Saturday, August 28, 2010
Thursday, June 07, 2007
The above article appears in this month Rethinking Schools. I believe it is one of the most important articles I have run across in a long time. Read it! A quick excerpt from a very long article:
...speaking to an audience of teachers in New Hampshire last March, Clinton passionately bashed NCLB. "While the children are getting good at filling in all those little bubbles, what exactly are they really learning?" she asked. "How much creativity are we losing? How much of our children's passion is being killed?" She also denounced NCLB's supplemental tutoring sanctions which funnel federal funds to largely unregulated private providers, declaring, "This is Halliburton all over again ...We have these contracts going to these cronies who are chosen largely on a political basis, and we have nothing to show for it."
Tough words. But Clinton voted for the law in 2001. In fact she helped lay the groundwork for it by supporting two decades of summits and business roundtables that enshrined top-down standards and tests as the keys to school improvement. Clinton has blamed all NCLB's failures on mismanagement and underfunding from the Bush Administration, but when not on the stump, she admits she'll vote for reauthorizing it with vague allusion to unspecified "improvements." Maybe Clinton still thinks it "takes a village to raise a child," but so far she's mainly voted for giving them tests.
Similarly, Obama tells his audiences, "No Child Left Behind left the money behind." But he also talks about "the things that were good about No Child Left Behind," like high standards "because U.S. children will have to compete for jobs with students from countries with more rigorous schools." Obama has flirted with vouchers ("I am not close-minded on this issue.") and merit pay, declaring teachers have "got to get more pay, but there's also going to be more accountability...the accountability can't just be based on standardized test performance only, but that has to be part of the mix..."
This is not to minimize the very real differences that are certain to emerge among parties and candidates over education issues including college aid, vouchers, federal funding levels, and other matters. But the overwhelming federal education issue is NCLB and the test-and-punish regime it's imposing from Washington on every school and district in the country. The heart of any "peace proposal" to end this "war on the public schools" must be an end to the federal mandate to test every student every year in every grade from 3 to 8 and once in high school. But so far the presidential candidates don't seem to get it.
NCLB's "escalation" of testing has forced schools to give some 65 million mandated tests on top of the millions they were already giving. When the law was passed in 2002, 19 states gave annual reading and math tests in grades 3 through 8. Today, under federal mandate, all 50 do. Thanks to NCLB, a large, diverse K-8 school now has 240 ways to fail every year. (The number will rise if a proposal to count the new science tests passes.)
The tests themselves have become a major obstacle to improving struggling schools. They are not providing useful data for better instruction; they are providing junk data for bad policy or telling us what we already know: that public schools are swamped by the same inequality that exists all around them. Testing every kid every year and measuring the results against benchmarks that no real schools have ever met is not an "accountability" system. It's an enabling instrument for imposing privatizing sanctions and pushing more democratic and promising school improvement strategies to the sidelines. One activist compared NCLB's out-of-control testing plague to the difference between giving a patient a blood test and draining the patient's blood.
If the real goal was tracking the limited range of achievement progress that standardized tests can capture and spotlighting gaps among student groups, states could develop variations of the sampling techniques the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has used for years. (In fact Maryland did this until NCLB's testing requirements killed it.) Often called the "nation's report card," NAEP provides comparative data about schools and groups across states and grade levels without testing every student every year. And while there are limits and problems with NAEP, as there are with all standardized tests, the use of sampling and restrictions on using the data to impose high stakes penalties on individual students and schools suggest ways to avoid the suffocating nightmare that NCLB's adequate yearly progress system has become. (In contrast, there are those who would like to make NAEP a universal national test tied to national curriculum standards, part of what education reporter John Merrow calls a "surge strategy for NCLB" recommended by Republican candidate and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson among others.)
Rolling back NCLB's testing mandates and ending the link between test scores and punitive sanctions are the minimum but mandatory exit strategies for getting out of the NCLB mess. Yet Clinton and Obama have had little specific to say about these crucial details, even though they're both on the Senate Education Committee that's handling NCLB's reauthorization. (So far neither has responded publicly to a February letter sent by ten Democratic Senators to Education Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy declaring that, "We have concluded that the testing mandates of No Child Left Behind in their current form are unsustainable and must be overhauled significantly during the reauthorization process beginning this year." (Obama signed a similar letter in 2006.)
To be sure, other strategies will be needed to tackle the very real problems of struggling schools that NCLB has ignored or made worse. (For some specifics, see the recommendations from the Forum On Educational Accountability.) But as with Iraq, the first step toward a saner policy on NCLB is for would-be leaders to listen to the growing grassroots chorus calling on them to reverse the failing policies that helped create the mess we're in.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
There is a significant argument in the halls of Congress whether the choice facing No Child Left Behind is either to "take immediate bold steps to accelerate progress in education" or "jeopardize the future of our nation's children and our competitiveness in the global economy by maintaining the status quo."
