Wednesday, November 30, 2005
National Council of Churches Public Education Committee: 'No Child Left Behind' Act is leaving too many children behind
A National Council of Churches committee has
warned that the "No Child Left Behind Act" is leaving more children behind
than it is saving, especially children of color and poor children.
Instead of treating children "as unique human beings to be nurtured and
educated," the statement says, the act has encouraged school districts to
regard children as "products to be tested and managed."
Declaring that "Christian faith demands, as a matter of justice and
compassion, that we be concerned about our public schools," the NCC Committee
for Public Education has issued ten "moral concerns" about the implementation
of the act.
The ten critiques examine the effects of the law on students, teachers,
schools and their communities..
Today's statement decries the business-management assumptions that are the
foundation of many of the law's purported reforms.
"The No Child Left Behind Act approaches the education of America's children
through an inside-the-school management strategy of increased productivity
rather than providing resources and support for the individuals who will
shape children's lives," the statement declares.
"As people of faith we do not view our children as products to be tested and
managed but instead as unique human beings to be nurtured and educated. We
call on our political leaders to invest in developing the capacity of all
The statement criticizes the federal education law in the context of a 1999
NCC General Assembly policy statement that affirmed: "... criticism of the
public schools often ignores an essential truth: we cannot believe that we
can improve the public schools by concentrating on the schools alone."
Among 65 national organizations the NCC has endorsed a "Joint Organizational
Statement on the No Child Left Behind Act."
"Overall," the statement says, "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
...Contact: Jan Resseger, Committee Chair (216-736-3711), (216-308-9611),
NCC News: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252, firstname.lastname@example.org; Leslie Tune,
202-544-2350, email@example.com — National Council of Churches Public Education Committee
"...we do not view our children as products to be tested and
managed but instead as unique human beings to be nurtured and educated." That's the way most teachers I know treat students too.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
...Of course, I see this as a reason to reduce the governments role in education (of course he does) not expand... The reason is that I don't see how to avoid this problem and not spend buckets of cash. The No Child Left Behind has resulted in massive increases in federal education spending...and at the same time we have either no improvement in actual proficiency or possible even a decline. To get the improvement my guess is we'd probably have to spend even more. (Heaven forbid!)...
The Folkbum rants:
So what do I want..? It's simple: Shut up and let us do our jobs... If Quindlen is right that the American people should be our biggest advocates, then those same people ought to recognize that it was the teachers who reached them--not the meddling anti-tax forces, the know-it-all politicians, or the privateers who currently run the Department of Education--who deserve the praise and rewards. It was the teachers who helped them "levitate" who created conditions for success, not vouchers or Intelligent Design or corporate America.
Think back for just a second about your favorite school teacher, one who really did help you levitate, and ask yourself this: Would I meddle now in how that teacher does her job? Would that teacher have been as effective with me then if he'd had to prepare me for a standardized test? Would that teacher agree with me if I'd said to her face that she had an easy job--summers off and weekends free?
You know what the answers are. You know what the solution is: Stop perpetuating myths and start respecting and supporting what we teachers do. Then work on your family, friends, neighbors, and legislators to do the same.
If you have read me at all you know what side of the issue I stand on. Thinking about these two posts I start, as I always do, knowing that there are big time forces out there that truly do want to do away with public education. They want to privatize it and let the parents "get their money's worth." Then I begin thinking about the excuse that these people use, that the education system in this country is broken. That there are inequities in the system that we seem incapable of fixing. Then I think of all those yearly reports that I have read that say most people think their local schools are doing a great job. But I know the inequities are there. I know that you can tell who will do well in school and who will fail by looking at the parents' bank balance. I know that in my own school system most of the native kids fail to graduate high school. But I know deep down in my soul privatized is not the way.
This is where I almost agree with the Folkbum and who basically says, what we really need to do is all pull together, which I believe is true, but come on! This simplistic answer has yet to work. We have not done it. So what then? I don't have the answer. I do think it starts with work at the community level. In fact my time might be better spent organizing locally that writing here, but it also begins with getting the word out, spreading the word about the planned destruction of public education in America. It begins with finding better people to run for office and supporting them. It takes a lot of hard work, but it does also take money, no matter what they say.
It will take money to support famlies in becoming places where literacy and learning are important. It will take money to bring good paying jobs to those that need it most. It will take money to turn around school ,systems that have floundered for years. Money spent on our children.
As near as I can tell the conservatives do not want to spend money on other peoples' children. They do not want to spend money on anybody, corporations and the mechanisms of warfare not being bodies. It's every man, literally, for themselves. That is where I believe that we on the other side of the political spectrum, no matter what you call us, differ. We are all in this together. As simplistic and/or idealistic as it sounds we need to help each other.
