In this morning’s Washington Post, former EdSec Margaret Spellings takes her stab at NAEP analysis. No real surprises here. She points to the effectiveness of No Child Left Behind, citing progress not just for elementary school students but for middle school students as well. She notes that we expected such results, and should embrace the accountability that led to them.
Interestingly, she points to (and takes credit for) elementary school gains over the past nine years. As No Child Left Behind wasn’t signed into law until 2002, and its policies really didn’t affect schools, at the earliest, until 2003, does that mean she is giving the Clinton Administration partial credit for NCLB-era gains? Does that mean that the Reading Excellence Act deserves some of the credit for Reading First’s gains? Does that mean our modern-day accountability movement began before she took position at the White House?
Spellings also points to the “troubling story” of our high school achievement. One could ask what her Administration did to help address this high school crisis, when it was focusing almost exclusively on elementary schools, but that would just be Eduflack being critical and cynical again. But a lot more could have been done over the past four years to improve high school instruction beyond non-reg regs introduced in December to hold all states to a four-year graduation rate measurement. But that’s a different battle for a different day.
She also rails against calls for international benchmarking and increased and improved resources for our schools. Her preference — simply staying the course on current NCLB standards and accountability and holding firm on the goal of 100 percent student learning proficiency in reading, math, and science by 2014.
Not sure what Spellings is adding to the debate, particularly since EdSec Arne Duncan is essentially staying the course with regard to NCLB standards and accountability (at least for now). Yes, this is partially a legacy-building exercise. As was typical during her four years, Spellings is focused on low-performing schools and the institutions that deliver public instruction. But in this new era, the focus is not on the what (school themselves) but on the who (teachers and students).
Eduflack is just a tad disappointed to see Spellings equating the call for increased resources with delaying accountability. If we are as concerned with the achievement gap as Spellings purports, we have to see that increased resources for historically disadvantaged groups leads to student achievement gains. We have to see that education investments today have lasting economic impacts tomorrow. And with the train already leaving the station on increasing spending and resources, our focus should be on how those new dollars are spent and the ROI for such spending.