No Child Left Behind may be fading away, but accountability is here to stay

We must deliver what we’ve promised our nation’s youth, says Lynn education dean

Published Feb. 14, 2012

Craig MertlerLast week, President Barack Obama announced that 10 states – including Florida – would be exempt from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) laws and regulations.

“NCLB has positive aspects, as well as severe limitations,” said Craig Mertler, dean of Lynn University’s Ross College of Education. “The greatest strength of NCLB is its focus on increased accountability.”

In the waiver application, Florida, as one of the exempt states, has agreed to adopt “college and career ready” standards and has outlined goals for improving education in our state. As noted in a recent TIME article, The Beginning of the End for No Child Left Behind, “Florida has set a goal to have its test scores rank among the top five states in the country.”

Ranking Florida schools

Since NCLB was implemented in 2002, Florida schools have been graded and ranked under two competing systems that are based on different criteria. Under NCLB, each school and district would receive an annual assessment based on the accomplishments of each in relation to Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In addition, each school and district would receive a letter grade from the Florida Department of Education. Therefore, with this system it could be possible for a school in Florida to receive a state grade of ‘A,’ but fail to meet AYP under the requirements of NCLB.

“This often proved to be very confusing to not only schools and districts, but probably more importantly to parents and community members in Florida districts,” said Mertler. “Under the new system as defined by the NCLB waiver, there will only be one assessment of school and district performance: the one implemented by the state. This should make the annual assessments of school effectiveness clearer for citizens of Florida.”

However, Mertler points out that there are still limitations to the new system. “On the positive side, the grades are no longer based solely on [the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test] FCAT scores. Other measures include graduation rate and participation in accelerated courses,” said Mertler. “However, for example, since district and school grades can be based in part on only participation in advanced or accelerated courses, we may see a rise in the numbers of As and Bs across the state, regardless of student performance in those advanced courses.”

Accountability

Despite the changes in education laws – and how they will be enforced – Mertler believes one thing is certain: accountability is not going away.

“As professional educators, it is up to us to deliver what we’ve promised to our nation’s youth: a high-quality, meaningful, applicable and 21st-century education,” said Mertler. “Educators are going to be held to higher standards, and they must be held accountable at all levels for the work that they promise to do when they take charge of a classroom, school or district. It’s critical to the future of our nation.”

Students in the College of Education at Lynn who are studying to become the teachers of tomorrow, are prepared for a system that will hold them accountable for their actions.

“Their ability to retain their teaching position will be based largely on how well they teach their students, and how well their students demonstrate what they have learned,” said Mertler. " This has the potential to be a positive move for students and families in Florida, and across the country.”

More on Mertler

Craig Mertler is the dean of Lynn University’s Ross College of Education. His career in higher education has focused on applied classroom and school-based action research that can be used by educators and administrators to develop real-world solutions for their school districts’ needs.

Mertler is an expert and author on helping schools interpret testing data and integrate that information into a curriculum. He has also published five books, two of which deal specifically with this topic: Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators and Interpreting standardized test scores: Strategies for data-driven instructional decision making.

In this role, Mertler can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of standardized testing; how to interpret testing data; the importance of holding teachers and principals accountable; and the local and national implications of education laws including Former President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and President Obama’s Race To The Top program; among other topics in education.