We especially need to help each other now. Healthcare costs and all others costs are rising, no matter what they say. We are losing our economic base, no matter what they say. 30, 000 good paying jobs at GM gone. And just yesterday 7,000 more at Merck, gone. Our American Dream is being outsourced and they tell us it is good for us. They take away our ability to earn a living, to make a living wage and now they want us to pay for educating our children. Look down the road. Their children will be educated and what about ours. Sometimes, especially at this time of year I hear those words in my head over and over, "We have prisons don't we." I fear we are moving backward. Pulling together is the only thing I can think of that might reverse the slide.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Also, here is O'hanian's take on that article by Sam Dillon on the NAEP, also in the NYT. This includes a comment by Bracey, and Jim Horn's take on exactly who was quoted in that article.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
The spirit (and management) of Brownie's FEMA lives on at ED. Here is a piece sent by Nancy Patterson that offers the perfect example of ED rhetoric vs. ED reality.
One of the latest pushes under NCLB is secondary literacy, and to address that the U.S. Department of Ed sent out a September request for grant proposals. The grant proposal for "Striving Readers" had to be submitted by school districts and had to be 60 pages long. Those districts interested in this funding were required to get an external evaluation of the reading program that was to be funded. So, school districts hoping to receive money from this grant (between 1 and 5 million dollars) had to produce 60 pages, including a large section of "scientifically rigorous" evaluation, develop a program that would be funded, and seek outside evaluators before the November 14 deadline. Ok. Not fun, but not impossible. However, the grant proposal had to be submitted electronically by 4:30 on November 14.
Unfortunately, it looks like the DOE could not handle the electronic submissions and schools trying to upload their proposals found that the submit button disappeared before the 4:30 deadline. And districts trying to get further information about the grant in the weeks prior to the deadline could not get help from the DOE. Individuals calling the DOE to ask about the Striving Readers Grant got a voice mail message saying that the voice mail was full...
...Announcements about the Striving Readers grant recipients should be coming out in a few weeks. I wonder how many districts should be on that list but won't be because of DOE foul-ups...
Exposure of the incompetence, hypocrisy, collusion, and corruption at ED, the corporate media, and the "think tanks" (why do I think of the septic systems my dad used to install?) is one of the weapons we have to fight back the ed privatizers and the corporate socialists intent upon control of the American education system.
If you have documented stories that fit any of the above criteria, send them along to Schools Matter at the email address shown here .
Jim Horn is doing a great job over there at Schools Matter. Go Jim!
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Her main point, "It is becoming increasingly clear this battle has got to be fought on the grounds that NCLB is a violation of the most basic and fundamental human rights to freedom and is a clear violation of the Constitutional right of due process as stated in the Fourteenth Amendment: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws..."
She uses Chief Justice Warren’s opinion in Brown v the Board to make her point. "...With its embedded stigma of failure associated with standardized tests, what is NCLB doing to the motivation and ability of a child to learn? In effectively negating Plessy, Warren stated, "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." In 2005, we need to ask if the type of education a child receives also be inherently unequal. The evidence is piling up and has been clearly documented that NCLB, with its punitive consequences, sanctions and emphasis on testing and failure is not only leading to further segregation but is causing intellectual and emotional harm to children. Like segregation itself, it is inherently unjust and causes damage that can never be undone. Increasingly, the most vulnerable and under-funded schools are being turned over to private, for-profit management organizations with scripted, mind-numbing narrow curriculum.
The Brown decision established the doctrine of sociological jurisprudence in education by invoking the Fourteenth Amendment. It's time to revisit Brown and create new frameworks for legal challenges to NCLB on the grounds that it is an inherently unequal and unjust law..."
It is an argument worth pondering.
Post number two comes from Teacherken. In BLUEBERRIES: our wrong national education policy, Ken discusses educational reform and his view:
"...I ask people to remember this: we have a shortage of qualified teachers currently in our classrooms, we want to improve our public education, and if we are going to attempt to do so, we must acknowledge that reality. We must also recognize, as the first Cuban quote I offered makes evident, that we cannot successfully change our schools without the cooperation of the millions of us already dedicated to the future of our children. That suggests that the voices of educators needs to have more predominant places in our public dialog, and that our role should not merely to be the punching bags for politicians and others looking to score points. We have a responsibility to work cooperatively, but it is unrealistic to expect enthusiasm from those who receive the bulk of the criticism and yet have little opportunity to offer our experience.
And when you listen to our voices, your attitude may well change."
Read the original post if only for the blueberry story that is the title, but for me Ken hits when he states "...Far too much of the rhetoric surrounding the arguments about educational policy seems premised on the idea that those of us working in the schools do not have the best interests of children at heart. It often has a tinge to it that leads one to believe its advocates think that by using punitive measures and relying on rhetoric that denigrates those already committed to our children that somehow magically the schools can become a place that solves all the national problems of the day..."
