State gives up fight over NCLB
Ohanian Comment: At the same time that Nebraska Education Commissioner is taking a brave stand for what's good for students, my own Vermont commissioner is folding. My little group, Vermont Society for the Study of Education (VSSE) is meeting in a few days to discuss strategy to fight this. I strongly believe that our strategy must be to make the public aware of what's going on. Why waste our breath with politicos! I say this even though Vermont's three members of Congress voted against NCLB. Now it's a state battle. And talk is not the answer. The public has to demand change. Stay tuned.
By Howard Weiss-Tisman
BRATTLEBORO -- The state has given up its fight with the U.S Department of Education and will release this year's adequate yearly progress determinations after accepting federal demands on how it tests some students.
Vermont has traditionally allowed students with the most severe cognitive disabilities to take standardized tests at their learning ability.
But the education department would not sign off on this year's progress reports unless the state agreed to test those students at their grade level.
Vermont is almost two months late in letting schools know how they met this year's requirements for the No Child Left Behind Act. Commissioner of Education Richard Cate and Gail Taylor, director of standards and assessment, have been negotiating with the U.S. Education Department.
Cate wants students with severe cognitive disabilities who are academically below grade level to be able to take the annual standardized test in the grade level at which they are proficient.
In other words, Vermont wants an eighth-grade student who can only read at a fourth-grade level to take the fourth-grade test but have those results counted, partially, in the eighth-grade total.
Cate said less than 1 percent of the state's students fall under this category.
But after months of talks, Cate decided to give up the fight and seek approval from the federal Education Department so that the Vermont Department of Education could move ahead and release the progress determinations.
The state will release those results on Thursday, Aug. 3.
"They gave us some of what we needed, but this is something they were not willing to budge on," Cate said Tuesday after receiving final approval from the federal department to release the results. "Secretary of Education Spellings called them 'bright lines,' and the department is not willing to go over them. They want us to test all kids."
Cate said the Vermont department is going to decide how to proceed next year.
Teachers might continue to give out-of-grade level tests and just not receive the credit at the federal level.
"We are currently working on how this will look in the future," Cate said.
Adequate yearly progress is determined by weighing test scores along with graduation and student participation rates.
Using a complex equation, schools receive a single indicator and must improve on that number every year.
Schools that do not make adequate yearly progress must work with the state to develop a plan to improve their annual scoring.
Paul Smith, a curriculum coordinator with the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, said it has been difficult waiting so long to release the results.
Schools have had unofficial determinations for a few weeks but have been waiting for the Federal Education Department to sign off on the results.
Smith said if schools are put on technical assistance after not meeting the annual progress determinations, districts will have to scramble in the coming months to find the money to set up programs to improve the test scores.
"The feds are playing hardball with this," Smith said. "It is going to cause some complications," he said about the two-month wait.
Smith supported Cate in his push to allow the special education students to test out-of-grade level.
"We have always done this but the feds are not allowing the old practice to be transplanted," Smith said. "The commissioner has been fighting tooth and nail for these sensible accommodations. It is not good educational practice to put a test in front of a kid that will blow him out of the water."
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES