Wednesday, December 13, 2006

No Child Left Behind failing our children

From the Contra Costa Times (California) comes this wonderfil, right-on letter:

It's really ridiculous the way our educational system has become under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Testing, testing, testing and still we have the problem of increasing high school dropouts, fewer highly qualified/veteran teachers, more failing schools and fewer people entering a beat-down profession.

It's time for the politicians to stop playing with our educational system and begin listening to the people who have been working directly with the students and schools' staffs. It's time for President Bush and the politicians to show all of America that our schools are just as important as the war in Iraq.

Invest in the building of highly supplied and efficiently run schools. Invest in educational settings that are technologically current and aesthetically pleasing. Value the teachers by paying them living wages and sound benefits. Encourage youths by having community support centers that have homework help, as well as social and philanthropic activities for our young people.

And, by all means, let's ensure everyone has the same opportunities, whether or not they have passed some God-forsaken test.

Cheryl Powell


Sign the petition

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Democrats outline education agenda priorities

This from CNN today. What caught my eye...

...Besides money, a point of contention between some of the law's critics and its supporters is an unprecedented requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2013-14, a goal critics say is unrealistic. Spellings says the date should not be moved...

Moved! Moved! How can this be taken seriously! 100% is unattainable! How can they not understand that that we need a new paradigm for measuring success with kids?

Sign the petition.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Leave this law behind - Federal education mandates should be more flexible

From the Anchorage Daily News comes a comment that makes sense to me, except I would just let it lapse.

Published: November 25, 2006

There's a reason the federal No Child Left Behind Act is sometimes called the "No Public School Left" Act. The law takes an admirable aspiration -- ensuring all students learn to a basic level of competency that enables them to function in society -- and turns it into an inflexible demand, with harsh consequences for the schools that most need extra help to measure up.

Schools must get a passing grade in each of 33 categories. Low-income schools that don't pass all 33 categories for two or more years face financial and other sanctions. Other schools that fail to measure up are stuck with a stigma that can scare some families into choosing private schools.

The federal law ignores the reality that some students are easier to educate than others. Some schools serve students who show up for class ready to learn, coming from stable households that value and support their children's education. Other schools serve communities afflicted by poverty, crime or other social upheaval, such as mass immigration.

Schools are held accountable for the performance of students who may not even show up enough -- or stick around long enough -- to benefit from the education the school offers. A school may do a great job helping disadvantaged students catch up, but as long as student scores still fall short, the school's good work doesn't count in the federal evaluation.

Alaska is among the states that have tried to gain some flexibility in evaluating schools. State education leaders want the rating based not just on the absolute level of student test scores, but also on the growth in student performance over time.

For the first few years of No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration steadfastly rejected requests for that kind of flexibility. Lately, a few states have won federal OK for considering growth in student scores, but Alaska's bid was recently rejected.

Alaska faces an even bigger challenge meeting another mandate in the federal education law. All teachers are supposed to be "highly qualified" in the subjects they teach.

Again, that's an admirable aspiration.

But Alaska has scores of tiny rural schools, accessible only by air or boat, with only a handful of teachers. Expecting each of those teachers to be "highly qualified" in multiple subjects is flatly unrealistic. Remote Alaska districts have enough trouble as it is recruiting teachers. Ironclad enforcement of this federal mandate will make it even harder to recruit teachers in the Bush.

No Child Left Behind will expire unless renewed by the new Congress that starts in January. With Democrats in control, there's new hope that an updated version of the law can include more realistic mandates.

"Next year, there's really an opportunity to make changes to No Child Left Behind," says Kevin Sweeney, press aide to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. "The (Bush) administration was always dead set against changes." Mr. Sweeney identified two key areas for improving the law: the "growth" approach to evaluating students and the "highly qualified" teacher requirements.

He's right on both counts.

No Child Left Behind turns admirable aspirations into punitive mandates. With a modest amount of flexibility, a revised federal law can apply enough pressure to spur improvement without setting standards that are impossible to achieve.

BOTTOM LINE: Alaska needs Congress to lighten up a bit on the No Child Left Behind Act.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Privatized Schools Don't Make the Grade

Don't let the fact that this is from a Marxist publication get in your way. This is a good review of attempt to privatize education in this country, and more specifically about Chris Whittle and Edison schools.

Reach Lawrence Albright at

...In a study that followed North Carolina students for several years, professors Robert Bifulco and Helen Ladd found that students in charter schools actually made considerably smaller achievement gains in charter schools than they would have in traditional public schools, according to the National Education Association.

In the last analysis, whether Chris Whittle succeeds or fails with the Edison Schools initiatives is of little consequence, since the ultra-right sees him and his efforts as simply one wedge to break apart public education. There are other private contractors waiting in the wings. And the battle that must be waged to protect public education is not against Chris Whittle personally, but against the ultra-right.

At the height of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964, student leader Mario Savio spoke of the university as representing autocracy and viewing students as raw material to be used by corporations, which he opposed.

Today, the ultra-right seeks to privatize education and return education to the days when inequality was the norm. This is very much a political issue that reflects both their class interests and class stand. And if we're going to point the fickle finger of blame for any deficits in public education, then let's point it at a socioeconomic system that forces parents to make choices to spend more time with their children or have money to pay the bills. Let's blame a system that makes it possible for an employer not to provide health care insurance or in which the costs of living are increasing while real income is decreasing, and where a family sometimes chooses between poor nutrition or no nutrition at all. Let's point to the system where we put both our youth and our seniors at risk.

The ultra-right will continue to hammer against public education in the absence of a concerted struggle against them. Private education is to them the ultimate provider of knowledge. After all, our current president benefited from private schools. It was the best C average money could buy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Petition Calling For the Dismantling of the No Child Left Behind Act

Sign this and telL your friends! Tell everyone you know. Let's do this now!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Alaska denied No Child Left Behind flexibility

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - A federal agency has denied Alaska's application to have more flexibility in judging whether schools are making adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind law.

Alaska was one of 16 states vying for 10 spots in a pilot program to allow states to judge a school's progress based on the percentage improvement in its students' test scores rather than on whether the scores have hit specific targets.

Five states - Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee - have already been accepted into the pilot program, leaving only five open slots. The federal Department of Education rejected Alaska's application...

Les Morse, the director of assessments and accountability with the state Department of Education, said the problem is that the current system doesn't give credit to schools if their students are not proficient but improving.

Under Alaska's proposal, Morse said, schools wouldn't be penalized as long as the students were making improvements toward becoming proficient in four years...


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Have Not Gone Away for Good

This year I am in the first grade year of my K/1 loop. First grade is a lot more work! I also think I got a little burned out on blogging. I really hoped my blog would make a difference in the fight against NCLB. At times it just seems so futile. Anyway, this is the important year and this election should be extremely important. Please be sure to vote today, and hopefully I will be back to write very soon.

I Have Not Gone Away for Good

This year I am in the first grade year of my K/1 loop. First grade is a lot more work! I also think I got a little burned out on blogging. I really hoped my blog would make a difference in the fight against NCLB. At times it just seems so futile. Anyway, this is the important year and this election should be extremely important. Please be sure to vote today, and hopefully I will be back to write very soon.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Congressman Young Introduces the No Child Left Behind Improvements Act of 2006

Whew! I guess I took a much needed break from thinking about all this. Now I'm back at school on the first grade end of my loop and really busy but I am going to try to keep this current, especially since this is an important year for the reauthorization of NCLB.

