Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Education Industry: The Corporate Takeover of Public Schools --

<>by Julie Light, CorpWatch
July 8th, 1998
I was looking at the hits that this blog has gotten and noticed that someone had arrived here via a search on google for"privatizing education. ( An interesting search by the way. You should give it a try.) When I tried that search I found this site, which I will link to. It is an important site. I found this from 1998. It's still relevant. The last paragraph sums it all up nicely:

For more than a decade conservatives have been organizing around school reform, tapping into parents' and teachers' real concern with the lack of educational options. Corporations have seized on the opening provided by educators' and families' frustration with the lack of school resources. Parents, teachers and students can roll back the corporate take over of education, but only if they offer an alternative vision. One in which corporations pay taxes instead of getting free advertising and tax write-offs for donated promotional materials; one in which school systems do not abandon students to for-profit companies, and one in which educational choice is a basic right for all families, not just a few.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Money Slated for Needy Schools to Pay for Tutoring, Busing Under No Child Law --

By Nirvi Shah
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

This negative side affect is one that we do not see in press accounts often enough.

The Palm Beach County School District will set aside $11 million next school year to deal with students at schools who failed to meet the No Child Left Behind requirements — money meant to help schools with many poor students pay for teachers, books and other classroom materials.

That's about a third of the $30 million the district gets in federal money to improve schools where at least half the children are so poor they qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The money will pay to bus children who want to switch schools and to tutor others — a requirement for schools that aren't progressing for two or three years in a row.

That $11 million is "money that's taken off of the top," said Kay Scott, who oversees No Child Left Behind for the school system. "It's money that the schools could use to pay their own incentives to get highly qualified teachers, tutorial services, parental involvement activities, additional classroom supplies, more computers — anything extra."

It's money that schools could use to better themselves but that's not the way NCLB is set up. It is set up to funnel those funds to the private sector.

And then there's this from O'hanian's site. Do we need yet more proof of where a good deal of the impetus for NCLB is coming from.

Nina S. Rees leads the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) at the U.S. Department of Education, overseeing the administration of approximately 28 grant programs. The office supports education innovation, broadly disseminates the lessons learned from these programs and helps to make strategic investments in promising educational practices. It provides leadership for efforts in the areas of parental options, information and rights. Working with the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Rees coordinates the implementation of the public school choice and supplemental services provisions of the president's No Child Left Behind Act. In addition, she oversees the implementation of the DC School Choice Incentive Act, the passage of which she led. This program offers low-income students in the District of Columbia an opportunity to attend a private school of their choice...

From 1997 to 2001, she served as the chief education analyst for The Heritage Foundation. She was the foundation's lead author and spokesperson on education and worked closely with members of Congress and state legislatures on policy proposals aimed at reforming federal education programs and aiding disadvantaged students. She has testified before Congress on a number of education issues, including the benefits of school choice for low-income students.

Prior to joining The Heritage Foundation, Rees served as director of outreach programs at the Institute for Justice and as a policy analyst at Americans for Tax Reform. She spent two years on the staff of Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla...Rees has been a frequent media commentator on education issues. Her articles and views have appeared in various national newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. She has also appeared on CBS's The Early Show and Evening News, CNN's Inside Politics and Lou Dobbs Tonight, C-Span's Washington Journal, Fox Morning News, Fox News Channel's Special Report and The O'Reilly Factor, and PBS's The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.

She appears to be especially good at getting the neo-conservative educational word out.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Teachers condemn standardized, mandated testing as overemphasized and superficial --

Published Online May 22, 2005

This is important. A math teacher resigns publicly and eloquently. Here are some excerpts but the whole article is worth a read.

Smith, an award-winning mathematics teacher, resigned from her Central High School job very publicly, reading her protest about the direction the district was headed at a televised Unit 4 board meeting May 9.

"I find myself constrained by a mentality that says all students will learn the same material at the same pace and prove it by taking the same multiple-choice test within a given time frame," she told the board. "I can't do that. I know all students don't learn at the same pace. I don't believe a student's understanding of mathematical concepts can be assessed by a multiple-choice test nor do I believe such a test is fair for all learners."

"I tried," Smith said last week of her talks with district administrators about her concerns. "But I have a choice, and I'd rather move in a direction I know is best for students than in one that's not. I told the kids it had nothing to do with them. "I said, 'I don't want to teach you to take a multiple-choice test. I want to teach you math is the language of the universe, the most powerful tool. With math, you can do anything.'"

