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Posted at 10:57 AM ET, 10/25/2011

Business leaders inject themselves in school reform

It’s hard to think of a profession other than teaching about which everybody thinks they are an expert.

It’s often said that is so because just about everybody in the United States has gone to school at some point in their lives . It’s also true that just about everybody has gone to a doctor, yet medical professionals aren’t deluged with advice from businesspeople and hedge fund managers and insurance executives about how to diagnose and treat illnesses.

Whatever the reasons, here’s an example of business folks issuing a declaration of sorts detailing exactly how they want Congress to rewrite No Child Left Behind, even down to the way that teachers ought to be evaluated.

This news release was issued in regard to the bill that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions passed last week revamping NCLB. The bill reduces the federal role in public education that has become so prominent in the NCLB era, and it eliminates a key accountability provision of the law that wound up declaring thousands of schools failing, even when they weren’t. It turns back to the states the right to create their own accountability systems for schools, a move opposed by the Obama administration — and, apparently, leading businessmen.

The release is signed by Craig Barrett, former board chairman of the Intel Corporation; William Green, chairman and former chief executive officer of Accenture; and, Ed Rust, chairman and chief executive officer of State Farm; in their joint capacity as co-chairmen of the Business Coalition for Student Achievement. The coalition is part of the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies that has relentlessly pushed standardized test-based school reform for decades.

.Here’s the statement, which shows that the coalition doesn’t think the bill is tough enough:

“The Business Coalition for Student Achievement, a coalition of leading CEOs, is pleased to see the Senate working in a bipartisan fashion to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The legislation passed [last Thursday] by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions includes such important provisions as ensuring state-driven college- and career-ready standards, reform of the lowest performing high schools, and additional language that was added in Committee on public school choice.

“However, there is more work to be done to enable our organization to support this bill. As Congress continues working on this legislation, BCSA encourages improvements in several areas to ensure federal law reflects the accountability and reform needed to prepare the nation’s students for the workforce.

“Flexibility is important, but it cannot replace accountability. Considering that two-thirds of fourth and eighth graders are neither proficient in either math or reading, a federal focus on only the bottom five percent of schools will leave far too many students stuck in low performing schools. In addition to strengthening accountability for all students, the improvement policy included in the legislation needs to be enhanced in order to ensure rigor in the reform efforts of low performing schools.

“Teacher and leader evaluation is another critical area of federal education policy. As Congress moves forward, teacher evaluation must be made central to the major federal teaching programs. Such evaluation should be based significantly on student performance and be used to strengthen teacher effectiveness and to inform personnel decisions. The business community works for education reform in all 50 States, and we know that teacher evaluation and personnel systems are of uneven quality throughout the States. That’s why something this important must be required in Federal law, not just optional. Effective teaching is at the heart of a strong education system. This will only be achieved when fair but firm evaluation of instruction becomes a core element of public education in every school system in every state in the nation.

“There is no doubt that current law needs to be improved, and an important bipartisan process is now fully underway in the Senate. BCSA looks forward to working with Congress as this effort continues to ensure that federal education policy addresses the needs of our students as well as the nation’s businesses.”

This sentence saying that teacher “evaluation should be based significantly on student performance” is code for using student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers through what is called value-added formulas that are complicated and fraught with problems, researchers have shown repeatedly. The evidence doesn’t seem to matter to those who keep trying to impose this type of evaluation on school systems.

The Senate and the House still have to deal with NCLB reauthorization, so there is plenty of time for the coalition to push its considerable weight around. It will be interesting to see whether it succeeds.


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By  |  10:57 AM ET, 10/25/2011

 
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