When you work in schools with teachers you realize these people are dedicated to children. It is with teachers that reform must start and I believe that the best thing that has come out of the current reform blitz is that teachers and their institutions have become focussed on the best ways of reaching all kids. That said, NCLB still is a terrible law that must go.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
From Susan Ohanian.org. This is important stuff so I reprint it in it's entirety.
Since graduating from the University of Florida in 1982 Paul has taught social studies at Carol City High School in Miami. He coached the girls' basketball team at the same school for 17 seasons, retiring from coaching when he was elected to the Executive Board of the United Teachers of Dade (AFL-CIO, AFT-NEA) as one of three Vice Presidents for High Schools. He is an active member of the Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform (FCAR).
The approaching storm is a creation of this nation’s wealthiest and most powerful corporate leaders. They are lead by men who first mapped out their strategy at the Business Roundtable’s education summit in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1989. They came down from the summit as the newly formed Business Coalition for Education Reform and sent out a message—evacuate the public schools!
The ensuing New Orleans-style exodus has since transformed the public schools into America’s Superdome. Huddled inside of neglected and crumbling public school buildings now are the mostly Black and Latino children of poor and working-class parents. It is these children’s broken bodies and spirits that will lie amid the wreckage after the storm has passed.
The bringers of the storm have a dream and a game plan for making it real. They are men unsated by billions in profits plying young people with X-Boxes, iPods, Big Macs, Air Jordans, cellphones, Sprite, MTV, and B.E.T. They want their cake and they fully intend to eat it too! Their vision of the future includes the transfer of billions of dollars in annual public school funding into their own pockets. Their goal is a downsized and exclusive for-profit school system to train and educate only the children created in their own image and likeness.
But the American people’s reverence for equal opportunity stands between the corporate nightriders and their mission. Our history recalls public education as a partner of the abolition of slavery in a grand post-Civil War experiment in democracy. For that reason their designs must be concealed behind the façade of education reform and the smokescreen of school choice. The corporate agents of public school destruction can be difficult to ferret out but look and listen for their rhetoric and there you will find them.
Their game plan is being executed when you hear the men and women—parents, and the children they are raising—students, described as “stakeholders” along with the teachers and administrators. So completely enthralled are they with the business model of school management, the human beings involved are reduced to nothing more than isolated owners of a speck of a giant corporation. Public schools will be run like ExxonMobile, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, or Enron.
Their game plan is advanced when a crushing tedium and a spiritless boredom is inflicted on public school children under the guise of “rigor”. Testing is for public schools. Start testing the pre-teen child in the third grade. Keep testing every year until the schools become testing factories and then testing sweatshops where children labor to no useful end. The music, art, dance, theater, physical education and vocational classes are for private schools. Recess and field trips are for rich kids!
Their game plan is advanced when teachers are mired in endless, mind-numbing, irrational record keeping requirements because education must be “data driven” to be effective and efficient. They count on the weight of this mountain of meaningless paperwork to contribute to the disillusionment and physical collapse of teachers before the deathblows are struck.
Their game plan counts heavily on racism. While they fully intend to leave behind African-American, Latino, Native American and immigrant children, they will wring their hands in public over the “achievement gap” because it helps obscure other gaps in the nation’s social fabric. America’s household assets gap, the average white family owns 14 times the average Black family, is never factored into test score analysis. Nor the infant mortality gap, more than twice the rate for Black mothers, the life expectancy gap, the health care gap, nutrition gap, the employment gap…
They are forced to buy influence in the Black community. It is enemy territory and snake oil salesmen like Armstrong Williams and charlatans like Rod Paige must front their message. The US Department of Education had to pass thirty pieces of silver to Williams for his No Child Left Behind promotion. Paige put a blackface on the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations” and was able to call the biggest education fraud in history “the Houston Miracle” with a straight face. He was rewarded with a spot in George Bush’s cabinet.
Their game day slogan is “No Excuses” because it helps excuse away certain damning realities. Historically low levels of federal education spending and lower state funding of public schools, “No Excuses”. The perfect correlation of poverty and low standardized test scores, “No Excuses”. The re-segregation of America’s schools, “No Excuses”. Excuses are reserved for corporate downsizing, the outsourcing of jobs, escaping from pension and health care plans through bankruptcy filings, corrupt accounting practices and insider trading, offshore tax avoidance schemes, and obscene profit making.
Then there is the most potent rhetorical weapon in the CEO’s arsenal. They shout it in the faces of 9-year-old children. They bludgeon parents, teachers, administrators, elected school boards and whole school districts with it. Failed! Failure! Failing! F! When the time is right they will condemn the whole idea of educating all of America’s children—a noble but failed experiment. On the ashes they would build their Brave New World.