With that in mind, I just discovered this. I am amazed! Many of us up here in Alaska consider our only congressman to be somewhat of a neanderthal. However he id come down on the right side of the patriot act and now this. With a quick look, I will say it looks OK. I will report more when I have read the whole thing.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Test-driven teaching isn't character-driven

This commentary from is all I have to say for today...

No Child Left Untested is politicians' answer to better education. What about better people?
By Colman McCarthy

No group is enjoying a greater high right now than the nation's testocrats, as students across the land finish up another year of test-driven education. These children, frightened by the fear of failure, are using their minds not to think but to perform.

For whom? Aside from the profit-hungry testing industry, it's mainly for politicians whose notion of No Child Left Untested is their answer to the latest report that all those well-drilled Japanese and Chinese kids are years ahead of America's slackers. Perform well on the tests, goes the meritocratic message, and all rungs on the ladder to success will be easily climbed.

Having taught in high schools for 25 years, I have seen no evidence that mastering tests helps students become kinder, more loving, or more adventuresome. Often, it's the opposite. Preparing for Advance Placement or International Baccalaureate tests, they become idea- and fact-memorizers, not idea- and fact-analyzers. Fearful of not doing well, students give in to anxiety. Cowed, they obsess over grades - and ignore Walker Percy's irrefutable truth that you can make all A's in school and go flunk life.

High school students who instinctively protest tests become spiritual dropouts, showing up for school physically but thinking their own thoughts, while test-giving teachers prattle on about what to study for the next Big One.

Having taught courses on nonviolence to more than 7,000 high school, college and law school students since 1982, as well as lecturing at hundreds of schools from the nation's wealthiest to its poorest, I have seen enough to know that, too often, test-happy schools are merely processing the young like slabs of cheese going to Velveeta Elementary on the way to Cheddar High and Mozzarella U.

Carol Rinzler describes it in Your Adolescent: An Owner's Manual:

Little Kimberly asks her high-achieving parents: "If they tell you in nursery school that you have to work hard so that you'll do well in kindergarten, and if they tell you in kindergarten that you have to work hard so you'll do well in high school, and if they tell you in high school that you'll have to work hard so you'll get into a good college, and assuming they tell you in college that you have to work hard so you get into a good graduate school, what do they tell you in graduate school that you have to work hard for?"

Mom and Dad tell Kimberly: "To get a good job so you can make enough money to send your children to a good nursery school."

Tests represent fear-based learning, not desire-based learning. As a pacifist, I see tests as forms of academic violence. I have never insulted my high school students by giving them exams.

Instead, I give my students plenty of quizzes, starting with character-driven questions. When did you last thank the school's janitors for keeping the toilets clean? How often do you express appreciation to the cafeteria workers for cooking the food every day? How often do you tell someone that you love them? And show them with deeds? Have you done a favor recently for someone who didn't even know you did it? Are you a talker or a doer? Are you a person who is self-centered or other-centered? What are you doing to make your parents' lives a bit easier? Are you living simply so others may simply live?

I'd rather have a class full of students who are mindful of what matters, rather than a class of students with minds full of what least matters: how to get ahead by acing tests. America has enough brainy people ready to serve the interests of the ruling elite, but not enough caring people to challenge its materialism and militarism.

When I asked some of my students recently whether they were better people for having taken their AP and IB tests in other classes, none answered yes. Most said they were frazzled. Some believed they had been conned into thinking the tests mattered. A few, indeed, were glad they took the tests. For them, it's now on to Mozzarella U. to strive for 4.0s, and seek out Kimberly as a best study pal.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

House Panel Cuts Health Research Budget (and NCLB Funding)

This from WaPo:

The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 7, 2006; 6:27 PM

WASHINGTON -- Health research, school aid and social services for the poor would bear budget cuts under a bill approved by a House panel Wednesday.

But despite the cuts in a bill providing $141.9 billion for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, lawmakers found $1 billion more than last year for back-home projects unrequested by President Bush. Those include grants to local hospitals and clinics and research funding for universities and colleges in lawmakers' districts.

The House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee approved the bill by a 9-7 party-line vote Wednesday after Democrats such as Rep. David Obey savaged the bill for its cuts to the National Institutes of Health, programs funded by the 2002 No Child Left Behind education bill and for reducing the federal share for special education programs.


"This bill defines our priorities," Obey said. He said the cuts to programs such as the elimination of $272 million in school technology grants were the inevitable result of a deficit squeeze brought on by several recent rounds of GOP tax cuts.

The bill also cuts grants to help schools recruit, hire and train teachers to meet No Child Left Behind mandates by $300 million, or 10 percent. The measure also cuts safe and drug free school grants by 10 percent.

Republicans countered that they had produced as fair a bill as possible in tight budget times. They highlighted a $100 increase in the maximum Pell Grant to $4,150 and a double-digit percentage increase for community health centers.

Tight buget time caused by their tax cuts and starting a war they can't end!


Meanwhile, the House gave only cursory debate to a $3 billion measure funding its own budget. That represents a 4 percent increase. Floor action moved so swiftly that a half-dozen members who hoped to offer amendments such as a plan to block smoking areas in House office buildings lost their chance.


It is time to clean house. It is time for us all to work this fall for people to help to stop the idiocy going on in Washington right now!Tag:

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dayton says No Child sets schools up to fail

Has it really been that long since my last post? School is out, my classroom is shut down and now comes all those chores I have been saving up all year to do. Luckily I am still waking up early and can find some time to read news on the internet early in the morning, but finding time to post is another matter. Anyway...

I found this one on Sunday, and even though the panelists and I appear to be at opposite ends of the political spectrum, there is a lot here to agree with...

NEW ORLEANS -- Rep. Margaret Dayton's warpath against the federal No Child Left Behind law took her to New Orleans on Friday, where she told education writers that the law performs functions better left to state and local officials.


Speaking as a panelist at the annual meeting of the Education Writers Association, Dayton, R-Orem, outlined her opposition to the law that she says has "set up schools for failure."


The federal education law creates a culture of dependency, Dayton said.

"It really presupposes that central planning is going to be more effective than local control -- that public brains are going to be more effective than private brains," she said.

Petrilli argued that national standards are needed to increase achievement but conceded that NCLB is failing.

"In some ways it's creating a race to the bottom," he said. States are obliging schools' and parents' requests to make the tests easy enough to achieve "socially acceptable" pass rates, he said.

Dayton said she objected to the idea that achievement is the key. Giving all students the opportunity to learn should be the focus, she said.

"I think to say the achievement gap, it is not a worthy goal to address because it is very dampening to the entrepreneurial spirit and damaging to achieving students, especially those who learn at different times and in different ways," she said.

Dayton has been a critic of No Child Left Behind since it became law in 2002. In 2004, she led an effort to opt out of NCLB, and in 2005 sponsored a Utah law that prioritizes the state's education goals over federal requirements. The Department of Education has denied Utah's efforts to use a "growth model," which gives greater weight to growth in student achievement.

Dayton also questioned the federal Department of Education's annual $70 billion budget, and said the offices "metastasize" each time she visits. The department could be scaled back and relegated only to sharing best practices among states, Dayton said, with a budget of just $15 billion. Then each state could receive more than $1 billion for education, she said.

Now, the money paid in from each state is returned "with strings attached," she said.

Jason Kamras, 2005 National Teacher of the Year from Washington, D.C., public schools, also participated in the panel and said "human capital" is the key to reforming schools.

