Individual tracking comes to NCLB
On this blog, I've complained that No Child Left Behind testing doesn't track progress for gifted kids. For starters, NCLB compares groups of students over time -- say, African American fourth graders in 2004 vs. African American fourth graders in 2005. Since these aren't the same kids, the test results can show broad changes in a school, but don't show whether individual kids are learning. Second, the use of grade level tests means that children who score at the 99th percentile for their grade don't register a change one way or the other -- so you don't know if they're in a holding pattern or growing.
At least NCLB is now addressing the first problem. The federal Department of Education recently chose two states, North Carolina and Tennessee, to participate in a pilot program that tracks individual student progress. A kid in fourth grade in 2006 will be compared against his own test scores from 2005. If he doesn't show adequate yearly progress, the school can be held accountable.
If the pilot program produces usable data, then the program could spread to other states. That's a start. Then we need NCLB to ask schools to use above grade-level tests for gifted kids. A fourth grader who scores at the 75th percentile on a 7th grade test, and then at the 88th percentile on an 8th grade test a year later, is making progress. We don't know if that's true if she just takes the fourth grade, then fifth grade test.