Unless! Maybe we are not mere stakeholders? Maybe it’s not the children who are failing? Maybe, millions strong and indivisible, we are the real power? Maybe they are just a handful of rich men who can be defeated by all of us together?
More on the Spellings PR splurge. Warning: This is satire.
The Bush administration today clarified what it means by granting more "leeway" for schools trying to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) laws.
According to Bush's top education advisor, Margaret Misspellings, the new revised law will be called All Schools Still Pretty Much Left Behind (ASSPMLB).
Misspellings was careful to clarify reports in The Washington Post about granting leeway to schools under NCLB. She stated,"We are excited about granting schools more leeway. But the purpose is to hold firm in our surreal requirement that 100% of all students in every disaggregated subpopulation in 100% of America's schools score at the proficient level on their state standardized assessment or they FAIL. While blindly holding firm in this unreasonable and irrational standard, we hope to provide additional flexibility in the myriad of ways in which schools can work hard and still fail."
Misspellings added, "It is only by labeling all of America's schools failures and developing alternative methods of failure that we can increase the number of private schools who are not held to these same irrational standards."
She added, "I hope this clarifies what we mean in the reports stating that we are giving more schools leeway."
A good deal of misleading press coverage has resulted from Spellings’ announcement for some kind of experiment in growth models to be used in 10 states chosen during the next year through an application process. For instance, this Washington Post piece almost seems giddy in its praise and appraisal of how this bold move will beat back the cascades of criticism of NCLB...
...And then a couple of graphs down comes this, which negates all the rosy PR that this move was intended to engender:
Spellings said she would not compromise on essential principles. Foremost, she said, is ensuring that all students are tested in reading and mathematics from grades 3 through 8, and once in high school, with results reported separately for racial and ethnic minorities, disabled students and other groups. The law's twin goals are to close achievement gaps and ensure that all students reach proficiency by 2014. "A growth model is not a way around accountability standards," Spellings said Friday in Richmond.Now who will the ten states be? We learned from this Friday's post that the ten states chosen for the experiment must have in place the kind of longitudinal data gathering apparatus that was called for on November 17 (one day before Spellings’ announcement) by the Data Quality Campaign, led by Achieve, Inc., Bill and Melinda, the Alliance for Excellent Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, The Education Trust, National Center for Educational Accountability, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Schools Interoperability Framework Association, Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services, and State Higher Education Executive Officers...
...eSchool News Online reported November 21 that ED’s Institute of Education Science (IES) has just announced the shovelling of $52.8 million to 14 states to begin the implementation the kind of databases that the corporate technocrats and the ed industry are screaming for:
States receiving the grants are Alaska ($3.5 million), Arkansas ($3.3 million), California ($3.3 million), Connecticut ($1.5 million), Florida ($1.6 million), Kentucky ($5.8 million), Maryland ($5.7 million), Michigan ($3 million), Minnesota ($3.3 million), Ohio ($5.7 million), Pennsylvania ($4 million), South Carolina ($5.8 million), Tennessee ($3.2 million), and Wisconsin ($3.1 million).Can we assume that the ten states will be chosen from the fourteen listed above? I think so...
The grants were made under the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002, Title II of the statute that created IES. All 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia were eligible to apply, and IES received 45 applications.
The winnings states reportedly were chosen in a competition based on the merit of their proposals. Proposals were assessed based on aspects such as the need for the project, the quality of the project's design, and the quality of the management plan, ED said.
Read the original to become more fully enlightend.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The Bush administration has begun to ease some key rules for the controversial No Child Left Behind law, opening the door to a new way to rate schools, granting a few urban systems permission to provide federally subsidized tutoring and allowing certain states more time to meet teacher-quality requirements...
That is the article in a nutshell. We will now wait to see how this PR announcement translates to idividual states. It could be good news or more smoke and mirrors from the admin istartion that brought us the Clear Skies Initiative.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Historically, most Americans have worshipped the free market. If poverty becomes widespread, liberals blame poorly funded schools. They reason that as long as children have access to good public schools, anyone who works can succeed. Conservatives fault the moral character of the poor. Or, like President Bush, they suggest that lazy and permissive public school teachers and unions tolerate and encourage bad habits among children of the poor. Both perspectives unfairly scapegoat public schools and the children of the poor...
...close studies of test results show that the United States does well even in comparison with nations where only elites take the tests...When treated as a separate nation, U.S. white children are number one on some tests...
American education is failing primarily in the sense that it badly serves poor and minority children...As one critic has quipped, ZIP codes would do just fine. Punishing these schools won't provide the teacher training, smaller classes, and quality preschool programs that have been shown to improve the performance of such schools...
