Congress passed NCLB in 2001 to monitor the progress of K-12 students by administering annual reading and math tests in third grade through eighth grade.
The government documents the results of those tests and compares them to a school’s scores from the previous year. Elementary and middle schools must show a minimum level of improvement or face consequences, including giving parents the right to transfer their children out of the institution.
During her speech, Spellings did not tout a modified NCLB as a solution for higher education accountability. Although she intends to use the law as a model, she did not pinpoint a specific method of measurement.
“I am not aware of any plan to use standardized testing as a measure of progress in the higher education system,” said Thomas James, dean of the UNC School of Education.
Even if NCLB is just a prototype for Spelling’s reform of higher education, college officials said they want to avoid it as much as possible.
“I worry about Congress borrowing from standards and testing as it has been imposed on the K through 12 education system and assuming that it would be a good fit for higher education,” said Shirley Ort, UNC director of scholarships and student aid.
“Higher education is more about learning exploration and intellectual engagement, and not just focusing on standard test measurement.”
UNC officials plan to continue with improvements specifically designed for the University.
“While the federal government has interest in understanding higher education progress rates, I don’t think we’ll look to them for individual campuses,” said Jerry Lucido, vice provost for enrollment management at the University.
“We have to look at our own issues and customize our own solutions.”
One solution the University has initiated is the Carolina Covenant, a program started in October 2003 that offers low-income students a debt-free college education.
“Carolina Covenant looks to communicate to students and families that if they make the grade, we have the money for them to attend UNC,” Ort said.
“There are many promising students who come from low-income families that should have the opportunity to choose their school based on the quality of education they want, not just the money they have.”
The first class of Carolina Covenant scholars entered the University in fall 2004.
Lucido also said UNC is working on early-warning systems for students with academic trouble, among other accountability measures.
“I’m particularly proud of what we’re doing at Chapel Hill,” he said.
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