Much like taxpayers using the TurboTax computer application to simplify their filings, schools are turning to a computer system called SchoolMAX to decipher complicated reporting metrics required under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which turns five this month.
Schools are teaming up with Maximus, the private company that developed SchoolMAX, in an effort to meet complex NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reporting requirements.
NCLB is designed to hold schools accountable for their results. Schools must improve children’s academic performance each year, eventually reaching 100 percent reading and mathematics proficiency goals in 2014.
Data Requirements Immense
But some schools have trouble compiling the required AYP information because of complexities required for reporting each year. Districts must track the progress of different subgroups of students, such as minorities and disabled children.
The sheer amount of data collection required for each school district can often be bewildering.
To relieve the pressure, SchoolMAX tracks NCLB requirements, as well as individual student attendance records and grades. Tom Funk, president of Maximus’ educational services division, said the system keeps track of key subject areas to make sure districts meet AYP goals.
“The SchoolMAX system allows school districts to streamline record keeping by minimizing the amount of time it takes to record requirements,” Funk explained.
Schools Signing On
More than 100 school districts are taking advantage of the SchoolMAX technology, Funk said. These include:
- Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public School System, one of the nation’s largest districts, with more than 135,000 students;
- the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest district;
- Rhode Island’s Middletown Public Schools; and
- schools in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
With NCLB coming up for reauthorization in 2007, it remains unknown what, if any, changes the Democrat-controlled Congress will make to the law, and how that will affect schools’ reporting requirements.
Dan Lips, an education analyst at the Washington, DC-based Heritage Foundation, said the Democrat majority will likely demand more NCLB funding even though federal spending on NCLB has increased by more than 25 percent during the past five years.
Instead of spending more tax dollars and encouraging complex federal oversight, Lips said, it would be better for legislators to focus on improving NCLB reporting requirements by making sure AYP results get to the people who matter: parents.
“NCLB sought to provide greater transparency for parents,” Lips explained. “Unfortunately, government studies show that often the right information isn’t getting to parents.”
Richard G. Innes, an education expert at the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a Kentucky-based public policy think tank, said reporting requirements should strengthen curricular coverage of AYP requirements by requiring measurement of student achievement in important subjects such as science.
“Legislators shouldn’t let schools off the hook because reporting requirements may be difficult,” Innes said. “After all, NCLB is about making sure kids achieve.”
Joel Peyton ([email protected]) is a public policy freelance writer in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
For more information …
Maximus’ SchoolMAX computer system, http://www.schoolmax.net/frames/about.htm