"All this is going to come down to having the very best people our country can offer serving as teachers, school leaders, counselors, district personnel and superintendent in our public education system, period," Kamras said. "Unless we have quality people, you can pass all the standards you want and adopt all the curricula and all the neat textbooks and products of the day, and nothing's going to change."

The comments are interesting as well:

an anyone say Duh? Of course the no child left program is a failure.OF course it is designed to create more dependency. The government wants everyone to be more dependant on them. The more people that are dependant on government for their every need, the easier they are control. And that is what the government wants more of, control over the people. They don't want an independent people, they want slaves who can't think for themselves. An independent people can and will rise p against their masters after so much abuse and wrongdoing by the government. If we are dependant on the government for everything, we are more likely to accept our slavery conditions.


NCLB is about but one thing: Federal vs. local control of our schools - and children.

Utah would be better served if they told the feds to take NCLB and shove it. It would likely cost a bit more that 100 million to the state (of OUR money) but we would then be able to do with OUR schools what we wanted.

The VERY first issue that we could deal with is the vast number of foreigners that we are educating - as a federal mandate. Our state taxpayers are paying for the education of these foreigners, and we should have NO obligation to do so. It should, after all, NOT be the responsibility of our state taxpayers to pay for the cost of educating children of foreigner's.

If we ended NCLB, that would cost the $100 million, but the savings of doing so would offset that cost by many times.

We just might be able to afford to pay for the schooling of OUR children!

Now, if you you have read this blog at all you have have probably figured out I am a card carrying progressive (never really did like that liberal term) and I imagine these Utahin's and I would have much to argue about, but on federal control of education I believe we agree. NCLB is such a bad idea that it brings all kinds of people together to fight aagainst it. At least that is my hope for 2007 when it comes up again in congress.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Once Again - Schools Matter

I feel I must once again, turn your attention to the blogging of Judy Rabin, Peter Campbell, and Jim Horn over at Schools Matter. As I have said before, I consider this an everyday must read, but lately several posts have really caught my attention...

Today's post has
Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch coming together to oppose NCLB, the tests, and the dumbed down curricula that they cause.

Also from today, NSTA Cites Poor Working Conditions & NCLB as Reasons for Drop in Science Scores this from NYT:

Michael J. Padilla, a professor at the University of Georgia who is president of the National Science Teachers Association, said that the problem was not that universities were failing to train sufficient numbers of science majors or that too few were opting for classroom careers, but that about a third of those who accepted teaching jobs abandoned the profession within five years.

"What happens is that the system tends to beat them down," Mr. Padilla said. "Working conditions are poor, it's a difficult job, and the pay isn't that great."

Some teachers cited the decreasing amount of time devoted to science in schools, which they attributed in part to the annual tests in reading and math required by the No Child Left Behind law. That has led many elementary schools to cancel some science classes. On average, the time devoted to science instruction among elementary teachers across the nation declined from a weekly average of 2.6 hours in 2000 to 2.3 hours in 2004, Department of Education statistics show
The media blitz over NAEP science scores has everyone scrambling just in time for the big push to start science testing in 2007-2008. If NCLB is not scrapped there won't be a need for talented, dedicated science teachers who love the subject because the teachers can just follow the script. That should help America's global competitiveness.

From Monday came this
wonderful piece of satire that nails it...

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write to thank you for what you've done for our country. While I quibble with many of your ideas -- your belief that threats and punishments are the way to improve schools, that invading, destroying, and occupying a sovereign nation is the way to help it achieve peace and democracy, that increasing air pollutants constitutes clear skies, and that logging 300-year-old trees is the way to achieve healthy forests -- there is one thing that you and I are completely aligned on: the need for less critical thinking in our nation's classrooms.

The National Reading Panel --- your hand-selected group of literacy experts -- makes the need for less critical thinking abundantly clear. As you know, the National Reading Panel had the nerve to use "research" and "analysis" to come to the conclusion that "phonics instruction appears to contribute only weakly, if at all, in helping poor readers apply [decoding skills] to read text and to spell words." (quoted in Garan, Elaine. 2002. Resisting Reading Mandates: How to Triumph with the Truth. Heinemann. Portsmouth, NH., p. 47; taken from the NRP Report of the Subgroups, Chapter 2, p. 116) But, thanks to those wonderful public relations people from Widemeyer Communications, the Washington PR firm hired by McGraw-Hill to promote Open Court in Texas and to write the Summary Booklet and produce the promotional video that explains the NRP's "research," phonics has become (once again!) The Next Big Thing.

See? People don't have time to read a 500 page report. That would require us to think. And to read! That's why it's so much better to have our reading and thinking done for us. After all, if you can't believe what a Washington-based PR firm hired by the biggest educational company in the world to promote its products tells you, then who can you believe? Like you, Mr. President, I read the front page. Let all those other lazy folks with too much time on their hands read the rest of the paper. You and I have much more important things to do!

But I know you, you sly old fox, you. You're just waiting for us to raise our hands in the back of the classroom and say, like Arnold Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter, "Ooo! Ooo! Mr. President! Mr. President! There appears to be a discrepancy between what the NRP actually wrote and what right-wing pundits say the NRP wrote!" And you, the Firm Believer in Truth, would acknowledge us with a Cookie for Justice.

So, please forgive us for not raising our hands. Please understand that your teaching methods are so advanced that many of us have mistaken you for a dangerous ideological zealot.
But, thanks to you, 71 percent of the nation's 15,000 school districts have reduced the amount of instruction in history, social studies, and other non-tested subjects. Mercifully, our already over-burdened children won't have to think about issues like Truth vs. truth vs. evidence vs. belief. They have too many other important things to think about, like who is going to win American Idol and whether or not Tom Cruise is gay.

I heard some commie liberal quip recently, "Facts, like history, belong to the conquerors." I'm not sure what he meant, but it sounded a lot like the usual liberal whining we are so tired of.

Thank you for your service to our country.

Best wishes,
Peter Campbell

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Heard the One About the 600,000 Chinese Engineers?

It is the end of the year! I am extremely busy. Hope to be able to blog more and do more research in a couple of weeks. For now there is this from Gerald Bracey in the WaPo...

People and organizations create statistics for a purpose -- to call attention to a problem, or to argue for a policy change. Americans consume vast quantities of statistics every day. Most zip in and out of our brains, but others somehow take root in the gray matter, then move about the culture as something that everyone just "knows."
Among such recent attention-getting statistics are 600,000, 350,000 and 70,000. These are, allegedly, the number of engineers produced in 2004 in China, India and the United States, respectively. The numbers first drew major notice when they appeared in a Fortune magazine story on July 25, 2005.

Carl Bialik, who writes the "Numbers Guy" column in the Wall Street Journal, was suspicious. He had previously examined the Fortune (maazine) numbers and concluded that they were inflated, so he sought to find their source. The most likely origin for the 600,000 Chinese engineers was a 2002 speech by Ray Bingham, then-chief executive of a semiconductor company. Bialik couldn't find any obvious birthplace for the Indian figures, but National Science Foundation analysts told him the number was unlikely to be anywhere near 350,000. As for the academies' report, Deborah Stine, who led the study, told Bialik that the committee had "assumed Fortune did fact-checking on their numbers" and so used them. Meanwhile, a McKinsey Global Institute report had cast doubt on the quality of the Chinese engineering graduates, so Bialik reasoned that removing unqualified candidates would obviously reduce the total.

