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.

No Child Left Behind Debated

From the Washington Square Times, this debate is a start but not the answer...

The No Child Left Behind Act is flawed and must be changed, a panel of experts from the Steinhardt School of Education said at a town hall meeting in front of 250 audience members last night.
“It will be reauthorized, and there will be changes made,” Ravitch said. “It’s not going away.”
Both panelists criticized the act for creating what they feel is a loss of control of local government and the community over how schools are run.

The panelists also discussed the problem of how the act deals with racial inequality in schools.

“We now have schools in the United States that are more segregated than they were 20 years ago,” Ravitch said. “There’s no mention of racial segregation in NCLB.”

Noguera said the pursuit of prestige sometimes eclipses equality.

“Even in liberal cities like New York, people are more concerned about keeping their kids in gifted schools than in integrated schools,” Noguera said.

Brabeck said the discussion represented true diversity in opinion.

Which it wasn't. The two main debaters were not very far apart at all, but it's a start...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Teachers don't leave children behind half as much as policymakers do

What you hear from the pro NCLB people is squawk about teachers being against NCLB because it holds them to task, but here is another perspective, a commentary from southern Illinois, one that we should all be talking more about ...
I've never met a teacher whose eyes light up when No Child Left Behind is discussed. It may be a safe assumption to say the people who stand in front of our children everyday and teach have some real concerns about the expectations and penalties the federal government suddenly decided to enact a few years ago. Those concerns might be worth listening to for at least a little while.

When it comes down to the daily grind, educators kick themselves harder for students' poor grades than policy-makers ever will. Accountability for schools was not born in Congress, particularly considering some cynics think spotting accountability in Congress is like spotting a unicorn. Accountability in education works best when it acts as the bond between teachers and parents.

The funny thing about the No Child Left Behind discussion is that teachers always seem to be a very distant voice in the conversation. In all likelihood, they probably don't have as much time to mull the ramifications of one idea to another as the policy-makers. It's rare that teachers get any face time at all in the public venue. The only teachers I've seen on the news lately are the ones caught having sex with their students. Otherwise, questions surrounding education policy are often fielded by policy-makers...

Policy-makers have their place in the discussion, but the thoughts and ideas of the teachers can't be ignored as the country supposedly rockets toward a lofty goal within a decade. When we were in school we always got our best information from the teachers. After all, the matter of how the U.S. truly will leave no child behind is definitely a question that will be on the test.

'No Child Left Behind' should be left behind

This editorial from Middletown Connecticut gets it...

...deeply disturbing facts remain. The stakes are exceptionally high and schools that don’t measure up can lose funding, accreditation, and even have their faculty removed and application of the law is arbitrary and capricious at best. Again, according to the Harvard Civil Rights Project, NCLB is, ‘the most expansive assertion of federal power over schools in American history.’ Any attempt at such sweeping reform, especially in education, which is historically the purview of each individual state, is going to be impractical and unwieldy.

My sense is that before NCLB collapses under its own weight into a state-by-state free-for-all, the federal government ought to acknowledge the shortcomings built into the five-year-old law and convene a task force comprised of local educators and state officials. It is only in this way the law can be refocused to provide productive education for our public school students with minimal regulatory overhead, and sufficient funding to provide adequate administrative oversight.

Only a recommitment of this caliber would truly lend itself to the stated objective: no child left behind.

Hear, hear!

Friday, April 21, 2006

No Child isn't 'hiding' children

Finally someone else calls foul on the Ap article listed below. This editorial is from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

It is unarguably unwieldy, invasive, even bossy. But flawed as it is, No Child Left Behind is not quite the devil-in-data that its critics make it out to be.

Such is the case with a widely circulated wire service story that accuses NCLB of "hiding" minority students scores and thus, in essence, leaving those students behind.

The "loophole" the story refers to is a widely known and regularly explained provision that allows schools to not publicly disseminate scores when a small number of students fall into a sub-group. That provision can be used for minority students, students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency.