"Some really good, solid teachers are just fed up," said Kris Hightshoe, who retired last year from Edison Middle School and estimates she lost 25 days of instruction the last year either preparing youngsters for tests or giving them. "Testing and the consent decree are driving everything, the way principals run their buildings, the way the school board operates, the way the administration works," Hightshoe said. "It's superficial education, not real learning."

Smith has taught 18 years in Champaign, the last 11 years at Central's Academy, a creative, college-bound, school-within-a-school that focuses on technology. "We've had to give up all integrated projects that tie together math, biology, English and reading," she said. "Now we teach those subjects in chunks so students are ready for tests. We used to pursue innovative teaching methods. Now there's no time." Smith figures she has lost 10 to 15 instruction days a year preparing students to take standardized tests and giving the tests.

"We don't have time to cover our material because we're getting ready for assessments," said Dan Reid, a Central science teacher. "We lose at least two days every quarter getting ready for tests. That's almost two weeks of classes."

"We've lost units of material in junior English," said Pat Johnson at Central. "I figure I've lost 15 instruction days preparing for and giving tests. Accountability is fine, but it's made for a difficult situation for kids. I know teachers who are leaving Champaign to go to smaller districts with less diversity so the testing doesn't count as much."

"There's absolutely too much emphasis on testing at all levels in math and no time to focus on interesting applications, critical thinking, content, open-ended problems," said Anne Munroe, a Central math teacher. "Last year I felt like I was shoving in material to meet a deadline. We used to try to gauge what students had learned and where we should start, but now we have to assume everyone's in the same place and carry on from there."

Does anyone know kids? Does anyone know human beings? Why would we expect everyone to be at the same place at the same time? I don't know why, but I do know that that is what is expected by these grade level high stakes tests. And more and more people are realizing that this isn't right. Thank goodness!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Brief History of NCLB --

I was reading an e-mails from a kindergarten list serve the other day when I came across a post:

Who actually wrote NCLB?  My Republican friends insist it was Ted  Kennedy.I would appreciate information on this if anyone has it.

And the answer:

As I understand it, Kennedy was instrumental in the writing. The present different perspectives from the NEA and the AFT is due to this. AFT says that it was their contribution that made NCLB 'mas o menos'acceptable.

And another:

As far as I know it was Mrs. Spellings herself under the guidance of Mr. Paige. Rod Paige is the former SI of Houston's school district which was credited with the "Texas' miracle". His success was (supposedly) so great that that justified that not only Mr. Paige became Secretary of Education but his improvement system would be turned into the basis for NCLB.

There is a lot of misinformation out there. This article should clear it up some. One thing it does leave out is the influence of the corporate education establishment lead by the Business Roundtable and their many think tanks and money bags such as the Broad Foundation.

Near as I can figure out Kennedy signed up because he saw a chance to get more money to educate just those kids that NCLB is supposed to help, minorities and low socio economic kids. So the act is a compromise and what we get is the corporate agenda of test, test and more test, and along with that come punishments for those that don't make AYP and the door is opened for
vouchers and privatization. (Remember private schools don't have to measure up to NCLB.) And let us not forget the testing companies and private tutoring outfits that stand to make big bucks from this.

This is the history and my personal take on it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Another Anti Testing Letter -

This is from the Boston Globe 5/16/05 and again come from O'hanian's site. Please make sure you read the letter below it is a must read, but this one has some things to say as well.

To the editor

From Michael Brower

Published in Boston Globe (05/16/2005)

SCOT LEHIGH thinks it is ''Time to raise the MCAS bar" (op ed, May 11). But instead of blindly pushing more and tougher testing, we should ask ''what is the purpose of education?"

To do this, consider that the amount of human knowledge is doubling every few years, and it is already so vast that no one could possibly learn even a tiny fraction of it in four or eight years in school. Consider that the knowledge that a young person will need to be a productive person and citizen over his lifetime cannot possibly be learned in advance in any period of four or eight years. Therefore, logically, the purpose of education cannot possibly be to acquire knowledge at all, but rather to prepare students for lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning will come if a student develops a thirst for learning, a will to learn, the confidence that she or he can learn, and some skills in how to learn. MCAS and other standardized testing does not develop any of these; it is more likely to kill them.

We should junk the testing, study what does contribute to lifelong learning, build new innovative schools, hire more creative teachers, reduce class sizes, and put more responsibility on young people themselves to seek, plan, define, promote, and develop their own learning and that of their peers. And, for goodness sake, don't ''raise the bar" on MCAS testing. That would further discourage all but a small, verbally proficient elite and further drive up the already scandalously high dropout rates.