The 2004 China Statistical Yearbook, issued by the Chinese government, reports 644,000 engineering graduates that year. But the yearbook merely assembled the numbers sent by provincial governments. The accuracy of these provincial reports is unknown, and it is unclear whether the provinces shared common definitions -- the word "engineer" does not translate easily into many Chinese dialects.

In fact, about half of what China calls "engineers" would be called "technicians" at best in the United States, with the equivalent of a vocational certificate or an associate degree. In addition, the McKinsey study of nine occupations, including engineering, concluded that "fewer than 10 percent of Chinese job candidates, on average, would be suitable for work [in a multinational company] in the nine occupations we studied."

After an exhaustive study, researchers at Duke University also pummeled the numbers. In a December 2005 analysis, "Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate," they reported that the United States annually produces 137,437 engineers with at least a bachelor's degree while India produces 112,000 and China 351,537. That's more U.S. degrees per million residents than in either other nation.

Among major media outlets, thus far only the Christian Science Monitor has joined the Wall Street Journal in examining the competing statistics. (A few others have referenced the Duke study). In a December 2005 article, the Monitor quoted Rochester Institute of Technology professor Ron Hira as saying: "Business groups have been very smart about trying to change the subject from outsourcing and offshoring to the supposed shortfall of U.S. engineers. There's really no serious shortage of engineers."

Statistics that end up as conventional wisdom even when they're wrong usually become popular by being presented as fact in a highly visible and respected source -- such as a cover story in Fortune or a National Academies report.

Once a statistic has attained the status of something we all "know," it takes on a charmed life. It is hardly surprising that the National Academies report gave rise to many citations. Yet even after the Duke report and other demurrals, these spurious throngs of Chinese and Indian engineers remain alive and well, appearing, for example, in a Newsweek opinion piece last winter by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez repeated the numbers in March to a meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) cited them in April during an appearance at a Fredericksburg science expo for middle-school students.

We probably will not be done with the 600,000, 350,000 and 70,000 false comparison for a long time. If ever.


And what you will read about NCLB in the next year or so will be no different. Take the time to look beyond what you read in mainstream media and pass it around.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Watching One Child Get Left Behind

Your guess is as good as mine as to why this story of a fifth grade girl from Brooklyn NY appears in the Arizona reporter, but this is Indeed a story about what happens when instead of real education reform we get NCLB and the test mania that comes with it:

The author (right) contends that the federal No Child Left Behind Act failed the student she tutored. The fifth grader, unable to pass demanding new standardized tests, was left back. The author (right) contends that the federal No Child Left Behind Act failed the student she tutored. The fifth grader, unable to pass demanding new standardized tests, was left back. Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Wash

A tutor discovers that big dreams aren't always enough
By Stephanie Wash
Balloons were scattered. The children's shirts were adorned with fresh orchids. Hundreds of families were packed into the elementary school auditorium last June for fifth grade graduation, a milestone the children anticipated all year. Yet I felt a large void as I took my seat. Not all the fifth graders I had tutored and had grown to love had made it.

One was Kimberly, a tall, shy, brown-eyed 12-year-old who lives with her mother, stepfather and older sister in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It was hard celebrating the other children's fortune when I felt so deeply Kimberly's misfortune.

"It made really sad that I couldn't graduate with my class," Kimberly told me. She is now nearly done with her second bid at fifth grade. I wonder if she'll graduate this spring. And if she doesn't, what then?

Her story is the story of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, legislation signed by President Bush in 2002 that was supposed to promote academic growth, largely through standardized testing.

Kimberly had never grasped basic mathematical concepts. She went from grade to grade, falling further behind, missing fundamental concepts in mathematics and language studies. She couldn't progress, because she never had a foundation.

I invested two years in her education, as a tutor in Ms. Shaw-Murphy's class, with New York University's America Reads program. But it's hard to teach kids when the average elementary class size is 34, as it is in Kimberly's district. What I've seen in my work with Kimberly and her classmates is that students left back - five percent of New York City fifth graders last year -- don't get the attention they need to catch up. In the name of leaving no child behind, many children are being not just left behind, but written off.

I was privileged to receive a top-notch public school education in my hometown, Braintree, Massachusetts. My elementary and middle school offered me enrichment programs, advanced classes, and a rigorous curriculum. Later, I attended an all-girls Catholic high school. I was always pushed by my teachers to excel. If I didn't understand a lesson, they worked with me until I did. If I couldn't do something, they stood by until I succeeded. Straight A's were almost expected of me, and my father encouraged me to challenge myself by taking advanced classes. I never felt alone; my teachers and parents showed genuine concern and interest in my academics. My education afforded me the opportunity to attend New York University.

My connection with Kimberly is much deeper than a tutor-student relationship. I see myself in her. As I was, she is willing to learn. She has big dreams, as I did. The only difference is that she lacks the guidance, support, and motivation I received as a young girl.

Kimberly is part of a large achievement gap in public education. Materials are scarce in the overcrowded, aged building where she studies. Photocopies are a luxury, and pens and pencils are missing from the classrooms. The teachers scramble for paper towels and hoard them in cupboards. The libraries are filled with a mixture of antique books that were collecting dust in old book rooms and new, glossy books that the teachers buy themselves.

No matter how much I help Kimberly, it will not make up for the past seven years of education that has failed her.

There was so much that could have been done for her. And now I look back with anger on the past two years. Even an outsider can see that change is necessary. Is it that nobody else cares?

I asked Kimberly about summer school.

"It was a waste of time," she said. "We didn't really do any work. The teacher just gave us worksheets every day but she never corrected us or told us what we got wrong."

What about the free tutoring that theoretically exists for students in need, before and after school? Kimberly thought she was eligible, but it wasn't available.

"What extra help did I get? Nothing - I didn't get any. They just sent me to summer school," she said.

Instead, her family tried to hire a private tutor. "Last year I had a tutor who came five days a week for a couple of hours, but it was costing my mother $30 an hour," she said. "Then the tutor wanted $50 an hour and that was way too expensive." Now her sister Kiara, a seventh grader, tutors her daily.

After her setbacks, I've seen a loss of hope in her face, and heard in her voice fear that she won't be able to catch up. I've seen other children who have fallen behind have their motivation destroyed and slip even further. Meanwhile, Kimberly says, the students who excel academically get more attention and enrichment and pull even further ahead.

As Kimberly tells me this in the hot, dimly lit classroom, I find myself willing her to succeed, so that this June, I will be able to pin a fresh orchid on her graduation dress.

This is just one story of one girl
. NCLB does not reduce this girl's class sizes or even provide the materials for a proper education. What it does offer is privatization, vouchers and charter schools. There are people that believe that these things will more properly educate these kids. Every day I get a feed from Google containing headlines that contain the words "charter school," and everyday on that page I read about abuses of the system, convictions for fraud, schools closed because of misuse of funds, etc. Privatization is not a better use of public education dollars. Helping the parents to organize, and change things themselves is a way that has been shown to work. Schools with dedicated staff and good leadership with adequate funding have been shown to work. Vouchers and charter schools are not working. Privatization will not work. Let's get rid of NCLB and get on with the task of giving communities the resources to make schools that work for their kids.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

NCLB Must Be Stopped in 2007

From Jim Horn comes a warning we all must heed:

A growing number of people have come to realize that NCLB is the greatest threat to public education in America today. With its built-in schedule of guaranteed failure that culminates in 2014, an erosion of support for public schools will accompany that death march. Reauthorization next year will bring an end the dream of a publicly-funded non-sectarian school system for all children that celebrates all the differences that make America great, while inculcating a deep civic and political solidarity under a just Constitution that makes all those differences possible. This is the dream that is at risk and the hope that is being sacrificed in the name of a phony accountability system that uses the failure of poor children to wage a war against them and their schools.