It's not that the scores aren't "reported," as the wire stories have said. They are indeed reported to the state and to the schools and, in individual student report cards, to parents as well.

But they aren't disbursed to the general public for a justifiable reason. With a small group of children, it would be easy for community members or even classmates to make assumptions about how individual students scored.

Had NCLB not had that provision, and had the above scenario actually played out, the U.S. Department of Education would be dealing with far greater outrage.


States have set their own limits on how few minority, disabled or limited English-speaking students a school must have to be exempt from public reporting. Those arbitrary numbers may be cause for legitimate debate.


The article then goes to praise NCLB, showing that even supporters of this awful law can see through the ruse that thios article is. Also be sure to check here for Jim Horn's take on this as well as some background.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Loophole in No Child Left Behind leaves some minorities behind

This an AP story and is appearring everywhere. Just a few variations are here, here, here, here and 574 related articles here.

This story is totally bogus!
The AP found that states are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting that requirement. And minorities _ who historically haven't fared as well as whites in testing _ make up the vast majority of students whose scores are excluded.
There's lots of negative talk and further down in the Washinton Post article they finally state:

Suppose, for example, that a school has 2,000 white students and nine Hispanics. In nearly every state, the Hispanic scores wouldn't be counted because there aren't enough to provide meaningful information and because officials want to protect students' privacy.

State educators decide when a group is too small to count. And they've been asking the government for exemptions to exclude larger numbers of students in racial categories. Nearly two dozen states have successfully petitioned the government for such changes in the past two years. As a result, schools can now ignore racial breakdowns even when they have 30, 40 or even 50 students of a given race in the testing population.


Which indeed could be seen as defect in the law, but what is statically significant? Doesn't that depend on the size of the school versus the size of the targeted population? And they are left out of what? The count toward the school failing to make AYP? So that the school can eventually be privatized? This is the kind of propaganda that we all need to be speaking out against! Please join me. Write leters to your paper. Denounce this nasty propaganda piece.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Examining Dibels: What It is and What It Does

From O'hanian and friends, a book you might want multiple copies of, to pass out and spread the word...
The Vermont Society for the Study of Education, a group small in number but very large in spirit, has launched a full frontal assault on DIBELS, the first part of an offensive against Reading First and against NCLB.
A slim 57 page book edited by Ken Goodman, this document challenges the federally-imposed regimen that demeans and diminishes teacher professionalism and harms children.

Examining Dibels: What It is and What It Does

Table of Contents:

  • Preface DIBELS: One Family's Journey, Lisa Laser

  • A Critical Review of DIBELS, Ken Goodman

  • Is DIBELS Leading Us Down the Wrong Path?, Robert J. Tierney and Elizabeth Thome

  • How DIBELS failed Alabama, A Research Report, Susan Seay

  • DIBELS: Not Justifiable, Maryann Manning, Constance Kamii, & Tsuguhiko Kato

  • Appendix: A brief summary of each Sub-Test in DIBELS

    Companion to the book is the DIBELS Clearinghouse

    In the spirit of grassroots activism and the regeneration of teacher professionalism (and with the generosity of Ken Goodman), The Vermont Society for the Study of Education (VSSE) is selling the book for the price of shipping and handling. Send $5.95 to

    P. O. Box 186
    Brandon, VT 05733

    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Without extra funding, 122 schools may ‘fail’ under No Child Left Behind

