The Department of Education is announcing a set of guiding principles to help states implement the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) while taking their unique situations into consideration. The Department will take these principles into account when discussing amendments to state accountability plans or consolidated applications to allow for innovation that helps states achieve the goals of NCLB.
Ensuring students are learning. The principle of raising overall achievement and closing achievement gaps is paramount. Even as the benefits of an educated citizenry are enjoyed individually and nationally, states and local districts have the primary responsibility to ensure that all students are learning and that achievement gaps are closing. States seeking additional flexibility must demonstrate significant improvement in student achievement that is readily apparent to the public. Evidence of such progress may be demonstrated in a number of ways, including:
Making the school system accountable. A strong standards, assessment and accountability system that applies to all public elementary and secondary schools and includes all public school students is a pillar of NCLB. Holding all students to academic content standards is critical to improving the achievement of all students.
This principle provides the tools for demonstrating results on the first principle. Without assessments, parents and the public do not know whether students are learning. Without valid and reliable accountability systems, there is little incentive for the system to improve. While both testing and accountability are not new to NCLB, this law has placed new importance on them. As states seek additional flexibility in implementing NCLB, the Department will consider the manner with which states are implementing these two fundamental aspects of NCLB. Evidence of such rigorous implementation may be demonstrated in a number of ways, including:
Ensuring information is accessible and options are available. This principle highlights the role of parents in their need to have easily accessible and understandable student and school information and in their desire to access educational options. NCLB introduced public school choice and supplemental educational services into the educational system in new ways. As states seek flexibility in implementing NCLB, the Department will consider the manner with which states have instituted these two new provisions and other aspects important to parents, such as district report cards. Evidence of such rigorous implementation may be demonstrated in a number of ways, including:
Improving the quality of teachers. Key to informed parents and improved achievement is providing parents and the public accurate information on the quality of their local teaching force, implementing a rigorous system for ensuring teachers are highly qualified, and making aggressive efforts to ensure all children, beginning in the 2006-07 school year, are taught by highly qualified teachers. The success of this law rests to a great extent on the quality of a state's teaching force, and the extent to which teachers have a deep and meaningful knowledge of the subject(s) they teach. Evidence of such rigorous implementation may be demonstrated in a number of ways, including:
The examples above outline a number of ways in which states may demonstrate how they are meeting the fundamental principles of the No Child Left Behind Act. In addition to those principles, the Department may consider (when appropriate and as necessary) the following factors for approving additional flexibility under the law:
As the Department moves forward with the implementation of NCLB, the above guiding principles will guide our efforts. The Department will consider very carefully the extent to which states demonstrate progress and effective implementation in the areas covered by these principles. We intend to reward innovative and effective reformers and to use what we've learned from research, and the field, over the last three years to move the law and student achievement forward. We are willing to show states a more workable and informed approach on other aspects of the law, such as how students with persistent academic disabilities will be assessment and included in accountability. Another example of such flexibility could include a request for the use of growth models; or states may have their own proposals for demonstrating progress and effective implementation; these principles will help the Department consider and help states implement those ideas.