Unless NCLB is dismantled next year, the erosion of public support will creep from the urban centers into the suburbs, where failure awaits those who are too blind to see it coming. Unless reauthorization is blocked next year, the public school system will gradually and inevitably burn out on the death march to 2014, ending this part of our civilized democratic ideal, to paraphrase Eliot, with a whimper instead of a bang.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Secretary Spellings Announces National Mathematics Advisory Panel Members

Looks like they are doing to math what they did to reading. It is my bet that some of the people on this panel stand to make a lot of money from this report. It worked once didn't it? Why not again? Remember these names:

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel will be chaired by Dr. Larry Faulkner, president of the Houston Endowment and President Emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin.

Other panelists:

  • Dr. Deborah Ball, Dean, School of Education and Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan
  • Dr. Camilla Benbow, Dean of Education and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Peabody College
  • Dr. A. Wade Boykin, Professor and Director of the Developmental Psychology Graduate Program in the Department of Psychology, Howard University
  • Dr. Francis "Skip" Fennell, Professor of Education, McDaniel College (Md.); President, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
  • Dr. David Geary, Curators' Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri at Columbia
  • Dr. Russell Gersten, Executive Director, Instructional Research Group; Professor Emeritus, College for Education, University of Oregon
  • Nancy Ichinaga, former Principal, Bennett-Kew Elementary School, Inglewood, Calif.
  • Dr. Tom Loveless, Director, Brown Center on Education Policy and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution
  • Dr. Liping Ma, Senior Scholar for the Advancement of Teaching, Carnegie Foundation
  • Dr. Valerie Reyna, Professor of Human Development and Professor of Psychology, Cornell University
  • Dr. Wilfried Schmid, Professor of Mathematics, Harvard University
  • Dr. Robert Siegler, Teresa Heinz Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Dr. Jim Simons, President of Renaissance Technologies Corporation; former Chairman of the Mathematics Department, State University of New York at Stony Brook
  • Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Independent researcher and consultant in education; former Senior Associate Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Education
  • Vern Williams, Math Teacher, Longfellow Middle School, Fairfax, Va.
  • Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu, Professor of Mathematics, University of California at Berkeley

Ex-officio members:

  • Dan Berch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health
  • Diane Jones, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Tom Luce, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
  • Kathie Olsen, Deputy Director, National Science Foundation
  • Raymond Simon, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
  • Grover (Russ) Whitehurst, Director, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education

This time we are watching. Not that it will make a difference, necessarily. (Also check Jim Horn's Schools Matter for more info on the make up og this panel.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Leaving Good Teachers Behind

Here, from a commentary from the Lompoc Record, is another side of the story of the disaster known as NCLB. Para educators need to be 'highly qualified." These are people often with minimal skills and/or education, but with dedication and a real interest in kids. These are also the bottom of the wage stricture in most school systems. These people are necessary and do an important job. As with any job good people are always hard to find, so why make it harder? To help destroy public education, why else?

They call it No Child Left Behind. What they should call it is, Teacher's Aides Left Behind.

The No Child Left Behind program was supposedly designed to ensure that kids get a good education and that a high school diploma actually means something. No problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is the fact that somebody, somewhere had the bright idea to require teacher's aides to take a version of the test in order to keep their jobs. This in spite of the fact that some, but certainly not all, of these aides don't need to have a working knowledge of much of anything academic in nature in order to do their job. Let me give you an example.

My family has a close friend who has had various odd jobs working for the school district for some 20 years. Most of the jobs she has had were blue-collar in nature. Over time, she and the kids she worked with discovered she had a gift with disabled children. She has had a couple of different jobs working with these kids, none of which require her to teach anything that would for instance, require the use of math.

Having been out of high school for some 30 years, like most of us, she has forgotten how to find the area of a circle or multiply fractions. She never did take algebra.

But the important thing is, she has all the love and patience in the world to spend all day with kids who need her to help them with some fairly rudimentary skills. The kids, their parents and the school district she works for are lucky to have her.

But she could lose her job if she can't pass the standardized test that is being required by mandate of the federal government. Adding to this problem is the fact that the local school district could not have done a worse job in helping the aides prepare for the test.

The school district, for some reason, only gave my friend and her fellow teacher's aides a grand total of a week's notice that they were going to have to take this test!

I believe that aides working in an academic position should have a basic knowledge of the subject at hand. But it was terribly unfair for the district to in effect give a pop quiz to some employees that were never noticed before they were hired that they would need to have certain skill sets that were outside of their scope of job responsibilities. Neither did the district offer any training or practice sessions to help the aides brush up on stuff they haven't been using for decades and probably won't ever have to use again.

Can you imagine being threatened with losing your job because you didn't know how to do something that is irrelevant to your job?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Exam Proves What Teachers Know

Affluent Districts, Ready Kindergartners
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Scott Stephens
Plain Dealer Reporter

Teachers have said for years that while all children can learn, the skills they begin school with vary widely.

Now, they have the numbers to back up that claim.

The just-released results of Ohio's new kindergarten readiness exam show that children just beginning school posted scores closely tied to the wealth of the community they lived in.

Kindergartners entering school in affluent suburban communities, for example, posted substantially higher scores than children living in high-poverty urban and rural areas.

Those results are hardly a revelation to educators.

Still, the test is being closely watched in education circles for several reasons. First, it represents Ohio's first attempt to quantify the challenges that schools face in trying to educate poor children.

Also, the data undercut arguments for states offering merit pay for teachers because they don't operate on a level playing field.

"It really shows what we've been trying to get people to see all along - kids from lower socioeconomic conditions need more help, and it really takes more work to bring them to speed," said Debbie Tully, professional issues director for the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Generally, the kindergarten scores reflect trends that continue through high school.

Girls score higher than boys, white students score higher than black and Latino students, and students entering excelling districts score higher than students entering struggling districts.

Sen. C.J. Prentiss of Cleveland pushed fellow lawmakers to commission a study to gauge poverty's impact on student performance and determine how much money was needed to enable all students to reach the state's new academic standards. Prentiss never got the study, but lawmakers did agree to the readiness exam.

"My hope was really to get a truer picture of what districts had to deal with when kids entered kindergarten not ready," said Prentiss, now the Senate minority leader. "I wanted to know what it meant in terms of allocation of resources. You hear some of my colleagues say that it's not about money, but bringing kids the resources they need does cost money."

Parents such as Michele Krampitz appreciate knowing where their children stand. Krampitz, whose son took the test before beginning kindergarten last fall in the Rocky River schools, said the test is especially beneficial to children who skipped preschool.

"Preschool is where some problems would first have been identified," she said. "For children who have not been to preschool, this test might be the first time they hear about it."

But some worry that testing tots so early might result in labeling - at times inaccurately - children as successes or failures before their academic careers even begin.

"Part of this is the fixation on testing as a cure for every imaginable education ill," said Robert Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing in Cambridge, Mass. "Good teachers don't need to test like that to identify a kid who needs help."