    From Fairfax Virginia comes a story that is happening all over the country right now including in my home town...
    GERRY CONNOLLY (D), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, was astonished that despite massive amounts of funding, 61 percent of the county's schools are in danger of "failing."
    "To tell this board that with a $2.1 billion budget, 122 schools are still at risk? At least to this Supervisor, that is a somewhat startling message," Connolly said.
    Connolly pointed out that the federal government has done a poor job of funding its sweeping education requirements, leaving local governments like Fairfax County to pick up the bill.
    "We are in fact spending a lot on No Child Left Behind," he said. "And, if I recall correctly, the federal government has reimbursed us a total of $16 million."
    WITHIN FOUR or five years, the vast majority of schools in Fairfax County and throughout Virginia will begin to "fail" under No Child Left Behind, no matter how much money is spent.
    By 2010-2011, approximately 90 percent of all students will be required to pass the math and English exams. Fairfax County school officials said that simply is not possible.
    "It's realistic that you get to 90 percent," said Patrick Murphy, the school system's assistant superintendent for accountability. "That stretches you, but it can be done. Statistically speaking, you can't go much further beyond that."
    Under No Child Left Behind, 100 percent of all student groups must pass the math and reading exams by the 2013-2014 school year.
    "I don't know anything in our society that can be 100 percent," Murphy said.

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    Leaving too many children behind

    Even the college press folks get it. If only more in the mainstrem media would to the same...

    TOO OFTEN good intentions go awry, leading to detrimental, ineffective action. The No Child Left Behind Act has been in effect for over four years and fits this criteria. No Child Left Behind has created a testing-obsessed atmosphere with a narrow curriculum that produces high school dropouts, not high achievement.


    The plan is filled with more holes than a standardized test scantron sheet. The plan's foundation lies with the accuracy of standardized testing, but studies on standardized testing show bias against minority groups. One such study by Gary Natriello of Columbia University and Aaron Pallas of Michigan State University examined state testing programs in Michigan, New York and Minnesota. They concluded that minority students performed worse than their peers. One such example: between 1996 and 1998, almost twice as many black and Hispanic students had not completed the Texas state test for their high school diploma versus their white peers.

    Standardized testing also does not correlate to future achievement. A study by the College Board showed that SAT scores correlated with freshman year grades by less than 0.50 and that high school GPA showed stronger correlation in general. Standardized tests simply show how well a student can take that particular test, rather than measuring intelligence or achievement.

    The nature of standardized testing creates a narrow curriculum. Schools have focused on reading, math, and science. According to the Year 4 Report of No Child Left Behind, 44 states have aligned "curriculum and instruction with standards of assessment." Some schools have eliminated other subjects entirely. Students do not have the same opportunity to pursue subjects not tested. These subjects often ignite student's passions or open new waves of thought.


    Failing to meet standards causes a backwards punishment for schools: decreased funding. When schools need to improve, more, not less, funding will be required. With less and less funding, schools will continue to fail state-defined proficiency levels. If these schools close, students will be pushed to the state-defined proficient schools. These schools will become overcrowded and quality will suffer.

    No Child Left Behind does not adequately consider special education students. These students are prohibited from receiving help on standardized testing. Poor performance by a small number of special education students can largely distort the rating the entire school is given. Thus, a small number of students can cause an entire school to lose funding and resources.

    The federal budget for 2006-07 seems to contradict the goals of No Child Left Behind. President Bush proposed the largest cuts in education in the 26-year history of the Department of Education. The funding for NCLBA increased slightly, but still remains $15.4 billion below the authorized levels. Overall, 42 Department of Education programs will be eliminated, while four others will experience significant cuts. Instead of putting nearly $4.3 billion into the youth of America, this money will go towards the funding of tanks and howitzers.

    It seems as if the members of our federal government have forgotten the diversity of their schools. No Child Left Behind de-emphasizes everything that makes schools different, such as offerings of unique classes and after-school programs. Instead, a rigid program forces science and math down children's throats, threatening diminished resources if they won't swallow. In the end, the act is more aptly named the Every Child Left Behind Act.

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    Schools a weak link in poll for Gov. Bush

    From the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times. All politicians should take note. I believe this is the way the country feels.

    Gov. Jeb Bush's sweeping overhaul of Florida schools is out of step with the views of most Floridians, according to a new St. Petersburg Times poll.

    Overall, most Floridians give the two-term Republican high marks for job performance. But on education issues, support for his policies wanes.