...Can good schools compensate for deficiencies in children's lives outside of school? In a recent Teacher's College Record, Arizona State University Professor David Berliner reminds us that over the course of a school year, children spend about five times as many waking hours with family and neighborhood friends as they do in school.
...The poor you may always have with you, but a recent UNICEF study puts the childhood poverty rates in the Scandinavian countries at fewer than 5 percent of the population ..
...Historically some conservatives have argued that school can't make up for bad genes, which are viewed as the real cause of poor school performance and poverty. Berliner replies by reminding us of the hideous example of children brought up in a closet, whose capacity for physical growth, language acquisition, and intellectual functioning could not be developed. He then cites Harvard evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin's thought experiment: Plant two batches of seed corn, one in good soil with sufficient water and sun, the other in soil lacking exposure to sun and suitable nutrients. The seeds planted in good conditions will do on the whole much better. They will also show more differences among themselves than those planted in poor conditions, none of which will thrive. There are genetic differences among individual seeds, but for those in poor conditions, the full genetic capacity cannot be expressed...
More recently, work in the social sciences on mothers of mono and dizygotic twins shows analogous results. At the lowest socio-economic class, environment is a very strong predictor of measured IQ. In other words, though there are differences in various capacities among all human beings, our poorest citizens have very little chance to develop the full range of their capacities.
The good news is that modest improvements in the environment of the poorest children can bring large gains in academic performance...
..Goldberg points out that allocations for child care under the 1997 welfare "reform" have fallen far short of real need. Sen. Snowe has advocated a $6 billion increase over the next five years. These would be positive steps. Yet they would be inadequate without job training and minimum wage enhancements to increase the probability that jobs can meet minimal needs. Without such reforms, equality of opportunity even for our children - let alone George Bush's ownership society - will remain a dream. Our schools will continue taking the blame for problems beyond their reach.
John Buell is a political economist who lives in Southwest Harbor.
Readers wishing to contact him may
e-mail messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But no, blame the teachers, blame the schools, blame the districts, and punish everyone, except of course those wishing to make a profit off of public education.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Published on 11/16/2005
Hartford — A panel of legal and educational experts said Tuesday the No Child Left Behind law was designed with good intentions but has proved to be “intrusive,” “overly prescribed,” and particularly “inappropriate” for special education students.
The Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal at the University of Connecticut School of Law hosted the symposium on NCLB and its impact on the state and its schools in advance of Congress' five-year reauthorization of the law in January,
The law is poised for examination because it is entering its “mid-life,” said Mark Stapleton, the state education department's chief of legal affairs. He said the new era will have to take into account declining federal funding; the fact that far more schools than originally envisioned are considered “failing;” and the transfer, or “school choice,” option is creating an even greater concentration of low-performing students in urban areas.
Panelists said complying with NCLB prevents cities and towns from paying for preschool, child healthcare, technology, literacy training for parents, security and other programs that would benefit students more than the additional testing required by the law.
“Give parents and students what they really need,” said State Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg, a panelist. “Don't just measure more with more testing...”...Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who participated in Tuesday's symposium, said he filed suit because NCLB violates state law and a provision within NCLB that prevents the state from expending its own funds to comply with the law. He said the suit was filed as a “last resort” after the U.S. Department of Education refused to grant Connecticut flexibility under the law.
Blumenthal said the U.S. Department of Education was supposed to respond to the suit in October, but was granted an extension. He expects the department to ask to dismiss the suit this month...
...Panel members were particularly critical of NCLB's requirement to test special education students at their grade level instead of “out of level” — at their ability level — saying it provided no worthwhile data for teachers. They also said the impersonality of NCLB clashes with the long-established Individual Education Plan, a learning plan designed for special education students through meetings among parents, teachers and administrators.
Glenn McCrath, who oversees special education in West Hartford schools, said NCLB is having a “tremendously negative impact from a psychological standpoint” on special education students. Patrice McCarthy, a legal counsel for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said the testing mandates are “destroying motivation” by setting “unreachable standards.”Ann-Marie DeGraffenreidt, the director of the TeamChild Project, a center for disadvantaged children, said low-performing students are being encouraged in some troubled high schools to drop out and go to Adult Education to keep the school's overall standardized tests scores from dropping lower.
Yep, it is indeed true, all of it. And by the way, I'm back.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
A federal investigation into Reading First will include several broad audits of the policies and procedures involved in implementing the $1 billion-a-year program, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general’s office schedule of reviews for 2006.
The inquiry will scrutinize the contracts awarded for technical assistance to states, how reviews of state and local grant applications were conducted, and whether federal consultants followed conflict-of-interest guidelines and gave appropriate guidance to grantees, says the schedule, made public last month.
The inspector general’s office undertook the inquiry after a series of complaints this past summer from educators and members of Congress alleging that federal officials and their agents may have steered contracts to favored publishers and consultants, and complaints that the program has not adhered to the principles of scientific evidence outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act.