'Nuff said!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

People Speak Out About the Patricia Polacco Outrage

We wrote about this earlier. Here is a powerful letter from O'Hanian's website:

excerpted from Patricia Polacco's statement:
You can imagine my astonishment when I finally called this firm and learned that this was not the reason. They requested my written outline because their 'client' wanted to make sure that I would not discuss my deep concern about NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND well as my concern that there is a link between this mandate and the SRA/McGraw Hill Company who manufactures, prints, and profits from the sale of these tests to school systems all over our country.

Virginia Parent: When I got to this part, I let out a loud audible GASP.

I have a story about Patricia Polacco. Like millions of children around the country, my daughter was mesmerized by all her stories. Especially The Keeping Quilt And Mrs. Katz and Tusch. (Forgive me, we love her, but my daughter is fourteen and it's been years since I've read these books and the hour is late and my memory weak, but I'm still sure I got those titles right since we read them over and over and over). We loved those books especially because of their Jewish content. There was another about the Oakland fires that really resonated with my five year old. Patricia Polacco was one of our favorites.

Therefore, when we discovered she was speaking at the Corcoran in Washington, imagine our delight! We jumped at the chance. Sarah was already in sixth grade but we went anyway. We are passionate about books in this household, they are everywhere so that it is dangerous to attempt a middle-of-the-night bathroom run for fear of tripping all over then. We have always loved this author because she helped instill that passion in our child. The day at the Corcoran was actually a book illustrators event, but Polacco was featured (perhaps because she illustrates her own books?)

Early in her talk, she began decrying No Child Left Behind. She talked of how this was sapping children's creativity, destroying their love of reading but most importantly how art and music were being scrapped in favor of more test prep. She was unrelenting, unforgiving, she minced no words. I was so overcome, I had tears in my eyes. When she finished, I started applauding. Immediately my eleven-year-old daughter and husband joined me. The rest of the audience sat there in silence. But then they picked up the pace. The clapping became louder and more insistent. All that lacked was that we didn't stand up and give Ms. Polacco a standing ovation.

My daughter learned a valuable lesson that day. You stand up for what you believe in, you fight for what is right, even when you are swimming against the tide.

Judith Fogel
Fairfax, Virginia


Teacher Watch--Formative Assessment Agenda

Here is a scary post from the Horse Sense and Nonsense blog. I 'll say it one more time, it's time to organize and fight this!

Recent public outrage over scoring errors in the SAT and California High School Exit Exam (HSEE) has again inflamed national, if temporary, questions about high-stakes benchmark testing--and the unregulated corporations which create and adminster such programs, at the state and national level. Part of the concern is that many test corporations subsist on continuous public funding for each trial, error and profit.

But as eggregious as these momentary scandals may seem to parents, students and teachers, it's important to keep in mind that corporations such as Harcourt and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) have long shifted their eyes to something much more lucrative, long-term and mostly unquestioned: formative assessments.

Roughly, as teachers already know, "formative assessments" are seen as practice tools to prepare students to succeed on high-stakes, benchmark tests that occur perhaps once or twice a year. High-stakes benchmarks at the state level, such as the CAT-6 in California, are used to determine rankings of Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. Such results can affect funding for schools, not to mention the real-estate rates in your neighborhood. National high-stakes benchmark tests include the PSAT and new SAT test, which affect student entry into colleges and universities, and can also affect individual student options for scholarships and other funding.

By comparison, "formative" test sounds kinder and gentler--it's just like studying, right?

As articulated by CEOs at the 2005 Association of Test Publishers "Innovations in Testing" Conference, what test publishers mean by "formative assessment" is literally constant assessment. Via tools such as remote control, internet question banks and automated, instant online grading software programs, the formative assessment agenda seeks to break down barriers between "testing" and "curriculum" so that they literally mean the same thing. The buzzphrase for this is "integrated" testing.

The argument, of course, is that teachers are always preparing students for tests anyway, so more automated and standardized formative practice would simply make the whole process user-friendly for everyone.

Two months ago, ETS acquired the assets of Assessment Training Institute (ATI), a Portland Oregon company which specializes in integrating assessment with day-to-day instruction. In an official press release dated March 8 2006, John Oswald, ETS Senior Vice President of Elementary and Secondary Education, says, "ATI's people and products will broaden ETS's educational solutions, including minute-to-minute assessment for learning in the classroom, periodic benchmark testing to validate and adjust instruction, and high-stakes summative state assessments."

Richard (no relation to Henry) Higgins, CEO of ATI, calls the approach "assessment FOR learning." You can read the entire press release here.

The key is that big-money testers know how to diversify their portfolio. Corporations such as ETS are already planning creative recovery from possible fallout over inevitable, isolated squabbles over a few high-stakes tests.

If George Orwell were still alive, he'd repeat that the domestic counterpart to a state of chronic war with an enemy somewhere else is a state of chronic surveillance at home. In the next generation, unless we resist, compulsory schools will be the primary (and invisible) front for this battle.

Jo Scott-Coe

"HorseSense and Nonsense"


Friday, May 05, 2006

Patricia Polacco: Regarding the cancellation of my appearance at the IRA in Chicago for May 2 and 3, 2006

Read this. Famed chirdren's author/artist Patricia Polacco has been censured by McGraw Hill. They hired her to speak at the Interbational Reading Associatio (IRA) conference and then tried to control her speakking out about NCLB.
This "firm" insisted that my speech be "upbeat, non-controversial, and non-political"...I countered with the fact that the plight of the American teacher is far from "upbeat" and they are caught in the vice grip of the most controversial and political LIE that has ever been perpetrated on the American teacher.

I was also quite mystified as to why SRA/McGraw Hill would even select ME and invite me to be a part of their program knowing how strongly I feel about this entire situation.

Finally, after receiving numerous emails from this 'firm' that got more and more 'insistences'...I finally sent them a written refusal to alter my speeches in any way, Certainly I can moderate their length, but I refused to alter the content. I made them aware if they truly had a problem with this, then they could "un-invite" me to be part of their event.

Needless to sat, SRA/McGraw Hill cancelled my programs within the hour!

Also check out this:

New Reading Program is First in Nation to Combine No Child Left Behind Requirements, Research, 'New Literacies' and Other Approaches into Curriculum...

Reading Street includes fiction, expository articles, biographies,
poems, and online reading, all focused on driving students toward No Child
Left Behind's mandated Adequate Yearly Progress.

Kind of like driving cattle?

No Child Left Behind

"I believe the real purpose of the Act is to destroy public schools."

This is from a high school freshman, and he gets it! Come on America. Wake up!

Listen to this Commentary!

By Paul Katzman

No child left behind. Pretty bold words, if they were true that is. However, the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted for the wrong reasons and is implemented in the wrong way.

In theory it sounds wonderful- more flexibility for the states and school districts in the use of federal money, increased accountability for the schools, and a stronger emphasis on reading with the goal of having children able to read by the 3rd grade. But where are the additional resources to help accomplish this daunting task?

The Act introduces a system that ranks schools based solely on test scores. If a parent is not satisfied with the local school's continued weak performance, they are allowed to move their child to another school.

But testing is not the cure for poor grades. Tests are only a barometer to monitor progress; they don't fix the problem, they help to diagnose it. For example, in 6th grade, we began to be tested much more frequently, but it did absolutely nothing for me.