Now read the letter below and I am sure you will see that if learning to be a life long learner is the goal, as I believe it should be, then "schooling as high stakes testing" is not the way to go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Promise of learning standards unfulfilled --

From the May 12, Roanoke Times. (Thanks to Susan Ohanian's site.) This is a powerful letter from a parent. This is for all of you that believe these high stakes tests do no harm.

Betsy Biesenbach

Biesenbach, of Roanoke, is a free-lance writer and a paralegal.

In 1977, I was enrolled in what was then Radford College. As with most bachelor's degree programs, ours required several courses that were not directly related to our majors, but intended rather to turn us into well-rounded people.

I vividly remember the first day of Art 101. The professor stood in front of the class with a slide of Leonardo DaVinci's "The Last Supper" projected on the screen behind him. He was trying to explain perspective by pointing out that the landscape you see in the window behind the foreground figures looks realistic because it was painted from the viewpoint of someone who would be standing in the room. Apparently there were several people who had never heard of the concept, and just weren't getting it.

Finally, in desperation, the professor said: "It's like train tracks going off in the distance."

And a voice piped up from the back of the room: "I don't see no train tracks in that there pitcher."

I realized right then that the education I had received in well-to-do Fairfax County was vastly different from that which students in other parts of the state had gotten. So in the mid-'90s, when I heard that Virginia was instituting a Standards of Learning test, I thought it was a great idea. Why, I reasoned, shouldn't a kid living in the Northern Neck or far Southwest Virginia have the same opportunities I had?

Now that I have a child in public school, I have changed my mind completely.

I should have known something was up when I went to back-to-school night during my son's second-grade year. There was a stack of shiny textbooks piled on his desk. I stared at them, befuddled. In the two years my son had been going to school, he'd never brought any books home. "We only use them for reference," the teacher explained. "There aren't any textbooks that have everything we need for the SOLs."

This year, my son is in third grade, and after the winter break, he began bringing home thick sheaves of closely typed study guides.

The instructions said he was supposed to study the material, but not memorize it - a pretty tall order for what turned out to be nothing more than lists of questions and answers.

We dutifully went through the lists, and I quickly discovered that he already knew most of the answers.

"We go over it in school," he explained. And indeed they do. In addition to the classroom time, there is before school tutoring, and parents are expected to go over the material every night as well.

At first I was grateful that I had a child who could memorize easily - and then very, very sorry for parents who don't. But I wondered what he was not being taught during the time the class spends cramming for the test. Apparently, plenty.

A teacher friend of mine told me that often her students will ask questions she doesn't have time to answer because the subject is not on the SOL test.

My son and I went back to one of the questions he didn't know. The answer was "opportunity cost." Neither of us knew what it meant.

"We haven't studied it yet," he said.

"Then why is it on your homework assignment?" I asked. "Because it's on the test," he replied, shrugging his shoulders.

My teacher friend also told me that much of the subject matter has no relation to the children's lives. Her best students can tell her all about Greece and Rome and Egypt, but none of them can point out Virginia on a map.

What's more, she said, most of her students will not pass the test no matter how hard they try. Many of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds and others have learning disabilities or don't even speak English, none of which is taken into account.

Another friend told me that when her daughter got a "D" in third-grade math, she just assumed the child was getting remedial help.

But because she had passed the SOL, she didn't qualify and was sent to the fourth grade without ever really understanding the material.

I don't blame my son's teachers for wasting his time on this test.

In fact, I admire them for even getting out of bed in the morning and coming to work. I'm sure their training did not prepare them to teach children to merely parrot the answers to questions dreamed up by someone who may never have set foot in a third-grade classroom. I also don't blame the principals, the school administration or the school board, whose jobs are hanging on the test scores.

I blame the people who thought up this test and the ones who have implemented it so that our schools pass or fail based only on this one criterion. I blame the people who turned a really good idea into something that has nothing to do with educating our children, and which, in the end, will probably turn many of them off to learning.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Public schools: Do they outperform private ones? -

This by Teresa Méndez from the May 10 Christian Science Monitor. Thanks to Bill at Endless Faculty Meeting.

"...a new study shows public school children outperforming their private school peers on a federal math exam.

Overall, private school students tend to do markedly better on standardized tests. But the reason, this study suggests, may be that they draw students from wealthier and more educated families, rather than because they're better at bolstering student achievement.

One study is unlikely to settle a long-simmering debate over the merits of public versus private education. But its authors say they hope it will give pause to a current trend in education reform: privatization.

From tax-dollar financed vouchers for private schools to a drive to put public schools in private hands, market-style reforms are all the buzz in education.