However, I believe these are not the only two choices. Each choice ignores what public schools are actually good at: local control, creativity, collaboration, entrepreneurship, innovation and creating global citizens.
NCLB encourages teaching to the test, teaching test-taking skills and limiting curricula to the teaching of reading, math and science at the expense of civics, history, career and technical education, music, art, physical education and health, which are essential to the success of our graduates.
As Sandra Day O'Connor recently stated, "to survive as a nation, it is vital that our schools teach, and our children understand, our system of government."
In order for this to happen, our students must be engaged in the governance of our schools and in their lives before graduation.
The national curriculum standards are limited by the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Local districts should decide on curricula to prepare American students to be productive citizens in a global economy.
One thing is clear, and that is, the federal government is an inefficient national credentialing body for the nation's teaching force. The proposed federal standards should be opposed as inappropriate, mathematically flawed and ill-advised additional unfunded mandates for the states.
We must move away from coercion, sanction and punishment and move toward collaboration, authenticity and trust...
We do need better quality assessments that can inform instruction as well as more comprehensive data systems. The growth model would replace arbitrary caps that ignore the IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, process, individual student needs and school and district characteristics. This will allow local school boards, teachers and principals to focus seriously on the individual needs of special education students and English language learners.
It is clear that the Title I sanctions of choice and supplemental services are failed federal schemes. We should be focused single-mindedly on improving learning for all children but especially for those with the greatest needs.
This requires more support, not sanctions. A mere 1 percent of eligible students have ever used the choice options. The supplemental Education Services program, while slightly more popular, has been plagued with lack of capacity, inappropriate recruiting, inadequate information, no clear method to track impact and lots of finger-pointing by everyone involved.
Failed experiments should be discontinued, not rewarded with additional funding and support. Title I sanctions should be dropped entirely.
I oppose increased federal involvement in high school assessments. It is inappropriate to take money from Career and Technical Education programs (Carl Perkins grants) to pay for additional high school assessments, and thus require high schools to do more bureaucratic paperwork without any indication it will actually help student learning.
Current funding for CTE is inadequate even though these programs are effective, popular and have far more ability to prepare students for a global economy than increased testing ever could.
In conclusion, Congress should amend NCLB to allow a more appropriate federal role in education with accurate and instructionally sensitive accountability focused on individual student learning.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
n the surface, the No Child Left Behind law reflected an orgy of bi-partisanship, passing Congress 487-48. In January, 2002, President Bush eschewed the usual Rose Garden fanfare and flew to Hamilton High School, Hamilton, Ohio where he signed the bill flanked by George Miller (D-Ca.), Teddie Kennedy (D-Ma.), Judd Gregg (R-Vt.), and John Boehner (R-Oh.) (Hamilton is in Boehner's district; in addition, Boehner had tried on six separate occasions to get vouchers back into the bill).
At this ceremony, less than three months after 9/11, the applause Bush received was described as "deafening." Later in the day, Bush went with Kennedy and Gregg to related celebrations in Massachusetts and Vermont.
Fissures in the unanimity façade soon appeared. The bill was not two weeks old when Democrats attacked it as underfunded. "It's really a 'left no money behind for education budget'" groused Miller. Kennedy said Bush had betrayed him.
Now, with the law up for reauthorization, the cracks that were there all along have widened as various posses ride off in all directions, including some surprising ones. Miller, who, I am told, is a real hardass on school accountability, wants to reauthorize the bill with little or no change. Bush and Ed. Secretary Spellings have forcefully argued for reauthorization although it is not clear how strong their voices will be when push comes to shove.
Other players include the Chamber of Commerce and the Center for American Progress whose unholy alliance was discussed in my blog "The Center for American Progress: Progressively Regressive?" At the Center, education is honchoed by Cindy Brown, a steering committee member on the Chapter 1 Commission that reported out in 1992. That report essentially described NCLB without all the punitive specifics. But it was all there--adequate yearly progress, results-based accountability, choice, closing or restructuring low-performing schools, etc. It just sat there waiting for Bush adviser Sandy Kress and Spellings with the help of Education Trust head, Kati Haycock, to put the nasty touches on it (In a recent interview with Education Next, Kress thanked the Trust for being such a courageous ally). Haycock was also on the steering committee of the Chapter 1 Commission. While 9 of the 28 members filed minority dissents, Haycock and Brown were not among them.
