Let's make a deal!

old map of Montana photo

Montana's retroactive revolution
(Photo by Brian Swan)

On Sunday, 158 Montana public schools were slated to join the
state’s other “failing” schools—per federal AYP designations. On Monday, that
number plummeted to three. Yet this change in labeling had nothing to do with student
achievement. Instead, the feds allowed education officials in big-sky country
to simply redraw the state’s schedule of testing targets—retroactively back to
2005. Why? The Treasure State had revamped its own state assessment that year,
yet hadn’t reset its proficiency standards (something the NCLB accountability
workbook allows). Duncan’s crew found this loophole and let Montana rewrite its
proficiency targets from 2005 on. For this year, that means that Montana’s
required proficiency rates will be slightly above the state’s original 2007
levels. A possible contributing factor to ED’s willingness to find a
work-around: a desire on Duncan’s part to save face after Montana's flagrant and
continued refusal to raise its proficiency standards—even after the Secretary’s
threat to withhold
Title I funding
. Yet Duncan’s clumsy wielding of the NCLB stick, as well as
this back-bending for states, may have serious negative consequences. So, Mr.
Secretary, take heed of Jeb Bush’s good
: Be a leader. A thought-out plan on how to pass responsibility to
the states is more pragmatic than defusing potentially embarrassing situations.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Montana's "new deal" on NCLB from the Education Gadfly Show podcast


State Challenges
Seen as Whittling Away Federal Education Law
,” by Sam Dillon, New York
, August 14, 2011.

Dept. Allows Montana to Rewrite Its NCLB History
,” Michele McNeil, Education Week, August 15, 2011.