Competition, the reasoning goes, is healthy for schools. Those that must produce results to survive have to be better than those that don't face such pressure.

But these findings "really call into question the assumption of some of the more prominent reform efforts," says Christopher Lubienski, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who wrote the study with his wife Sarah Theule Lubienski, also an education professor at the university.

In particular, says Mr. Lubienski, it challenges the assumption that "the private-school model is better and more effective, and can achieve superior results. It really undercuts a lot of those choice-based reforms."

There are some of us that could have told you from the get go that wealth and social class is a predictor of success in school. So it does follow that private schools would do better, so this is encouraging news. And while we are talking about private schools..

It appears that Edison Schools are in trouble in Philadelphia. (Thanks to Education on the Brink for this one.)

Edison Schools Inc., and the Chester Community Charter School, which educate most of the district's students, have both been cited for testing irregularities that raise questions about claims of improved achievement.

Edison yesterday fired Jayne Gibbs, the principal of Parry Middle School in Chester Upland who was accused by students of giving them answers during state testing last month. The company also said it would ask the state and district to investigate exemplary test results at Showalter Middle School when Gibbs was principal there in 2003 and 2004.

This is a now familiar way of raising test scores. I believe that what it shows is that raising scores and teaching kids is difficult. There are no short cuts. It is exactly for this reason that we cannot leave the education of our children to for profit operations. The main difference between for profit and public education is that the goal of dedicated public schools and school boards is educating kids. The goal of for profit education companies is making a profit. How long are we going to go down this wrong rode of privatizing education before we really focus on changing our public schools?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

NCLB may be a stealth agenda to allow corporations to take over our schools -

Here is a wonderful letter from Lubbock TX that I found on Wesley Fryer's Moving at the Speed of Creativity Literacy and Education, and I like it so much that I post it in it's entirety along with a comment from the Wesley:

----- reprint of a letter to the Lubbock AJ editor follows -----

12 April 2005

Dear Editor,

The federal legislation of No Child Left Behind is a poor attempt at education reform that will result in corporations taking over your local school. The average person, due to misconceptions of the education process, doesn’t realize the scope of this unrealistic plan that will affect all of us for years to come.

Here are the facts:

1. The U.S. Department of Education insists on 97 % of all children to be tested on grade level. Where did they get the idea that only 3% of our population should be exempted? Talk to your child’s teacher and find out how many children in your local school are mentally retarded, physically disabled, or in any way have a learning disability. The next time you go to the grocery store, look around you. Do you believe that 97% of the adults in that building are possible of passing the same test on anything?

2. NCLB, from details available at the website, lays out a plan that if schools do not achieve a certain level of growth toward these unrealistic goals, corporations can then take over your local school. These privatized schools will have no local controls and be under the scrutiny of no one except, possibly, out-of-state shareholders. Gone will be any hands-on projects, creative lessons, music or art classes, and field trips. Worksheets will be day-in and day-out.

3. What will happen when a new family of a disabled student moves into a neighborhood? If that school already has their 3% cap met, does the child get bussed to another school? If the child forces the school over the cap, does the school get reorganized and made into a corporation school? Is this discriminatory to the family of the disabled child or just the other families in the neighborhood? Do we want this social engineering on the local scale due to federal law?

4. Opposition of NCLB is seen, by some, as whining by teachers who don’t want to change. It’s exactly the opposite. Those in education are just about the only ones who know about the problems with this law and are the least able to speak against it. The facets of our profession are misunderstood by mainstream America, and NCLB is like a stealth wrecking ball, poised to act. This is a concern from teachers for a system that, while imperfect, does not need to be demolished and replaced by a corporate bureaucracy. Teachers want students to be measured and feel that there is a standard that must be met. Let’s see realistic growth goals be used for each student, not some number pulled out of a hat. Every teacher I’ve talked to wants accountability, but in a fair and realistic way. I am a conservative who voted for President Bush. I also have children that have gone through LISD schools. While I agree with the President on many things, this plan, though, hasn’t been thought out and needs to be scrapped before our children and grandchildren waste important years of their lives.

5. Talk to your child’s teacher. Get the facts. Go to the Department of Education website, then to the website and get the reaction of educators instead of out-of-touch legislators (who, by the way, use private schools for their children). Let your thoughts be known to your federal representatives. NCLB is a bad law that will hurt everyone for years to come.

