Accountability and Student Mobility under Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act

Article excerpt

Mobile students face three related risks in the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. First, in determining schools' academic progress, some mobile students may not be academically assessed or counted, reducing the likelihood that their academic needs will get attention. Second, some practices that schools might pursue to avoid accountability for lower achieving students may promote student mobility. Third, family mobility may make it harder for students and their families to access the required program elements and parent involvement provisions of Title I designed to ensure high-quality educational services. Although safeguards were included to minimize some of these risks, implementation problems will continue to plague the Act unless forcefully addressed.

Will mobile students be left behind in the efforts to ensure that students become proficient in the challenging skills and knowledge that states say all children should master? The legislative language and accompanying regulations for Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) reflect awareness of that risk and include some efforts to reduce it. Whether those efforts are adequate is the subject of this article.

There are three types of risk. First, there is some risk that mobile students may not be assessed or counted for purposes of determining whether schools, districts, and states are making adequate academic progress-thereby increasing the likelihood that they will receive less academic attention. Second, there is risk that lower achieving students may be moved from one school to another in order to avoid school accountability for their achievement. Third, there is the risk that students' mobility may make it less likely that they receive the adequate education and assistance services required under other provisions of Title I.

THE RISK THAT MOBILE STUDENTS WILL NOT BE ASSESSED OR COUNTED FOR SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

There are two distinct questions here. First, will students' achievement be assessed? Second, will their assessment results count in determining whether the school, district, or state is performing adequately under NCLB's accountability provisions?

Assessing Students

If a student's academic proficiencies are not properly assessed, there is less likelihood that his or her academic needs will be adequately identified, understood, and addressed. A central premise of Title I is that relying only on students passing courses, for example, is not adequate when there is no assurance that those courses are actually teaching the full range of knowledge and skills that, under state standards, all students should learn. Further, NCLB requires that individual assessment results be shared with the child's teachers and parents, and used to improve that child's instruction, which cannot happen if the child is not assessed.

NCLB requires that all students in certain grades1 be assessed in order to determine the extent to which they are proficient in the challenging academic skills and knowledge the state has said, through adoption of its academic standards, all students should master. No ambiguity exists on this point-all students, including mobile students, must be assessed. The risks here are related to implementation, and the possibility that, despite the clear provisions of the law, some students will not be assessed.2 This could happen because, for example, they do not happen to be in school on the days students are being assessed or, less innocently, because someone in the school has encouraged them not to come and participate, since their expected low scores will depress the school's achievement outcomes. These are risks shared by many other students as well, but students' mobility increases the likelihood they will not be in school or included when the assessments are conducted.

Faulty reading of the NCLB may increase the potential that some students will not be assessed. A separate provision requires that, regardless of assessment results, a school will not be deemed to be making adequate progress, for accountability purposes, if less than 95% of its students or less than 95% of any subgroup-low-income students, students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, and students from each major racial and ethnic group-have been assessed. …