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is conducting a separate probe at the request of a bipartisan group of senators.
Another Round of Letters
As a result of the ongoing complaints, Education Department officials sent letters last month to state education officials and federal contractors to clarify the requirements of the program and reiterate, as in several previous letters, that no particular commercial reading programs or products are mandated under Reading First.
A letter from Christopher J. Doherty, the program’s director, to the Portsmouth, N.H.-based RMC Research Corp., which has been awarded contracts of more than $40 million to provide technical assistance for states, says that “it is essential that the [National Reading First Technical Assistance Center] avoid all conflicts of interest among employees, subcontractors, and consultants who may have connections to particular instructional programs or materials used under Reading First.”
Such perceived conflicts have prompted criticism that has dogged Reading First since its inception in 2002. The program promotes research-based reading instruction as a means of raising achievement in the nation’s most disadvantaged schools, a goal of the No Child Left Behind law, which authorized the initiative.
A number of state officials, for example, have complained that they were pressured to adopt specific textbooks and tests devised by key consultants to Reading First. ("States Pressed to Refashion Reading First Grant Designs," Sept. 7, 2005.)
RMC Research sent consultants to work with states in drafting their grant proposals and, through the three Reading First Technical Assistance Centers, provides ongoing help in carrying out each state’s approved plan. Both the RMC consultants and panelists convened by the Education Department to review state grant applications have been criticized for allegedly overstepping their authority in advising states on the commercial products they should require participating schools and districts to use.
Formal complaints filed with the inspector general by several publishers charge that Reading First reviewers and consultants essentially fixed the competition to exclude their products. ("GAO to Probe Federal Plan for Reading," Oct. 12, 2005.)
The Education Department letters sent last month, while welcome, are inadequate, according to publishers, their representatives, and at least one former federal official.
“Certainly it’s nice to reiterate that [policy] and talk about the conflict of interest, but it’s a bit like shutting the barn door after the horses are out,” said Stephen D. Driesler, the executive director of the Washington-based school division of the Association of American Publishers. “We’ve been raising these concerns for years now, and unfortunately, a lot of the damage has already been done.”
Mr. Driesler said the Education Department has endorsed certain programs by virtue of the reviews conducted by researchers associated with the technical- assistance centers. Moreover, he said, hope is scant that publishers who were unsuccessful early in the grant process will be able to break into the market midway through the six-year program.
Reading expert Susan B. Neuman, who oversaw the rollout of Reading First as the department’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education during President Bush’s first term, said federal officials should do more to convince educators that they are pushing evidence-based instruction.
“Usually, where there is smoke there’s fire. Even the perception of a problem is a problem,” she said. “Perhaps reiterating the same message again and again [that there is no list of approved programs] is not as efficacious as putting in place very active processes to help people understand that it’s about … using what we know about the science of reading.
“It’s not just about selecting the status quo basal textbook [that has all] the critical ingredients, almost like baking a cake.”
The inspector general has already begun interviewing federal consultants and complainants. Both that investigation and the one by the GAO are expected to last through early next year...
See y'all in a few. I'm taking a brief vaction. Be back by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
These folks have the right idea:
RAMAPO — Rockland educators, parents and officials know what should be done to fix the federal law dubbed "No Child Left Behind" — tone down the blame, increase the money and give schools and teachers more time to strengthen programs that help children achieve...
...Yesterday's conference was designed to look at the law's effects on Rockland families and schools. The information gleaned from its workshops and discussions will be sent to state and national politicians, said Harriet Cornell, chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature, who along with RCC President Clifford Wood, co-chaired the event...
... Former New York Education Commissioner Thomas Sobol listed 11 assumptions the federal education law dubbed "No Child Left Behind" makes and nine suggestions on ways to improve it. Here are some of those points
ASSUMPTIONS: The public schools are failing and only government intervention can save them. That schools do not know who the failing students are. That defining students will change instruction. That producing results is a matter of will. That what is being taught now is what should be taught forever. That there's a relation between standards and tests. That good test scores mean good education. That objectives can be measured on a yearly basis. That the present way schools are organized is the right way and will not change. That whatever the problem, the schools alone can fix it. That all that counts in education is academic achievement.
SUGGESTIONS: Limit standards to a tight central core: don't expand them to every subject. Write (or rewrite) the standards to demonstrate depth, not just breadth. Assess academic progress in multiple ways, not base progress on a single test. Reduce the amount of testing by melding tests — test English and social studies together, for instance. Allow districts flexibility to adjust for individual, unusual and complex situations that affect them. Expand the definition of accountability — make government as accountable to the schools as schools are to government. Fund it adequately. Provide time and support to develop programs. Remember the rest of the agenda — education is more than just test-taking.