Doug Hogan

----- end of reprinted letter -----

Doug raises some critical issues here we all need to look at closely, form opinions about, and then communicate with our legislators about. It seems clear that many in educational public policy debates today are NOT interested in looking out for all students currently in our public schools, particularly those in the poorest school districts and those with special needs. Support for vouchers and charters and more heavy-handed high-stakes testing offer no panacea for the problems which face education. In the case of finance reform involving vouchers and private schools, those changes could take away already limited dollars from public schools that desperately need them.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Be Sure to Visit the 14th Education Carnival --

A carnival dedicated to all things related to public education.

Also a belated note to visit the newest Education Advocate Weekly over at Joe Thomas' site. Mostly progressive, mostly well worth a visit.

Monday, May 09, 2005

School Funds Cut to Hire Consultants --

This article is from the Maui News and is written by Chris Berger.

"KIHEI – Complying with the No Child Left Behind Act could mean cutting educational programs at Kahului Elementary School, Principal Fern Markgraf said Friday. Markgraf said she was certain the school staff would find some way of restoring the funds being diverted to a contract with an educational consulting company because Kahului School fell short in meeting all of the standards set by the federal law.... The BOE on Thursday approved nearly $8 million in contracts for three private companies to restructure 24 Hawaii schools failing No Child Left Behind benchmarks. Edison Alliance was awarded a $3.9 million contract – the largest of the three – to restructure seven Maui schools deemed to be “failing” under the federal law....

The money to pay the consultants will come from each school’s Title 1 funds, federal subsidies given to a school with a large enrollment of low-income students... But in explaining the impact of the “failing school” designation on Friday, Markgraf said losing control of her school’s Title 1 funds “was a huge blow.” The money had been used for buying curriculum materials and paying for additional personnel, math camps and pre-kindergarten classes, among other things."

This is one of my pet peeves of this whole legislation. A school district, or school fails to make AYP (adequate yearly progress) as most schools are bound to do eventually because the way NCLB is written, there is no way 100% of a school can show this kind of growth.
Now, here's the rub, because it really only effects Title One schools, the schools most in need of help, because the other non-Title One schools do not get federal money. Okay, so a school fails several times, they now must take this money away from educating these most needy students and pay a private firm like Edison to come in a "fix" the problem. The money goes away from the kids and into the hands of a for profit business. Meanwhile the non-title one schools that fail to make AYP are written up as failures in the local news and go on their merry way, still in most cases, making an honest attempt at educating their kids to the best of their abilities, without any other sort of interference from the feds, because they receive no federal monies.

Does this really best serve all kids, especially those most in need, the ones this law is supposedly aimed at? I think not.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

CATO institute says No NCLB --

Marie Griffith of the CATO Institute writes this is her webpage Reason Online. This is interesting. She lists, and we agree, many of the reasons why NCLB should be resisted. Talking about Margaret Spellings Education secretary she writes,

" ...Spellings employs a mixture of honey and vinegar in her negotiations with states. On one hand, she has promised "flexibility" in the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. But she will not waive its intensely prescriptive testing provisions. For example, too many special education students must take exams inappropriate to their needs. Moreover, she cannot change the faulty basic structure of a law that purports to let states create accountability regimens, but micromanages every step of that process..."

We agree.

"On the other hand, Spellings engages NCLB critics in fierce public relations battles. Spellings called Connecticut officials "un-American" for daring to suggest that some No Child regulations fit poorly with Connecticut's own accountability plan.

If a state complains about NCLB's endless red tape, Spellings' staff will search through hundreds of statistics to find the handful that paint the state in the worst possible light. These will find their way into ghostwritten op-eds in national publications. If a state asks for waivers of prescriptive guidelines that undermine state-level accountability systems, Spellings implies that the state does not care about its children's education..."

Sounds about right to us but wait there's something else,

"That states like Utah are resisting such carrots and sticks is inspiring, and may signal a sea change in the relationship between the federal and state governments when it comes to money and influence.

For half a century the federal government has used the power of the pocketbook, and the ability to borrow lavishly, to homogenize state policies about everything from schools to highways. The long run result is seldom better policy, because supplanting many state experiments with a single system thwarts the innovation that leads to improvement.

Often, state governments do not care because they have an incentive to maximize their budgets, not their effectiveness. For example, a federal law may provide 10 percent more funding in return for following regulations that will require the entire 10 percent to be spent on staff dedicated to filling out compliance forms.

In the real world, people would dismiss such a program as a waste of resources. But in government, such laws are welcome because they create additional jobs for state bureaucrats. Union leaders love this system because it benefits their members, and politicians love it because it benefits the unions. The fact that nothing productive is actually accomplished is beside the point.

