Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

Arne Duncan may withdraw the waiver he extended to Washington State because it failed to adopt a test-based teacher evaluation system, as he demanded.

The first question is, what this will mean for Washington State, should Duncan withdraw the waiver? If the state reverts to the requirements of NCLB, then very likely every school and every district will be a “failing” school or district and therefore subject to draconian punishments, such as state takeover, takeover by a private management company, takeover by charter operators, or closure. In short, the entire state public school system would be privatized, subject to state control, or closed. The utter absurdity of NCLB would be on public display for all to see. That might be a valuable lesson for the nation, helping to hasten an end to a failed law.

Another interesting question that the Washington State issue raises is where Arne Duncan got the authority to set the terms of waivers from the law. Did Congress say he could do it? I don’t think so. Is it legal for him to create conditions that mirror Race to the Top requirements but without RTTT funding? Congress might want to know the answer to that question, especially Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who will not be happy to see her entire state branded a failure. Senator Murray is chair of the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee.

Third, why should he revoke his legally dubious waiver because a state fails to enact a program that has consistently failed wherever it was tried? Evaluating teachers by test scores has not worked anywhere, has received negative reviews from most education researchers, yet Duncan clings to it with religious faith.

Why should Washington State be punished for demonstrating good judgment, wisdom, and critical thinking?

Jeffrey Weiss, a reporter at the Dallas Morning News, asked me why the Network for Public Education decided to hold its first national meeting in Austin, Texas.

I remembered something that Robert Scott, a recent state commissioner of education in Texas, said about high-stakes testing. He said it was “the heart of the vampire,” the heart of a new military-industrial complex.

He put it this way:

“The assessment and accountability regime has become not only a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex. And the reason that you’re seeing this move toward the “common core” is there’s a big business sentiment out there that if you’re going to spend $600-$700 billion a year in public education, why shouldn’t be one big Boeing, or Lockheed-Grumman contract where one company can get it all and provide all these services to schools across the country.”

So I told Jeff that NPE was meeting in Austin to drive a stake through the heart of the vampire in the place it was created. That gives a new meaning to the term “high-stakes testing.”

As the Opt Out movement spreads across the nation, as parents realize that testing has become more important than instruction, as awareness grows that the testing industry has taken control of education, as parents understand that the online Comon Core tests are being used for data mining, the vampire will die.

Join the Network for Public Education and help us spread the word and take action to restore real education to our schools.

Marc Tucker has written an excellent post on the failure of punitive accountability.

The working theory behind the Bush-Obama “reforms” is that teachers are lazy and need to be motivated by rewards and punishments and the threat of public shaming.

This is in fact a theory drawn from the early twentieth century writings of Frederick Winslow Taylor, who studied the efficiency of factory workers.

Tucker writes:

Let’s start by examining the premises behind the prevailing system.  The push for test-based accountability systems to evaluate teachers have their origin in the work of a professor of agricultural statistics in Tennessee who discovered that differences in teacher quality as measured by analyses of student test scores over time accounted for very large differences in student performance.  Many observers concluded from this that policy should concentrate on using these statistical techniques to identify poor teachers and remove them from the teaching force.  At the same time, other observers, believing that the parents would choose effective schools for their children over ineffective schools if only they had information as to which schools are effective, pushed to use student test data to identify and publicly label schools based on the available test score data.  And, finally, policymakers passed the NCLB legislation, requiring the identification of schools as chronically underperforming and remedies involving the replacement of school leaders and staff, and, in extreme cases, closing schools down.

All of these accountability systems are essentially punitive in design and intent.  They threaten poor performing schools with public shaming, takeover and closure and poor performing individuals with public shaming and the loss of their jobs and livelihood.  The introduction of these policies was not accompanied by policies designed to improve the supply of highly qualified new teachers by making teaching a more attractive option for our most successful high school students—a key component of policy in the top-performing countries.  There is a lot of federal money available for training and professional development for teachers but no systematic federal strategy that I can discern for turning that money into systems of the kind top-performing countries use to support long-term, steady improvements in teachers’ professional practice.  I conclude that policymakers have placed their bet on teacher evaluation, not to identify the needs of teachers for development, but to identify teachers who need to be dismissed from the service.  And, further, that the way to motivate school staff to work harder and more efficiently is to threaten them with public shame and the loss of their job.

