While Congress has yet to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), on March 18, the Secretary of Education proposed a pilot program to explore models of “differentiated accountability” for school districts to meet the targets imposed by NCLB. For some time, there has been a recurring criticism of NCLB that it categorizes school districts too simplistically by determining a District either “meets Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)” or “does not meet AYP.” As a result, a school district having, for example, 25 separate AYP targets will still be classified as failing to meet AYP even if it fails to attain proficiency in only one of those 25 targeted areas, as compared to a district that fails to meet all 25.
Secretary Margaret Spellings has proposed that 10 states apply to the Department of Education for permission to develop programs which would create differentiated consequences for school districts by matching the severity of the sanction to the number and type of AYP targets not achieved. For example, the penalties for missing only one or two goals, or a goal related to an IEP subgroup, might be lesser than or different from missing other goals.
As this newsletter goes to press, it is not known whether Pennsylvania will submit an application to participate in the pilot program, but even if Pennsylvania does not participate, the program might alter the way in which NCLB is applied. We will continue to update this matter in future editions of this newsletter.