By passing HB 1001, which prioritizes state educational goals at the risk of losing federal dollars, Utah has made the bold claim that education is too important for business as usual. Utah has concluded that its state accountability system best serves students, and has decided to pay more attention to how well children learn than to how many government jobs get created..."

Oh, we see it's too much big government. Now that makes sense from a conservative perspective. It has always amazed me that my conservative state of Alaska has not complained more about this big government interference. But wait theres more,

"... if the federal department does get tough, Utah should stand firm. States will never win the right to manage their own affairs as long as they remain addicted to federal dollars. If Utah shows that it is financially and politically possible to shrug off federal interference, other states may do the same. Both children and taxpayers would benefit from their courage."

Coincidently, or perhaps not this editorial from the Pittsburgh Tribune/Review also showed up on the internet today.

"It's hardly surprising that No Child Left Behind has been targeted by insatiable public school spendthrifts who continually demand more but accomplish less.

The National Education Association, along with nine school districts, have filed a lawsuit arguing that President Bush's centerpiece for better schools is underfunded. The cure? Congress must boost current spending from $12.7 billion this year to $28 billion.

We'll wager even that won't be enough. No amount of taxpayer conscription will fill the belly of the beast that has grown larger, not smaller, under Mr. Bush.

That's because the president's education initiative only adds another layer to an unresponsive bureaucracy. What's needed is reform.

Step one is to seal up the money pit that is today's federal Department of Education. Bush's initiative is more appropriately dubbed No Taxpayer Pocket Left Unpicked. The administration, in a sop to Teddy Kennedy, has boosted the federal Education budget by 40 percent.

Step two is school choice. Despite court victories, choice has moved with glacial speed -- if any. Those who endorse No Child Left Behind say full-scale school choice isn't achievable. It would be if those who pay lip service to better schools took up the fight.

Simply throwing more money at the problem won't achieve accountability from a system unwilling to change. Giving parents a choice will require poorly performing schools to meet public expectations -- or face extinction."

Now I get it. Stop spending money on public education and highways, and give parents a choice.
But I wonder should the feds still continue to fund the voucher movement?

Anyway it appears that some conservatives don't like NCLB any more the we and that may be a good thing as far as getting rid of or changing the law goes but I am getting a little worried about what might come next.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

NCLB in Connecticut --

(Sorry that you have to register first for this one but it is painless.) This article is by Dan Pearson and is from the May 5, New London Day. If you have been following NCLB news like I have you no doubt know by now that the Connecticut attorney general has been threatening the feds on NCLB. You also know that some in the media think that the chances of winning might be slim. Here is a good story with lots of details to what is going on:

"Enacted in 2002, NCLB seeks to improve schools by making them more accountable for student performance on standardized tests. Schools that fail to meet performance standards become subject to increasingly stringent penalties. Connecticut, which tests students in grades 4, 6, 8 and 10, has embraced the “goals and intent” of NCLB, Taylor has said. But the state board and Sternberg have criticized NCLB testing policies, especially regarding students who don't yet speak English and special education students.

The state has also sought exemption from a requirement next year to test all students in grades 3 through 8 and 10, saying this will add costs without producing results. Connecticut would like to pioneer “formative assessments,” frequent tests that can be quickly adapted to classroom instruction. Sternberg said the federal government has not shown research to prove that annual testing makes a difference, while Connecticut can support its belief in formative testing.

In her letter to Sternberg Wednesday, Spellings restated her refusal to grant a testing exemption. But she said she was willing to consider some of Connecticut's other recommendations, including that the federal government base designations on “cohort analysis” that follows a single group of students through school instead of the “snapshots” of individual classes now used.

Spellings also recommended ways that Connecticut could either shift funding or get access to more money for NCLB. She said some of Connecticut's financial hardship is because the state's testing requirements go beyond what is required by NCLB.

Sternberg said this was “problematic.”

“There is a perception that we're doing the Cadillac model of testing instead of the Chevy,” she said. “We have important, reasonable, challenging tests. The federal government seems to be saying, ‘Don't do that, lower your standards to meet the standards of the law.” "

Did you get that part? "Connecticut would like to pioneer “formative assessments,” frequent tests that can be quickly adapted to classroom instruction." unlike most of the norm referenced tests that are currently used that are of little or no use in the classroom. And did you get this part? “We have important, reasonable, challenging tests. The federal government seems to be saying, ‘Don't do that, lower your standards to meet the standards of the law.”

Connecticut is actually doing a better job of accessing and following their kids than the law requires but to meet the letter of the law the feds want them to either do more or forget their tests, that might actually accomplish something, and follow the feds testing procedures which do nothing more than collect data and punish those that do not make the grade!

