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.