U.S. education secretary calls for overhaul of No Child Left Behind: Arne Duncan, speaking in Los Angeles, urges Congress to rewrite the law to measure how much students improve on standardized tests. He also says L.A. school management and teachers union leaders should negotiate a new contract that bolsters teacher evaluations.
By Jason Song, Los Angeles Times |http://lat.ms/hXdAeu
Congress needs to rewrite the federal No Child Left Behind law to measure how much students improve on standardized tests, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / March 22, 2011)
March 23, 2011 - U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called Tuesday for an overhaul of the federal No Child Left Behind law and urged Los Angeles school management and teachers union leaders to negotiate a new contract that strengthens teacher evaluations.
"L.A. faces a perfect opportunity, not a perfect storm," he said during a speech at a United Way of Greater Los Angeles education summit at the Los Angeles Convention Center. "The opportunity, I think, is breathtaking.... Please don't squander it."
Many of Duncan's comments echoed remarks by President Obama earlier this month, when he said that the previous administration's signature school accountability law classifies too many schools as academic failures and does not give enough flexibility to local and state educators.
During his speech, Duncan criticized No Child Left Behind as too narrowly focused on raw student test scores, noting it does not differentiate between schools with overall low achievement and schools where only one group of students is not proficient in a certain subject, and called for Congress to rewrite the law to measure how much students improve on standardized tests.
Duncan has said he wants teachers and schools to be partially judged on a "value-added" analysis that measures students against their past performance to predict future scores. The difference between the prediction and the students' actual scores is the estimated value that the teacher added — or subtracted. It has been championed by Duncan and others as a way to bring some objectivity to teacher evaluations, although critics say it is too unreliable to use in such high-stakes decisions as firing or to determine pay.
Duncan also urged Los Angeles educators to use student growth as a factor in evaluations, something he and Obama have long advocated. While Duncan said it should only be one measure of an evaluation, he said it was a vital component.
"It makes sense that teachers and parents know how their children are advancing," he said.
After The Times published a series of stories about value-added analysis in August, the city school board approved a resolution asking that student test scores be used in teacher evaluations, which currently rely almost exclusively on subjective measures.
Teachers union officials have said they are opposed to formally using test data to judge educators.
"The time is now to get off the well-worn path," Duncan said.
Top U.S. education chief touts reform in L.A.
By CHRISTINA HOAG - Associated Press North County Times - The Californian | http://bit.ly/fxeQgO
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 11:01 | LOS ANGELES ---- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday that virtually every school in Los Angeles Unified School District will be classified as failing by 2014 if the No Child Left Behind Act is not urgently reformed.
Duncan told an audience of about 1,200 educators and business leaders at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles 2011 Education Summit that the current law is too focused on test scores on a few core subjects.
That has led to a narrowed curriculum that focuses intensely on those subjects, sacrificing the well-rounded education that every child needs, he said.
"No Child Left Behind is fundamentally broken," he said. "We want to fix it before we go back to school this fall."
Duncan, the former chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, said he wants the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act to measure schools on year-to-year improvement, rather than on a specific test score.
"We should be far more concerned about levels of growth than proficiency," he said.
On other topics, the secretary came down hard on the dismal performance of LAUSD, the nation's second largest school district. Although he noted that district leaders are now reforming underachieving schools, he said that the district's 50 percent graduation rate is the lowest among the nation's big-city districts, and reeled off a litany of similar statistics.
"L.A. is a world class city but does not have world class schools," he said.
He called on district management and labor unions to collaborate to put student interests first. He noted that the upcoming teacher contract negotiations provide a chance to overhaul the system of how teachers are evaluated, laid off and compensated with performance the driver, not seniority.
"The opportunity, I think, is simply breathtaking. Please, please don't squander it," Duncan urged.
Julie Washington, elementary vice president of teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles, said teachers would embrace a new evaluation system that is fair and allows teachers to have a voice. Better selection of new teachers is needed to reduce the number of ineffective teachers to begin with, she said.