I believe the real purpose of the Act is to destroy public schools. The creators of the Act were frustrated because a voucher system could not be put in place, so they created a system that will force more charter schools, state takeover of local school districts, and home schooling. But no matter what happens, children will continue to be educated one way or another.

-Paul Katzman is a freshman at Grady High school.
Youth Radio Atlanta is produced in cooperation with WABE and funded in part by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Students, Parents & Community Leaders Speak Out on No Child Left Behind Act

Public Hearings Across the Country Reveal Confusion, Concern, and Anger OverImplementation of NCLB

Implementation of NCLB
WASHINGTON, May 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Public concern over implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is rising, according to a new report issued today by Public Education Network. Open to the Public: The Public Speaks out on No Child Left Behind, identifies specific concerns voiced by more than 1500 parents, students, taxpayers, and community leaders at open public hearings from September to January of this year. The hearings were designed to gain grassroots and civic input on the law from groups often left out of the policy debate, yet profoundly impacted by its implementation.

Throughout the hearings, the public rejected a single test as an accurate measure of school improvement. Parents and community leaders indicated that discrepancies between state and federal measures of school progress have created a deep mistrust of high-stakes tests and other NCLB indicators as accurate assessments of school performance. And, they believe that accountability must be expanded to include additional measures of school and student progress, developed with the input of local educators, parents, and the community.

Americans are also angered by the labeling of schools as "in need of improvement" because they say that this label erodes public support for these schools. Rather than increasing the public's sense of responsibility for demanding additional support and resources, 'in need of improvement' labels are perceived as punitive and can result in student, teacher, and community abandonment of the very schools most in need of support.

Feedback from students revealed that they experience enormous pressure passed along from teachers and administrators worried about school performance. NCLB testing places excessive stress on students, particularly English language learners and special education students, causing some to drop out. Students were concerned they did not have the support and resources they needed to meet the requirements of the law.

The public also recommended the following changes to the law and its implementation including:

* Accountability that truly supports measurable student achievement
and gives credit for significant progress made.

* Improved academic resources for students, including increased quality
and availability of supplemental educational services.

* An expanded definition of "highly qualified teachers" to include
training on parent and community involvement as well as on cultural

* Enforced parent involvement provisions so parents can participate in
meaningful ways and administration officials can more effectively engage

It's out there. I wonder if anyone is listening?


Monday, May 01, 2006

No Child Left Behind fails its mission

An opinion from the Pasadena Star News is a voice of reason, from a teacher of course...

It's a bold name for a piece of legislation. You'd be hard pressed to find a dentist that claimed, "No tooth shall ever have a cavity ... ever." There is no emergency room with a sign on the doors that reads, "No one will ever die here again ... and this time we mean it." It's absurd, of course.

Some people don't brush their teeth. Some bullet wounds are bigger than others.

There's only so much any one doctor or dentist can control. The notion is almost as crazy as "No Child Left Behind." Many of our kids come in not knowing their alphabet. At other schools, all the kids arrive knowing the alphabet, with many already beginning to read. Still, at other schools, no children come in without any letter recognition at all, not even the ones in their names. There's only so much any one teacher can control. Some needs are just bigger than others.

So, why were we invited to apply to be a distinguished school, while this other school is allegedly failing? The answer is poverty, mostly. Though only a few miles down the road they have a far greater number of kids receiving free lunch. Their parents are much more

likely to hold jobs, rather than build careers.

Their families are also much more transient than ours. And they have greater language issues. Have you ever tried to take a standardized test in a foreign language? Don't bother. So what will happen if this school fails to meet testing goals again this year? Money will have to be diverted from the kids and put aside for transportation. Kids from this school will get to choose a new school in our area and this school will have to flip the bill to get them there. And which kids might actually leave? The kids who are doing well. The kids whose families are on top of it enough to make the move. This takes those kids away from their school testing totals. It takes away their brightest and best. And, once they leave, who will be "left behind"? Poor kids, the disenfranchised. Now we've got poor kids at an even poorer school.

And my school? Well, by luck, we may wind up with their brightest and best. We are, after all, just a few miles down the road. If that happens, our test scores will go up.

The real answer is easy. The execution is not, but the answer is no great stretch. It's the same answer for most of society's ills. Fight poverty. Don't seek to make people poorer. You want children to perform better in school? Fight poverty. Their poverty. Lower crime rates interest you? Fight poverty.

Teen pregnancy your issue? Less poverty, less teenage pregnancy. Want to wage a real war against terror? Fight global poverty. Is it any wonder that breeding grounds for terror are some of the poorest places on earth?

Putting legislation in place that will eventually punish the poor for simply being poor is never the answer, for anything. Fight poverty. Always fight poverty, and leave no poor child left behind. At home or abroad.

And I will go even farther than that. It is about out-reach. It is about the schools going to the families. It is about organizations helping to educate the families from the day the child is born. These are people that do not come from literate traditions, in many cases. We as a society must help them to learn what we do to help our kids succeed in school. Of course if your goal is a large uneducated, low skilled, low paid work force, and education only for the elite few that can afford to pay for it, you would not want to do any of these things.Tag:

Friday, April 28, 2006

No Child Left Behind? Are you sure?

No Child Left Behind is doing the opposite of what the name promises. And the Bush administration should be held accountable for its failure.

Now there's a sentence that I can whole heartedly agree with but not for these bogus reasons. Look here and here as to why I disagree. This article just simply won't go away!


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Milwaukee school study shows how neocons try to control info

This opinion piece by Ed Garvey in the Milwaukee's Capital Times shows how it is being done in Wisconsin. The sad fact is it is happening in many states, and with NCLB and Reading First at a national level as well. We need more and more articles like this exposing how it is done...

The "scientific study" will conclude in a year surprise, surprise that public schools are inferior to private voucher schools. Evidence will be scarce but they assume you will only read the headline. Their prescription will, predictably, be more vouchers. If the stakes weren't so high, it would almost be enjoyable to watch how the neocons manipulate our institutions and media as they advance their anti-government agenda. They believe in controlling the flow of information on matters of public policy and they are darned good at it.

Readers of The Capital Times and understand the impact on national policy of archconservative foundations such as American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and the granddaddy of them all the Heritage Foundation. And there is no need to explain Fox News with its much-heralded "fair and balanced" coverage. (Balance rests somewhere between Jerry Falwell and Dick Cheney.)

What has been missing is an examination of the impressive efforts of the shadowy neocons to shape policy in Wisconsin. I haven't read or heard in-depth coverage of their ability to frame issues and thereby win debates.

Last week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story that high school graduation rates in Milwaukee, particularly among minorities, were among the worst in the nation. Was this a DPI or Department of Education study? No, it was a news release from the Manhattan Institute. One might assume the Manhattan Institute would be more interested in New York, but they have reason to focus their gaze on Milwaukee.

The reason is the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation funds them. And Bradley loves vouchers. The Manhattan Institute says it will "study" the Milwaukee school system and, being the kind folks that they are, they will keep us informed about failing public schools while also making sure we get the truth about voucher school performance.

(Placing the Manhattan Institute in charge of an analysis of public schools, when they are on record supporting vouchers, would be like asking Wisconsin Right to Life to run Planned Parenthood.)

The "scientific study" will conclude in a year surprise, surprise that public schools are inferior to private voucher schools. Evidence will be scarce but they assume you will only read the headline. Their prescription will, predictably, be more vouchers.

