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: