The summer heat causes some to wilt, but it seems to have stiffened the spine of Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. After giving in to a host of Florida "flexibilities" in the spring (see here), this month she wisely rejected the Sunshine State's brash request to let 380 low-performing schools off the NCLB accountability hook. Florida officials had labeled these schools "provisional AYP" - figure that one out, Mom and Dad - and petitioned for relief on their behalf because they received A's and B's under the state's own accountability scheme. Yet as Education Trust and others have shown, many of these schools are failing their poor and minority students. On the other hand, surely some are doing right by all their kids, making quick gains after starting out far behind - progress for which the Florida system (though not NCLB) rightfully gives credit. There is good news on that front: Spellings appears increasingly willing to consider such a value-added approach. She recently told columnist David Broder: "I think we were right to start with performance standards, but now that they are in place, we are working our way into more sophisticated approaches." Sounds good - but let's "work our way" to these new approaches in a hurry, before remaining support for NCLB evaporates.
"ED Rejects Florida's bold move to waive NCLB sanctions," by Katherine Shek, Education Daily, August 17, 2005 (subscription required)
"The Divide In Education," by David S. Broder, Washington Post, August 14, 2005