March 26, 2010
President Obama sent a plan for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to Congress this month that is a major departure from the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Parts of this plan are already drawing criticism, for instance testing would still be a reality of life for all students in 3rd through 8th grade. The proposed changes would, however, have a major impact on how we measure student success, a change that would benefit students with disabilities.
The Obama Administration wants to replace the current system, which is focused on a single absolute number for measuring student achivement, with one that instead measures and rewards student progress. In this new system, a 5th grader moving from reading at a 2nd grade level to a 4th grade level would be rewarded for that progress rather than penalized for not having made it to 5th grade level. This would be especially beneficial to students with disabilities, for whom reaching grade level in a single year would be particularly difficult.
Teacher accountability for student test results remains a focus, another bone of contention, but teachers would also be judged largely on the progress their students make, not simply on where they are at the end of the year. This means that teachers would be rewarded for their work with students, not penalized for where students were when they entered the classroom. This is also a major improvement over the current system.
Will AYP be a thing of the past when testing rolls around next year? There is a lot that has to happen first, but with this new plan Obama’s administration has taken an important first step to change the way we measure student success and that should be applauded.