Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Coming Up Short Many States Lack Complete Approach

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Coming Up Short Many States Lack Complete Approach

Article excerpt

Although most states have begun to build a framework for holding schools accountable for student performance, only a handful have taken a comprehensive approach.

And key players in education -- parents, teachers and employers -- share little common ground about who should be held responsible for academic failure.

A national review of school accountability policies, released yesterday by the national newspaper Education Week, showed most states, including Florida, have a way to go.

Nearly every state has taken initial steps toward systemic accountability, by requiring students to take standard tests of achievement and issuing report cards for individual schools.

But far fewer, only 14, provide financial incentives for schools that have successful students. And only 19 states identify poor-performing schools, or rate others by performance.

In all, five states -- Indiana, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas -- have what the report authors deemed a comprehensive approach.

Essentially, most states have taken what amounts to the first few steps of a marathon, said Craig Jerald, the project director. "Many have a long way to go. Many that have joined the race are not on sure footing."

The report, Quality Counts '99, was published by the nonprofit newspaper Education Week, through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The trusts, based in Philadelphia, distributed $181 million in 1997 to 320 non-profit organizations.

In a comparison of states, Florida fared better than most.

Of the six elements of accountability the report authors considered essential, Florida had five: tests that measure student performance, report cards for each school, ratings for individual schools, or identification of poor-performing schools; rewards for successful schools and financial help for troubled schools.

The report found Florida lacked the authority to close or take over failing schools, or replace school management.

But in probing the specifics of each of these categories, Education Week found problems in the way information is presented to parents, inconsistencies in whether parents have a choice of schools, and lack of incentives for schools to counter poor academic performance. …

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