On a path that might be either tangential, parallel or orthogonal to NCLB, is a bill by Chris Dodd and Vernon Ehlers that would establish national standards in reading, math and science and then require the National Assessment Governing Board, a gang that has never shot straight on standards in the past, to develop tests to measure the standards. These tests would replace the state-developed tests now in use. Everything would be "voluntary," of course.
On February 15, 2007, ten Democratic Senators, led by Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, wrote to Kennedy and other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee that while they support school accountability, "We have concluded that the testing mandates of No Child Left Behind in their current form are unsustainable and must be overhauled significantly during the reauthorization period beginning this year." They offered a series of changes to make the law more "sensible."
The most surprising development--certainly to Bush--is the revolt by 57 members of the House and Senate. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), a longtime opponent introduced a bill that would let states opt out of many of the testing provisions, something that on the surface would appear to render the Dodd-Ehlers bill moot. "So many people are frustrated with the shackles of NCLB," said Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C). House Minority Whip, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who voted for the law first time around now opposes it because, he said, it shifted "control of public schools to the federal government more dramatically than he ever imagined."
No doubt with a twinkle in his eye, the Washington Post's Amit Paley wrote "In an unusual show of bipartisan cooperation, Democrats and the White House attacked the GOP critics' legislation." Paley quoted Miller, "Rather than work with us in a constructive way to improve this law, this group of Republican lawmakers is trying to dismantle it." California scores at or near the bottom on NAEP tests. Does Miller truly believe NCLB will do something about that?
Fordham Foundation's Mike Petrilli, at the Department of Education when the law was first enacted said "Republicans voted for NCLB holding their noses. But now with the president so politically weak, conservatives can vote their conscience." (How Bush must envy Putin these days; in their race to see who will be the 21st century's tsar, it's no contest).
Hoekstra's bill sent Washington Post editors howling: "The proposal would let the states choose whether to meet federal testing mandates--and, incredibly, allow them to tap into millions of dollars of federal education money without ever having to show any results" (hey, just like the Supplemental Educational Services providers do now). That the New York Times didn't emit a similar squeal can only mean that Brent Staples is on vacation.Fasten your seat belts.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The undersigned education, civil rights, children's, disability, and citizens' organizations are committed to the No Child Left Behind Act's objectives of strong academic achievement for all children and closing the achievement gap. We believe that the federal government has a critical role to play in attaining these goals. We endorse the use of an accountability system that helps ensure all children, including children of color, from low-income families, with disabilities, and of limited English proficiency, are prepared to be successful, participating members of our democracy.
While we all have different positions on various aspects of the law, based on concerns raised during the implementation of NCLB, we believe the following significant, constructive corrections are among those necessary to make the Act fair and effective. Among these concerns are: over-emphasizing standardized testing, narrowing curriculum and instruction to focus on test preparation rather than richer academic learning; over-identifying schools in need of improvement; using sanctions that do not help improve schools; inappropriately excluding low-scoring children in order to boost test results; and inadequate funding. Overall, the law's emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement.Recommended Changes in NCLB
1. Replace the law's arbitrary proficiency targets with ambitious achievement targets based on rates of success actually achieved by the most effective public schools.
2. Allow states to measure progress by using students' growth in achievement as well as their performance in relation to pre-determined levels of academic proficiency.
3. Ensure that states and school districts regularly report to the government and the public their progress in implementing systemic changes to enhance educator, family, and community capacity to improve student learning.
4. Provide a comprehensive picture of students' and schools' performance by moving from an overwhelming reliance on standardized tests to using multiple indicators of student achievement in addition to these tests.
5. Fund research and development of more effective accountability systems that better meet the goal of high academic achievement for all children.
6. Help states develop assessment systems that include district and school-based measures in order to provide better, more timely information about student learning.
7. Strengthen enforcement of NCLB provisions requiring that assessments must:
- Be aligned with state content and achievement standards;
- Be used for purposes for which they are valid and reliable;
- Be consistent with nationally recognized professional and technical standards;
- Be of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under the Act;
- Provide multiple, up-to-date measures of student performance including measures that assess higher order thinking skills and understanding; and
- Provide useful diagnostic information to improve teaching and learning.
8. Decrease the testing burden on states, schools and districts by allowing states to assess students annually in selected grades in elementary, middle schools, and high schools.
9. Ensure changes in teacher and administrator preparation and continuing professional development that research evidence and experience indicate improve educational quality and student achievement.
10. Enhance state and local capacity to effectively implement the comprehensive changes required to increase the knowledge and skills of administrators, teachers, families, and communities to support high student achievement.
