified in the TEC, §28.0211(a). The commissioner
of education shall specify the dates of these administrations in the assessment
calendar.

(2) A school district or charter school shall provide accelerated instruction for students who fail to demonstrate satisfactory performance as specified in the TEC, §28.0211(a).

(3) The commissioner of education shall approve the assessments for local use by school
districts or charter schools as provided under the TEC, §28.0211(b).

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