How will we learn the results? Ah, the Bradley Foundation has taken care of that. The Bradley-funded Wisconsin Policy Research Institute will publish the results, the Journal Sentinel and other papers will have stories based on WPRI's release, and editorials will flow. One can almost write them now: "Yes, we believe in public education but are public schools equipped to train the work force of tomorrow? Should Milwaukee admit failure and ask the Bradley Foundation to put a corporate team together to save our schools and our children?"

But it won't stop there. The WPRI will have radio opportunities provided by Journal Communications. You see, Bradley supported Charles Sykes, who has a morning talk show on the most powerful radio station in Wisconsin, WTMJ, owned by Journal Communications. Every workday for 3.5 hours, Sykes has an opportunity to tell listeners about the "prestigious" Manhattan Institute study, push vouchers and condemn the teachers and their union for opposing privatization of public schools.

WISN talk show host Mark Belling will be singing in the chorus as well.

In the meantime, the neocons will be engaging in what they call "legal advocacy" in support of vouchers. The legal team will be headed by the Landmark Legal Foundation. Where does Landmark get its money? Ah, you are ahead of me. Yes, siree. The Bradley Foundation funds this "antidote to ACLU on the right." Landmark handled the Wisconsin Supreme Court case when Tommy's voucher system was under legal challenge by those who have a quaint notion that church-run schools should not receive tax dollars.

You should check out Landmark. They say they are, and I'm not making this up, "the literary home of 'Bell Curve' author Charles Murray." I suppose you are wondering who funded Murray when he wrote "The Bell Curve." Well, guess no more. It was the Bradley Foundation.

Journal Sentinel columnists Spivak & Bice report Landmark is about to sue the Wisconsin Education Association Council for engaging in advocacy. Whoa, Nelly! Advocacy for public schools, no less. What's next? Denying creationism in our schools? That the rapture is in doubt?

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has more than $400 million in assets and it spends up to $30 million per year. Bradley-supported groups are determined to shrink government, roll back our safety net, and privatize everything from schools to airports.

You have to tip your hat to Bradley, Sykes, Landmark, the Manhattan Institute, and WPRI. They frame the issues, pick the fights, lay out their agenda, and we follow along like lambs to slaughter. Public schools and libraries? Who needs them?

And when they finish up in Milwaukee, it will be time to privatize UW-Madison. Or will Bradley purchase UW-Milwaukee?

How do we deal with this assault on our cherished educational system? Buy a flashlight and shine it on these front groups.

For more information on the Bradley Foundation and vouchers, check out these links courtesy Susan O'hanian:

Bush Funds Black Voucher Front Group

The Real Legacy of Michael Joyce

Group holds forum on No Child Left Behind

Voucher Vultures Support Corporate Culture

Vouchers: The Right's Final Answer to Brown


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kenneth Goodman on DIBELS: important paper (may be shared)

More on DIBELS. From Stephen Krashen's Mailing List 
Krashen at Tue Jan. 3, 2006 comes this great post from
Ken Goodman. It is long. If you do not know much about DIBELS

by all means read the whole thing and learn all about this great and
wonderful scam that has
been foisted on American public education...
There are many things wrong with DIBELS.

It turns reading into a set of abstract decontextualized tasks that
canbe measured in one minute. It makes little children race with a
stop watch.It values speed over thoughtful responses. It takes over
the curriculum leaving no time forscience, social studies, writing,
not to mention art music and play.It ignores and even penalizes
children for theknowledge and reading bility they may have already

Reading is ultimately the ability to make sense of
print and no part of DIBELS tests that in any way. In DIBELS the
whole is clearly the sum ofthe parts and comprehension will somehow
emerge fromthe fragments being tested.
In summary DIBELS, The Perfect Literacy Test, is a mixed bag of
silly little tests. If it weren’t causing so much grief to children
and teachers it would be laughable. It’s hard to believe
that it could have passed the review of professional committees state
laws require for adoption of texts and tests . And in fact it has not
passed such reviews. There is strong evidence of coercion from those
with the powerto approve funding of state NCLB proposals and blatant
conflicts of interest for those who profit from the test and also have
the power to force its use. A congressional investigation is now
underway intothese conflicts of interest.

In training sessions for DIBELS, teachers are not permitted to raise
questions and are made to feel that there is a scientific base to the
test they lack the competence to understand. It is,after all, The
Perfect Literacy Test.

Join an Organization Like Mothers Against WASL

There are groups fighting against the absurd test mania that has a strangle hold on school systems all over the country. Find one and join it or start one of your own. We do not have to stand up for what they are doing to our schools. You can also join list serves like this one for WASL. Action is what we need. And thanks to Berta of WASL for the comment on my previous post and for the good work!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Since Dibels life has never been the same!

This from (NOT the Official) DIBELS Clearinghouse. DIBELS is not part of NCLB it is instead part of the Reading First grant brought to you by the same folks that gave us NCLB. (DIBELS is quite controversial, read more about that here.) DIBELS is a series of "assessments" that are prescriptive and are supposed to help teachers teach kids to read. The reality in many cases, and in this case in particular, is quite different...

My daughter first took this horrible test in September of 2005. We had been in school less than a month. When the results came back I was told my bright and talkative girl would have to repeat kindergarten because she did not score at benchmark and likely wouldn't be able to make benchmark by December. This was October!! I cannot even begin to express the HORROR I felt. School had just started and I felt that they hadn't even given my girl a chance. So, thus began the nightmare of kindergarten in public school. My daughter was a playful and confident child. (notice WAS) She began to come home and tell me how she was really smart and promised that she would learn to read. One day in November she told me that she wasn't stupid and would learn - she promised. My heart was breaking!! She had been drilled and drilled. Singled-out and made to feel dumb. I was hurt, sad and MAD as HECK!! We had been working our butts off trying to "catch-up" to the so called "benchmark" (read NORMAL) kids. We worked everyday for 45 minutes to an hour. Finally the December test came - We went from "intensive intervention" to Strategic on some portions to almost (1 point away) benchmark on others. I was estatic - we went for Ice cream!! Yay! The nightmare was over, we had done it... Right? NO! The improvement wasn't enough. We were told that it still wasn't enough and were given a letter saying we still would be held back. Any by the way we'll be taking the test again in April. So here we are awaiting the results from this last test. We probably won't make benchmark again. We don't care anymore though. Around January when the second set of results came back and there was not positive reaction about our improvement or all the hard work we had done, we decided that the public school is not for us. We will finish this year, we won't quit. But, we won't be back either. I feel like my daughter has really been left behind. I had to fight for extra help and for every inch we gain the system says we are still 2 more behind. I want to know how they think they can put every kid in a little box and label it stategic, intensive or bechmark (read NORMAL)? Don't they realize that not all kids are the same and frankly if someone had a stopwatch to me I probably would have problems too!! This test has basically ruined school for my daughter. She said that she no longer wants to go. She didn't even cry the first day of school. She said "Bye Mom. Love you!" She crys every morning now. How sad. I tell everyone I know about this test and how it is being used to label children and dictate their abilities based on some far fetched scale. I don't want anyone to ever have to go through this. I am still repairing the damaged that has been done to my daughter's confidence.

Did you catch that, "...we decided that the public school is not for us." I keep telling you that this is a big part of NCLB and Reading First. This is exacvtly what they want. They are destroying public education, the number one place local taxes go to, and replacing it with private schools so "business" can make more profits. I know when I say this it makes me sound like an extremist, but open your eyes America, this is happening right now! Speak up! Stop the destruction of public education in the USA.