11. Ensure that improvement plans are allowed sufficient time to take hold before applying sanctions; sanctions should not be applied if they undermine existing effective reform efforts.
12. Replace sanctions that do not have a consistent record of success with interventions that enable schools to make changes that result in improved student achievement.
13. Raise authorized levels of NCLB funding to cover a substantial percentage of the costs that states and districts will incur to carry out these recommendations, and fully fund the law at those levels without reducing expenditures for other education programs.
14. Fully fund Title I to ensure that 100 percent of eligible children are served.
We, the undersigned, will work for the adoption of these recommendations as central structural changes needed to NCLB at the same time that we advance our individual organization's proposals.
- Advancement Project
- American Association of School Administrators
- American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA)
- American Association of University Women
- American Baptist Women's Ministries
- American Counseling Association
- American Dance Therapy Association
- American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA)
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
- American Humanist Association
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- Americans for the Arts
- Annenberg Institute for School Reform
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
- Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)
- Association of Education Publishers
- Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)
- Big Picture Company
- Center for Community Change
- Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking
- Center for Parent Leadership
- Children's Aid Society
- Children's Defense Fund
- Church Women United
- Coalition for Community Schools
- Citizens for Effective Schools
- Council of Administrators of Special Education, Inc.
- Coalition of Essential Schools
- Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
- Communities for Quality Education
- Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders
- Council for Exceptional Children
- Council for Hispanic Ministries of the United Church of Christ
- Council for Learning Disabilities
- Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform
- Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)
- Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children (DLD/CEC)
- Education Action!
- Episcopal Church
- Every Child Matters
- FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing
- Forum for Education and Democracy
- Hmong National Development
- Institute for Language and Education Policy
- International Reading Association
- International Technology Education Association
- Japanese American Citizens League
- Learning Disabilities Association of America
- League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
- Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic justice of the United Church or Christ
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
- NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF)
- National Alliance of Black School Educators
- National Association for Asian and Pacific American Education (NAAPAE)
- National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)
- National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA)
- National Association for the Education of African American Children with Learning Disabilities (NAEAACLD)
- National Association of Pupil Service Administrators
- National Association of School Psychologists
- National Association of Social Workers
- National Baptist Convention, USA (NBCUSA)
- National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
- National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE)
- National Conference of Black Mayors
- National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP)
- National Council for the Social Studies
- National Council of Churches
- National Council of Jewish Women
- National Council of Teachers of English
- National Education Association
- National Federation of Filipino American Associations
- National Indian Education Association
- National Indian School Board Association
- National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
- National Mental Health Association
- National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA
- National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
- National Reading Conference
- National Rural Education Association
- National School Boards Association
- National School Supply and Equipment Association
- National Superintendents Roundtable
- National Urban League
- Native Hawaiian Education Association
- Network of Spiritual Progressives
- People for the American Way
- Presbyterian Church (USA)
- Progressive National Baptist Convention
- Protestants for the Common Good
- Rural School and Community Trust
- Service Employees International Union
- School Social Work Association of America
- Social Action Committee of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations
- Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
- Stand for Children
- Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL)
- United Black Christians of the United Church of Christ
- United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
- United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
- Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
- Women of Reform Judaism
Monday, March 19, 2007
Five years ago, after then House Majority Whip Tom DeLay entered his first vote for President Bush's No Child Left Behind bill, he went on Rush Limbaugh's radio program and apologized.
"I'm ashamed to say it was just blatant politics," he said. "I can't even remember another time I've actually voted against my principles." (He eventually voted against the final bill.)
Today, Bush's signature education law is up for renewal, but Republican loyalty like DeLay's will be harder to come by. Rep. Roy Blunt, the new No. 2 Republican in the House, yesterday joined a group of 57 GOP lawmakers in a revolt. Sens. Mel Martinez and Jon Kyl, the chairs of the Republican National Committee and the Senate Republican Conference, also signed on. Like DeLay, both Blunt and Kyl had supported the law in 2001.
"Bush had a lot of political capital then," says Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the National Education Association. "Now, I think [these Republicans] are all feeling–I'd use the word liberated."
Worse yet for Bush, Democrats, the new majority party on Capitol Hill, are also skeptical.
Sending a letter pleading for more flexibility to his Democratic colleagues, Sen. Russ Feingold cited his state of Wisconsin.
"There is growing frustration around the country about NCLB," he said. "It is our responsibility to ensure that those voices are heard."
Yesterday's concessions have become today's stubborn demands for reform. Some Republicans, like Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, want to hand control of education back to the states and add in private-school vouchers, opportunities to send kids in low-performing public schools to private school on the federal government's dime. Should Congress continue with NCLB, Hoekstra said yesterday in introducing new legislation, "we will soon have federal government schools."