    A majority of Floridians do not like private school vouchers, continue to support the multibillion-dollar class-size amendment and oppose use of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to reward or penalize schools, the poll shows.

    Meanwhile, parents say they like their public schools. A lot...

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Katrina blows hole in No Child Left Behind

    I'm back and hopefully posting a lot more often. Check out this commentary from the Seattle P.I. by Elaine Garan.

    No Child Left Behind provides for one-year waivers in the event of natural disasters. Section 1111(b)(3)(C)(vii) of the law states:

    "The Secretary may provide the State 1 additional year if the State demonstrates that exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances, such as a natural disaster or a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of the State, prevented full implementation of the academic assessments by that deadline and that the State will complete implementation within the additional 1-year period."

    Despite this statute language, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings initially expressed unwillingness to grant waivers to schools affected by Katrina. For weeks, schools waited in limbo until she reluctantly agreed to allow automatic one-year waivers from accountability standards -- but only for those Gulf Coast schools that were destroyed or severely damaged. In effect, the secretary's compassionate flexibility amounted to this: Schools that no longer exist and have no students to teach, much less test, will not be punished failure to meet their "adequate yearly progress" targets.

    In spite of the exemptions for some Gulf Coast schools, Spellings insists students who are victims of Katrina -- no matter where they are, no matter how disrupted their lives may be, and regardless of how they have suffered -- will still be forced to take standardized tests.

    Moreover, those schools that have taken in student evacuees, thereby straining their fiscal resources and jeopardizing their adequate yearly progress ratings, will not receive automatic exemptions from federal punishment.


    Consider that No Child Left Behind based on three central assumptions: Teachers and schools are responsible for 100 percent of student learning, regardless of individual differences in children's cognitive abilities or their emotional problems; the standardized tests that determine a school's passing or "needs improvement" status are 100 percent valid as indicators of student learning and of school and teacher performance; and punishing schools that underperform will close the achievement gap and improve public education.

    The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina assails each assumption. Before Katrina, the law did not acknowledge, much less forgive, any extenuating, outside factors such as poverty, abuse, motivation, or even the ability to speak and read English -- all factors that could compromise student performance on standardized tests. Consequently, the Bush administration cannot afford to concede that personal trauma can confound the validity of test scores for Katrina's victims, because to do so is to concede that the same factors can affect any student in any school, albeit less visibly and with a less resounding outcry from the public than we've witnessed for the evacuees.

    If the federal government agreed to exempt from testing those children who lost a family member as a result of Katrina, wouldn't it also be pressured to exempt children not affected by Katrina who have suffered a similar life-altering trauma, or others who have suffered from abuse or the challenges of a physical or mental disability?

    And if the administration agreed that being ripped from a familiar setting and put into a strange school is an extenuating factor for the victims of Katrina, wouldn't it also be pressured to apply the same standard to the children of migrant workers, or children who have been moved from one foster home to another, or homeless children? By logical extension, wouldn't the federal government be forced to admit that schools with large numbers of transient and homeless students cannot be held to the same standards that more affluent suburban schools with relatively stable populations are?

    Katrina has put federal policy squarely between a rock and a hard place. The government cannot appear to be compassionate and yet adhere to a rigid policy of standardizing education. Compassion is personal. Standardization is not.


    The No Child Left Behind law was in trouble and facing rebellion from angry states and districts even before Katrina. What that massive natural disaster did was sharpen our focus. It has forced us to look at the inequities schools all over the country must deal with on a daily basis, with or without a hurricane. These are inequities that the law simply ignores. Katrina has reminded us that schools are made up of students who are unique and who have very human problems -- every last one of them.

    The obvious inequities in the system and the unimaginable suffering of so many have converged into the perfect storm and may well deliver the deathblow to the critically wounded policy of No Child Left Behind...

    Let us hope that she is correct.