I know there are some of you out there that still support NCLB, but admit it, aren't you starting to get just the littlest twinge of doubt?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Gambling with the Children -

This article the January 2003, issue of No Child Left. You can find the original image here, with links to headings on this page. I believe that the illustration speaks for itself.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

In Defense of Our Children: When Politics, Profit and Education Collide --

This is a review of the book by Elaine grain from the TCO Record by Gary Ratner, and according to this review Ms. Garan has a lot to say especially about NCLB, the NRP Report, and Reading First, which require "scientifically" based curricula.

"Although the scientific research requirement may be reasonable on its face, Garan argues that the government is abusive in its administration of the requirement. Instead of the government's consistently applying the same objective standard of scientific research, she asserts, there is no set standard. . . . The definition of science now amounts to this: If we [government officials] approve it, it's scientific. If we don't, it's not. (p. 45). Instead of the government's fairly evaluating all reading programs submitted to it, Garan indicates that it has approved a limited number of particular commercial reading programs. (These include McGraw-Hill's Open Court Reading and Houghton Mifflin's reading program) In one instance of what Garan views as administrative abuse, the President's reading adviser made a public recommendation against use of a different commercial program (not among the ones the government has approved), and other government reading advisers pressured New York City not to seek funding for purchasing it, even though it is, according to Garan, both "scientific" and much less expensive than the ones the government has approved (pp. 45, 81-82)

Moreover, Garan says, the government has approved certain commercial reading programs notwithstanding that the seminal report of the congressionally created National Reading Panel (NRP) found that they do not significantly improve children's reading. Indeed, the NRP report found that use of the Open Court Reading program in first grade actually resulted in children's loss of reading skills "in every skill that was tested," including, most importantly, comprehension and spelling (pp. 87, 88). Despite this finding, Garan notes, "Open Court is the hands-down favorite with the Reading First panels of experts" (p. 81).

Even worse, the NRP "summary booklet" that "forms the basis of current [NCLB] legislation and mandates" (p. 97) misrepresents what the full report found. Whereas the report itself explicitly found that "'systematic phonics instruction failed to exert a significant impact on the reading performance [of the students assessed] in 2nd through 6th grade' (NRP report 2-88)'" (p. 94), the summary booklet asserts that the report "'revealed that systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through sixth grade"NRP report 2-88)" (p. 97) Even though the NRP was informed that its summary booklet contained this serious misrepresentation, the panel continued to publish it for years on its Web site without change.

As to alleged conflicts of interest, Garan's principal argument seems to be that many of the preparers of the NRP report and the summary booklet were not independent analysts but had a personal investment in what these documents would conclude. For example, NRP adviser Barbara Foorman had authored four of the studies she was responsible for reviewing, and three more had been written by coauthors of her own "profitable commercial program" (p. 102). In addition, "[t]he NRP summary (inaccurately reporting the findings) was written in part by Widmeyer-Baker, the public relations firm that Open Court's publisher, McGraw-Hill, pays to promote its products" (p. 99).

As noted earlier, Garan emphasizes that the full NRP report found that phonics instruction did not significantly improve, and in some instances retarded, acquisition of reading skills. She also points out that the NRP "did not recommend any commercial reading program, but it actually warned against the boring skill and drill of scripted programs and called for balanced reading" (p. 90). Assuming that these statements are accurate, even if there were conflicts of interest among NRP participants, it's not apparent that they impaired the objectivity or validity of the report itself...


Beyond challenging the justification for insisting on the use of commercial reading programs, Garan argues that the use of "scripted" programs causes severe injuries to teaching, learning, and opportunities for social advancement. Since instructors of scripted programs are not intended or expected to be able to meet individual students' unique learning needs, but only to implement a preset script, there is no need to prepare teachers of such programs to use diverse pedagogical methods. In this respect, Garan observes, NCLB is "redefining what it means to be a teacher" (p. 145). Further, Garan asserts, scripted programs provide a low-level curriculum teaching low-level thinking skills.

In conclusion, Garan has performed a valuable service by challenging the purported "scientific basis" for the commercial reading programs that the government requires states and localities to adopt to receive funding under NCLB's Reading First initiative. And she is right to urge parents and teachers to learn more about the new NCLB "reforms," to organize, and to advocate at the state and local levels against "corporate takeovers" of public education and "deskilling of teachers" (p. 150)...

And by the way a study in April's Reading Teacher finds that students in two of those Reading First schools do not actually decode or comprehend as well as students from a school where reading is taught using the Fountas and Pinnell literature based style of guided reading. (Sorry you need to be a subscriber to read the report but perhaps you should join anyway, and perhaps also buy Garan's book while your at it.))