Democrats, meanwhile, have focused their complaints once again on funding and testing. Sen. Christopher Dodd, with the strong support of the National Education Association, is now working on a bill that would inject significant flexibility into the law, probably at the cost of the strict accountability definitions the Bush administration and the Senate's Democratic leadership support. Nine Democratic senators joined Feingold in his letter last month, outlining concerns about insufficient funding and excessive mandates...
One can only continue to hope.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
WASHINGTON, March 14 — Under attack for improprieties uncovered in its showcase literacy program for low-income children, the Department of Education will convene an outside advisory committee to oversee the program, known as Reading First, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Wednesday...
One can only wonder what that will look like...
After Ms. Spellings left the hearing, Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University, whose Success for All reading program was shut out of many states under Reading First, said he did not think the secretary’s promises went far enough. “I haven’t seen the slightest glimmer of even intention to change,” Dr. Slavin said.
Because schools had already chosen their readng curriculums, promises to clean up Reading First now meant little, he said. He compared them to finding eight innings into a baseball game with a score of 23 to 0 that the opposing team had been playing with cork bats.
“Then they say, ‘From now on, we’re using honest bats.’ ” Dr. Slavin said. “I’m sorry, it’s 23 to nothing. You can’t just say, ‘From now on.’ ”
With only two Education Department employees in charge of the vast program, the administration relied largely on private contractors to advise states on their applications for grants, screen products for scientific validity and weigh applications. The inspector general found that several of these contractors wrote reading programs and testing instruments that were competing for money, and that they gave preference to products to which they had ties.
Ms. Spellings has maintained, and said again under questioning Wednesday, that the problems with Reading First occurred before she became education secretary.
She denied accusations from a former political appointee at the department, Michael Petrilli, who said she had essentially run Reading First from her post as domestic policy adviser at the White House...We will wait and see...
More than 50 GOP members of the House and Senate -- including the House's second-ranking Republican -- will introduce legislation today that could severely undercut President Bush's signature domestic achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act, by allowing states to opt out of its testing mandates...
But read further to find the real motivation...
Under Hoekstra's bill, any state could essentially opt out of No Child Left Behind after one of two actions. A state could hold a referendum, or two of three elected entities -- the governor, the legislature and the state's highest elected education official -- could decide that the state would no longer abide by the strict rules on testing and the curriculum.
The Senate bill is slightly less permissive, but it would allow a state to negotiate a "charter" with the federal government to get away from the law's mandates.
In both cases, the states that opt out would still be eligible for federal funding, but strictures...
Did you catch that, they would opt out and under the senate bill they could "negotiate a 'charter,'" sounds like a sneaky way to privitization? And what exactly does, "those states could exempt any education program but special education from No Child Left Behind" mean? But there is more...
"So many people are frustrated with the shackles of No Child Left Behind," DeMint said. "I don't think anyone argues with measuring what we're doing, but the fact is, even the education community . . . sees us just testing, testing, testing, and reshaping the curriculum so we look good."
We certainly agree with that!
Republican lawmakers involved in crafting the new legislation say Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and other administration officials have moved in recent days to tamp down dissent within the GOP. Since January, Spellings has met or spoken with about 40 Republican lawmakers on the issue, said Katherine McLane, the Education Department's press secretary.
"We've made a lot of progress in the past five years in serving the children who have traditionally been underserved in our education system," McLane said. "Now is not the time to roll back the clock on those children."
But so far, the administration's efforts have borne little fruit, Republican critics said.
"Republicans voted for No Child Left Behind holding their noses," said Michael J. Petrilli, an Education Department official during Bush's first term who is now a critic of the law. "But now with the president so politically weak, conservatives can vote their conscience."
It all gets curiouser and curiouser.
What will happen in the US when this happens here? I wonder...
Guatemala, Mar 14 (Prensa Latina) Teachers took to the streets of Guatemala City on Wednesday to demand socioeconomic improvements and protest government plans to privatize education.
At least 10,000 teachers took part in the largest demonstration of the year, staged from the Ministry of Education to the Congress of the Republic.
Union leader Hugo Efrain Bareda described a government-promoted Education Reform bill currently under discussion in Congress as a violation of the Constitution.
Romualdo Maldonado, from the teachers union in western Quetzaltenango, said the education reform is part of neoliberal measures to curb the State s role.
Guatemala has about 90,000 state teachers in the 17,000 public schools countrywide.
State teachers have declared themselves in permanent assembly and threatened new steps if the government fails to back down from its neoliberal, privatizing program.