Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One more mistake, maybe . . .

After reading this Education Week article I may need to suspend my assumptions about the Federal Education Department's letter putting our state on notice that the NCLB waiver is at risk of being lost because the structures in place for teacher evaluation do not mandate the use of student achievement data.  I ASSUMED that this would automatically result in a return to the penalties in NCLB.  From the article I learned that there are a range of penalties that the department can impose. 

Officials told me: "In general, the department has a range of enforcement options that it can employ if [a state] does not implement ESEA flexibility in accordance with its approved request, which includes withholding state administrative funds...and withholding programmatic funds. With respect to noncompliance while on high-risk status, the department would likely take increasingly significant actions in combination with, or in place of, high risk.

"If [a state] cannot come into compliance while under 'high-risk' status, the department would consider whether other enforcement actions would be appropriate. For example, the department might decide to withhold a portion of the [state's] Title I, Part A administrative funds if the area of noncompliance concerns requirements with respect to standards and assessments...We also, for example, might decide to terminate ESEA flexibility and the [state] would revert to complying with NCLB."

Once again I may have allowed my emotions to influence my thinking.  That being said, I believe that the threat of a lost waiver will result in legislative action during the next session changing language that currently gives local control on the use of student achievement data to a mandated percentage based on state test scores.  I believe that the hammer imposed by the threat is strong enough to bludgeon its way through any obstacle placed in front of the legislators.  Another example of change imposed through power, in this case by withholding funds or imposing sanctions. 

When will policy makers learn that these tactics do not result in lasting change to classroom practice when the door to the teacher's classroom closes?  There are better ways to open those classroom doors that take advantage of experience and expertise while being open to the possibilities of new practices and assessments to support increased achievement for all young people, what we all say we want.  Using threats and mandates results in other assumptions leading to mental models where I begin to question the motives of those with the power.  I know that as one in a leadership position I must be able to suspend these assumptions, but actions such as this from the federal level make it more and more difficult over time.

So, once again I come face-to-face with perhaps jumping to a conclusion that may be driven by a false assumption.  More learning for me, but in the big picture not such a big deal as the final outcome will probably align well with what I am suggesting today will soon become our future reality as it relates to the use of student achievement data in teacher evaluations.

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