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Florida wants new measuring sticks for No Child Left Behind

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida submitted a bid to use two additional ways to measure federal education standards on Friday that state officials said would give a more accurate picture of student progress than possible with current methods.

Florida is one of about 15 states seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Education to deviate from the present assessment system under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which critics say is overly rigid. Up to 10 states will be chosen by this spring to begin pilot programs.

Currently, the main way to measure adequate yearly progress required by No Child Left Behind is by comparing standardized test results of students in a particular grade to those from the same grade the prior year.

"It's a different group of students," said Florida Education Commissioner John Winn. "You're measuring one group against another group as opposed to measuring a group against itself, which is what learning is all about."

The state's goal is to offer a model that might be adopted nationally and bring assessment for No Child Left Behind closer to the state's existing school grading system, Winn said. In many cases Florida schools that have gotten high marks from the state still failed to meet the federal standard.

Florida has proposed using a growth model based on each student's learning progress over the prior three years -- information available from the state's existing A-Plus assessment program.

Florida should have an advantage competing for the limited pilot program slots because many of the other states submitting bids lack similar data systems, said Hanna Skandera, deputy commissioner of accountability, research and measurement.

In addition to overall compliance, eight subgroups of students, including black, white, Hispanic and disabled, also each must achieve yearly adequate progress at each school.

The existing system includes a "safe harbor" alternative that gives a subgroup a second way to meet the yearly progress requirement through a 10 percent reduction in the number of students who are non-proficient.

Florida's proposal includes another option. Schools that have improved the percentage of proficient students in each subgroup by more than the state average for all students would meet the requirement.

Last year, only 1,116 of Florida's 3,103 public schools -- just over a third -- made adequate yearly progress. Education officials estimate that adopting both additional methods the state has proposed would raise that number by 211 to 1,327.

Skandera denied the proposal's purpose simply is to increase Florida's compliance.

"The bottom line is to make sure that every student is proficient and really exhort ourselves at the state, the district and the school level to make sure that no child is left behind," she said.

— Associated Press
Daytona Beach Newsjournalonline.com


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