Listen up Washington, America is speaking!
Monday, November 07, 2005
I said I would have more to say on SMU's school for NCLB. Here are two commentaries one from Assorted Stuff and one from Schools Matter. My brief research show me that so far what I am finding should not lead necessarily to scripted lessons.
Here's what a brief search of their website finds:
Most of the research titles look innocuous:
Reading Interventions for Students with Mental Retardation.(2005-09)
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Educational Science (IES)
English Language Learning/Literacy Acquisition (2004-08)
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Educational Science (IES)
Development of English Language Literacy in Spanish Speaking Children: Project DELLS
(SMU: 2004)National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
The suspect research that could or will lead to scripted lessons and/or more or as much time asseccessing as teaching are:
Scaling-up Effective Interventions for Preventing Reading Difficulties (2003-08)
U.S. Department of Education, Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI)
Continuous Monitoring of Early Reading Skills (CMERS) (2003)
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Small Business and Innovation Research (SBIR Grant).
Texas Instruments Model Demonstration (2004-05)
Texas Instruments Foundation
This last one is especially scary because it is preschool.
The only published research I found shows that teacher directed activities and peer couching showed similar increases in learning. I hope to do more research on this after conferences are over.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Saturday, November 05, 2005
If you don't know who Patricia Polacco is go to your public library or local book store and read. This is some of the best picture book literature that you will find anywhere.
From Youngstown Ohio:
She couldn't read until age 14 because of disabilities.
By TIM YOVICH
HOWLAND — Teaching pupils to pass proficiency tests detracts from the creativity of their teachers, says a noted author of children's books.
Patricia Polacco spoke to pupils at H.C. Mines and Glen elementary schools Thursday, bringing some of her 56 published books alive to them...
...Polacco said she believes teachers could once use their creativity to teach, but the No Child Left Behind program has stifled them.
If teaching to the proficiency tests continues, the 61-year-old author stressed, at-risk students will soon outnumber those making the grade.
"Testing the kids ain't doing it," she said.
At age 4, she could draw a floor plan with elevations, but couldn't read or do math until she was 14.
Polacco explained that she was depressed and disabled until a teacher, George Falker, brought her out of her difficulties.
When she reads now, she sees the white around the words rather than the words themselves.
She used her experience with her former teacher to write the noted book "Thank You, Mr. Falker."
Polacco said she comes from a family of storytellers who helped her in her profession. Twenty years ago when she put her stories together with illustrations, her mother took her to New York City, where Polacco sold all 16 children's books she had written up to then but couldn't get published.
Value of teachers
Polacco terms teachers and schools as the "last heroes."
"Let teachers do their jobs," noting they know their jobs best because they spend the most time with the children.
Polacco believes that intervention centers should be established because some parents are "clueless" about how to rear their children.
"These girls have no idea how to feed their children," she said, adding that too many parents don't teach their children right from wrong, and don't mentor or read to them.
She advises parents to turn off the television, computer and cell phone and read to and with their children.
"Once they have that start, you can't turn them off," Polacco said. "People don't realize how important it is to read to a child."
"Books will take you anywhere. It's where your dreams can come true," she said, adding that reading gives a child "sanity and security."
Friday, November 04, 2005
DALLAS, Nov. 2 - Seven years ago, a group of public school superintendents from the Dallas area, concerned over a growing achievement gap in reading between white and minority students, asked Southern Methodist University to create a graduate program to help narrow the difference.
From that request, a new school of education was born, and the forces behind it say there may be nothing quite like it elsewhere in the country.
The S.M.U. School of Education and Human Development, which opened this fall with 1,100 students, teaches programs that are aligned with President Bush's hallmark education program, No Child Left Behind, and that the school says are based on the kind of research protocols used in science and medicine...
Dr. Turner called it a "niche offering" among schools of education, created, he said, "because there's a need to help teachers around here, and the problems are pervasive enough that we can make a difference with it."
While statewide test scores last year for third-grade reading show that schools in the Dallas area are outperforming those in other regions of the country, serious gaps remain. About 20 percent of all black and Hispanic children, compared with 5 percent of white students, failed to meet the standards.
To identify teaching techniques that might lift the stragglers, S.M.U. is using federal and private grant money to conduct research in local public school systems that mirrors the kind of experiments conducted in other fields. The research uses control groups and takes into account a wide range of variables to determine which instructional methods work better than others.
The research results are then systematically applied to course work...
This is a story I plan to research and follow. It brings to mind a lot of questions, and I hope to have some answers soon. It is interesting and food for thought...
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Press Release: For Immediate Release
Contact: Juanita Doyon, Director, Parent Empowerment Network 253-973-1593
Craig Vernon, PEN Member, 253-538-2906 (work)
In examining recently released 10th grade Math WASL items, a Parent Empowerment Network (PEN) research team in Western Washington discovered several errors. These errors were confirmed by PEN member and research consultant Dr. Donald Orlich, professor emeritus, WSU.