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB

    From Jim Horn over at Schools Matter:

    20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB

    1. An education policy built on impossible performance demands that assure the failure of the majority of American public schools should be eliminated, not reformed.
    2. An education policy that has the same impossible demands for most English-language learners and special education students should be eliminated, not reformed.
    3. An education policy that traumatizes children, destroys the desire to learn, and corrupts the purposes for learning should be eliminated, not reformed.
    4. An education policy that uses fear, intimidation, and retribution as motivation should be eliminated, not reformed.
    5. An education policy that uses a single assessment once a year to make life-altering decisions should be eliminated, not reformed.
    6. An education policy that ignores poverty as a chief determinant in academic performance should be eliminated, not reformed.
    7. An education policy that creates two different school curriculums, one for the children of the poor and one for well-funded successes, should be eliminated, not reformed.
    8. An education policy that uses skewed and manipulated research from the National Reading Panel to devise a national reading strategy should be eliminated, not reformed.
    9. An education policy that uses the strain of test score competition to undercut public cohesion and civic commitment to democratic goals should be eliminated, not reformed.
    10. An education policy that shrinks the American school curriculum to two or three subjects that are tested should be eliminated, not reformed.
    11. An education policy that discourages diversity and encourages homogeneity in schools should be eliminated, not reformed.
    12. An education policy that supports the use of tax dollars to fund private schools rather than public school improvement should be eliminated, not reformed.
    13. An education policy that advocates the use of public money to pay private contractors to run public schools should be eliminated, not reformed.
    14. An education policy that is built on unfunded and under-funded mandates should be eliminated, not reformed.
    15. An education policy that reduces or eliminates local and state decision making by citizens should be eliminated, not reformed.
    16. An education policy that mandates that military recruiters have access to student information should be eliminated, not reformed.
    17. An education policy that inflames a teacher shortage in order to replace professional teachers with individuals who have passed a teaching test should be eliminated, not reformed.
    18. An education policy that is used to reward tax dollars to insiders and cronies for their political support should be eliminated, not reformed.
    19. An education policy that uses paid propaganda to advance its agenda should be eliminated, not reformed.
    20. An education policy that puts test scores in the place of the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of America’s children should eliminated, not reformed.
    10 Action Strategies for Eliminating NCLB
    1. Hold a public forum in your community to explore and explain these points.
    2. Organize community and neighborhood potluck dinners with teachers and parents to talk together about how NCLB is affecting children and school.
    3. Persuade your organizations to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of NCLB based on these points.
    4. Collect signatures on a Petition to Eliminate NCLB based on these 20 points. Publicize your results in the local media and send copies of resolutions and petitions to your local and federal elected officials.
    5. Write letters-to-the-editor and op-ed pieces for your local and regional newspapers, making these points.
    6. Get your local school board to pass a resolution or hold a community forum about eliminating NCLB.
    7. Contact your U.S. senators and representatives about eliminating NCLB: Call them, write or email them (send these points and other information), and set up meetings with them in your district (bring a group of children).
    8. Contact your state legislators to enlist them in the effort to eliminate NCLB; get state legislatures to pass resolutions.
    9. Parents: Join the NCLB-mandated Parents Advisory Board at your child’s school. Bring the 20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB to begin a dialogue.
    10. Organize a public protest or march on test days or days given over to test preparation.

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    Band-Aids or Bulldozers

    This just out from Rethinking Public Schools. Read the whole thing. It is important. Some excerpts..

    We are now in year five of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Once hailed as a historic new federal commitment to leave no child behind, today NCLB inspires fear and loathing from coast to coast — and beyond. Puerto Rico and Hawaii hate it too.

    Every one of the 50 states has introduced legislation rejecting all or part of NCLB. Several have filed lawsuits against it. More than 10,000 schools have been put on NCLB's infamous list of "schools in need of improvement" and face an escalating series of sanctions that address neither their needs nor their challenges. Thousands more will be added to the list in the next few years as increasing numbers of schools are squeezed in the tightening vise of unreachable "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) test targets and inadequate resources. This year more than a quarter of all public schools (nearly 23,000) failed to reach AYP. Missing AYP two years in a row earns a spot on the list.