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

High-Stakes Accountability: How Did We Get Here From There? --

This is from the April issue of the Reading Teacher. It is a good summary of the history of the standards movement and all things leading to NCLB, as well as things like high stakes testing and the "research paradigm war." Read it to help keep yourself fully informed about NCLB and to help decide if you agree with the mainstream media and the corporate education agenda or with us here at NO This is a themed issue so you might want to check out the other articles as well.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Inside the Revolt Over Bush's School Rules --

This is from the May 9, issue of Time Magazine:

"...Utah, the state that backed President George W. Bush more resolutely than any other in last fall's election, became the first to formally defy his proudest domestic achievement. The legislature passed a bill that lets Utah schools ignore the 2002 No Child Left Behind education law if its mandates conflict with state priorities or require state money to meet them...For three years, teachers and politicians have wailed about No Child, which requires rigid reform and testing regimens in exchange for federal money for low-income students. Critics say the policy is underfunded, overbearing and unfair. Now they are taking action. And the law may not survive intact, despite the Administration's vow to fight to the end....the timing of the rebellion is no coincidence. The law's provisions are gradual, so it is only now that many states are beginning to feel its effects. Meanwhile, after three years of dramatically raising education spending, Congress just passed a 2006 budget that cuts funding $2.2 billion. So the Governors are angry...It's true that the No Child law has problems. It prescribes one treatment for schools with wildly different ailments. And it does not reward improvement. While Margaret Spellings, the new Secretary of Education, said last month that she will allow more flexibility, she has yet to clarify what she means..."

But you should really read the whole thing. It is a fairly balanced article that presents all sides, but still leave the impression, in my mind anyway, that NCLB is in real trouble.

And then there is this in Margaret Spellings own words from the May 1, USA Today. She says, ""Growing pains' won't sidetrack No Child Left Behind." You should read it yourself. Me thinks she protests too much. And by the way, did you know she was a mom?

Read Joe Thomas''s stuff for May 1 -

Joe over at posted a lot of really good stuff yesterday. Check it out!

The lead off article:

"A new six-year study by School of Education researchers shows that elementary students in Houston, Texas, consistently performed better when they were taught by certified teachers rather than by instructors lacking formal preparation...

The study concluded that TFA recruits do not educate students as well as teachers who have received rigorous methodological instruction and practice. Darling-Hammond has criticized programs such as TFA as "a band-aid on a bleeding sore," and argues that long-term, comprehensive solutions are needed to end educational inequity nationwide."

Is anyone surprised here?


Budget Cuts Education for 1st Time in 10 Years

No Child Left Behind Comes Up Short Again

Congress adopted a budget resolution last night that cuts funding for public education for the first time in a decade, choosing to ignore teachers, education support professionals, parents and other voters who say that investing in public schools must be a national priority. The resolution uses President Bush's education funding total, resulting in a net cut of $130 million.

And be sure to check out the two articles on NCLB: Revolt Grows over NCLB and Spellings Fails to Quell Growing NCLB Rebellion. Check it out.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Susan O'hanian on The Broad Foundation --

Another tidbit from Susan's site. Here she expounds on a source of the money that is driving the push for education change in this country. It is a long read but worth it, especially if you are not aware of the corporate agenda and money driving current educational reform in this country.

"...On September 9, 2003, President Bush announced a partnership between the Broad Foundation and the U. S. Department of Education,” To improve our country’s public education system.” They call it an unprecedented public-private collaboration. The third partner is Just for the Kids. They’re combining “$4.7 million of federal funds with $50.9 million in private philanthropy to effectively lower the cost barriers associated with the data collection, analysis, and reporting mandates of NCLB.” Standard and Poor’s is lending a hand...They call it private philanthropy. McGraw-Hill, owner of Standard and Poor’s, Open Court, and Direct Instruction, not to mention one of the top producers of standardized tests, as a leader in philanthropy for the good of children?

It is difficult to present all this information in a way that approaches comprehensibility. Keep your eye on Broad and you’ll be watching a sophisticated, many-faceted plan for dismantling the local control of schools.

Worth an aside, perhaps, is another recipient of Broad largesse: the Broad Foundation supports coverage of leadership issues in Education Week. One can wonder if “America’s online newspaper of record” will ever bite the hand that feeds it. "

There is a lot more.

This article is excerpted from Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian (Heinemann 2004)

Well worth the read if you are interested in learning more about the background of NCLB.