OSPI was made aware of several mistakes in the released tests and immediately removed the entire sample set from the OSPI website. The website now presents a statement in place of the released tests: "The practice high school WASL tests will be reposted next week. Several of the practice items were re-created incorrectly and we are working to correct those errors."
Craig Vernon, a professional civil engineer and member of PEN, from Spanaway, stated, "I found that Monday's released test combined with the answer key contained 7 errors in the multiple choice portion alone. This is a huge quality control issue on a 42 question test. If this is any indication of the actual test quality control, all previous data is in question. I also found problems with the subjective grading criteria for the written problems: correctly answered problems were not given full credit due to quirks in the written response requirements of the grading guidelines."
"This is just one more nail in WASL's coffin," said Juanita Doyon, Director of PEN. "It took parents to find these mistakes. Obviously, there is a quality control problem within OSPI and Pearson Education Measurement, the testing company contracted by Washington State. We have no reason to believe that the 2006 WASL, a test that students must pass in order to receive a diploma, will be of any higher quality than previous tests or these released items. It is appalling that the legislature continues to underwrite this ill-conceived and poorly administered assessment system that mislabels and causes great harm to our students, teachers and schools. The state superintendent has set a standard of educational performance for students and teachers that her office is failing to meet!"
Just two weeks ago, PEN learned that Pearson misscored tests in Virginia, causing 60 students to receive failing scores when they had actually passed the test. The Virginia Speaker of the House has called for a full investigation into that state's $138 million contracts with Pearson. In 2000, Pearson used the wrong answer key on 47,000 student tests in Minnesota, which resulted in a $7 million lawsuit settlement.
PEN calls on the legislature to launch a full investigation into this matter and calls upon the Attorney General to halt the destruction of student test booklets. Student tests from 2004 are scheduled to be destroyed within the next few months. This would destroy evidence of error. In addition, the PEN director and Mr. Craig Vernon will seek a meeting with members of the Attorney General's staff to demand full disclosure of the conditions which led to the release and subsequent removal of WASL test items, administrative items and scoring guides that contained egregious errors.
Join and Support Parent Empowerment Network. Visit http://www.mothersagainstwasl.org
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
WASHINGTON - The House Agriculture Committee approved budget cuts Friday that would take food stamps away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children.
The action came as the government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they can't afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of 7 million in five years. The number represents nearly 12 percent of U.S. households...
"The fact is, our country is going broke," said Rep. John Boehner (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio. "We're spending money we don't have and passing it onto our kids, and at some point, somebody's got to say, `Enough's enough.'"...
It is really hard for me to write about this stuff without getting angry and the sarcastic, so... We have money for tax cuts for the rich. We have money to cut taxes on corporations to their lowest share of the total in generations. We have money to pay test makers for testing all of our kids time and time again. We don't have money to help those in need to feed their children. How hard it must be to learn and take tests when not adequately fed. But that's not their problem. That's the teacher's problem, and the school's. Of course we don't have money to adequately fund the schools either. We do have money for vouchers to private schools though. Does this not make anyone else mad?
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
In preparation for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2007, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) -- the nation's largest school leadership organization representing middle and high school leaders -- has developed 21 specific recommendations for Congress to make NCLB a more consistent, fair, and flexible law that builds schools' capacity to address the academic needs of their students.
The recommendations and rationale are available as a PDF at http://www.principals.org/nclb
Most of these are spot on, many are a little too whimpy for my taste. Some I like:
- The requirement that Title I funds be reserved for transportation should be eliminated; funds needed for transportation should be in addition to--not subtracted from--a district?s Title I allocation...
- All public schools, charter schools, and nonpublic schools receiving federal funds should be required to use the same state assessment and meet the same state criteria for determining AYP.
- The graduation rate should be extended to within at least five years of entering high school.
- Students who complete high school with a state-approved exit document should be counted as graduates...
- The scores of English language learners (ELL) should not be used in the determination of AYP until these students have developed language proficiency, as evidenced by a research-based and state-approved assessment.
- AYP should not be based on the results of one test, but should be based on the results of multiple assessments and multiple opportunities to retake the test...
- States should calculate AYP for each student subgroup on the basis of state-developed growth formulas that calculate growth in individual student achievement from year to year...
- Lack of a highly qualified teacher should not be grounds for litigation.
- There should be an allowable use of funds under Title II of NCLB to create meaningful teacher mentoring programs that significantly sustain the retention and development of new teachers. <>The number of alternative assessments that are counted toward making AYP should be expanded to accommodate schools that have high populations of students with cognitive disabilities and more accurately reflect the true school population of students with cognitive disabilities...