    Today, NCLB is almost as unpopular as the administration and Congress that created it. With the law coming up for reauthorization in 2007, debate is heating up about whether we need Band-Aids to "fix" NLCB or a bulldozer to bury it.


    Less well known, but soon to become much more familiar, are the law's more drastic measures for schools that miss AYP for four or five years. After four years, schools are required to choose one of the following:

    • Replace school staff relevant to the failure.
    • Put in place a new curriculum.
    • Decrease management authority at the school.
    • Appoint outside experts to advise the school.
    • Extend the school year or the school day.
    • Restructure the internal organization of the school.

    After five years, the choices are:

    • Reopen as a charter school.
    • Replace all or most of the staff.
    • Contract with an outside entity to operate the school.
    • Institute other significant governance and staffing changes likely to improve the school.
    • Turn over operation of the school to the state.

    Since NCLB sanctions are cumulative, schools also must presumably continue to offer transfer and tutoring while instituting these measures.


    But beneath the rhetoric, NCLB's policy framework is toxic, bad for the health of schools and children and driven by ideological political objectives that are arrogantly indifferent to the realities of school life. It makes no commitment to bridging the deep social inequalities reflected in academic achievement gaps, but demands that schools make them disappear (and it demands more of poorer, diverse schools than richer, homogeneous ones). When schools fall short of the impossible, they face punitive sanctions that weaken their ability to serve all students and ultimately increase educational inequality instead of reduce it.

    Some advocates for children and schools, desperate for signs of hope amidst the wasteland of social and economic policies emanating from Washington, have struggled mightily to find positives in NCLB. They point to the pressure on schools to account for all students, the promise of better choices for parents in the poorest communities, the emphasis on improving teacher qualifications. But five years of inconsistent and underfinanced implementation has made good on none of these promises. Reasonable people may continue to differ on various aspects of NCLB, but the core of the law has been laid inescapably bare: tests, more tests, and punitive sanctions that create a systematic and misleading impression of failure and that hurt public education far more than they help those who have been poorly served by it.


    The debate over reauthorizing NCLB is likely to show how much the bipartisan coalition that originally passed it has fragmented. Hopefully, it will also provide opportunities to limit the damage. But the Congressional debate, unfortunately, is much less likely to define lasting alternatives to the top-down, test-driven, underfunded policies that are crushing the life and the hope out of too many schools.

    For that we'll need the voices of educators, students, and communities. One place those voices could make a difference will be the 2006 elections when the next Congress will be chosen. Many in the antiwar movement, frustrated by the failure of Congress to reflect the broad popular opposition to the war in Iraq, have pledged not to support any candidates who continue to support current U.S. policy. Similarly, opponents of NCLB might insist, at a minimum, on a pledge to end federally mandated testing, eliminate the direct ties between test scores and sanctions, and replace NCLB's privatization agenda with more funding and stronger support for improving the public system.

    Sending people to Congress who are committed to ending both the war in Iraq and the war on our public schools would be a big step toward making good on the promises — empty so far — of No Child Left Behind.

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    U.S. education problems

    This college sophomore has it. If only there was a way to reach Washington...
    A recent survey by the Center for Education Policy - a nonpartisan group - found that 71 percent of the nation's approximately 15,000 school districts had lessened the amount of class time given to subjects like history, music, art and others.
    A decent, well-rounded public education should be a right afforded to those who seek it, not simply a privilege obtained by those with the highest test scores. And school districts should not have to perform well in some dog-and-pony education show in order to avoid penalty.

    The tests should be used to identify strengths and weaknesses so that district knows what it needs to improve upon, not to limit its funding or the types of classes students are allowed to take.

    If we as a country truly value the education of our children, then we better begin rebuilding our public school system into something that doesn't resemble a broken down merry-go-round.