Race to the Top incorporates the ideas of economist Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, who has argued in various writings that the way to improve results (test scores) is to “deselect” the bottom 5-10% of teachers based on the test scores of their students.

As Tucker shows, modern cognitive psychology recognizes that people are motivated to do their best not by humiliation and punishment, but by a sense of purpose, professionalism, and autonomy.  Unfortunately, neither our Congress nor the policymakers in the Obama administration are familiar with modern cognitive psychology, with the work of scholars and writers like Edward Deci, Dan Ariely, or Daniel Pink, nor with the organizational theory of Edwards Deming, who acknowledged that people want to do their best and must be allowed and encouraged to do it, not threatened with dire punishments.

Washington State legislators refused to accept Arne Duncan’s demand that teachers be evaluated by a flawed and erroneous method, and the state seems certain to lose its NCLB waiver.

“That would mean that, starting in 2014-2015, school districts throughout the state would lose control over roughly $38 million in Title I funds designed to help low-income students.

“Loss of the waiver would also mean districts throughout the state would have to redirect an additional $19 million in Title I money toward professional development and teacher training, according to OSPI.

“It’s going to result in the loss of programs for our students who are the most in need,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, a Puyallup Republican who supported changing the teacher-evaluation system to keep the state’s waiver.

“The U.S. Department of Education told Washington leaders in August that the state’s waiver would be at risk unless lawmakers moved to mandate the use of statewide tests in teacher evaluations.

“Schools today may use solely local tests to measure student growth when evaluating teachers and principals – a standard the federal government has deemed unacceptable.

“But several lawmakers said they didn’t want to interfere with the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation system — which is being used for the first time this year — just to meet federal demands.

“Of course I am concerned from the perspective of a local district,” said state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, a Seattle Democrat who chairs the House Education Committee.

“Yet I am concerned on the other hand that we (would) establish bad policy for the entire state of Washington.”

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/03/13/3032949/teacher-evaluation-change-to-keep.html#storylink=cpy

A reader comments:

“It’s rather ironic and infuriating that our schools have been robbed of necessities under the catchy phrase “No Child Left Behind” and the more straight foward one, “Race to the Top” ( or push to the bottom) I have been teaching for over 30 years and have watched as the robbing and eventual exploitation of our children has become the norm. The bad old days before any of this began were so much better. In my opinion, they have segregated education once again. Now it’s the haves and have nots. I read a phrase that describes it well, “Cookies for Corporations, Crumbs for Children” That’s how it is and now they are trying to take away the crumbs!”

Remember back in 2001 when Congress passed No Child Left Behind and mandated that all children in grades 3-8 would be proficient in reading and math? Remember when President George W. Bush signed it into lain January 2002, surrounded by Senator Ted Kennedy, Congressman George Miller, Congressman John Boehner, and others who hailed a historic moment in Anerican history?

We now know that NCLB was a monumental failure. Testing doesn’t make kids smarter, doesn’t make education better.

Here is a great article by Lisa Guisbond of Fairtest, who explains why NCLB failed and how Race to the Top has preserved its failed ideas and made them even worse.

She writes:

“Unfortunately, those driving the federal school policy bus clearly haven’t learned any real lessons from NCLB’s failures. To the contrary, they’re staying the course of test-driven education reform. And they’re still trying to sell Miller’s false suggestion that the problem isn’t too much testing, it’s simply that communities can’t handle the truth being delivered by the test scores.”

But parents, educators, and students have learned the lessons of NCLB, and they are fighting back.

The question now is whether and how long big money and political power can keep their failed ideas afloat, imposed on other people’s children.

Grover (Russ) Whitehurst is worried that the public is turning against standardized testing. As George W. Bush’s director of education research, he was and is a true believer in testing. As head of the Brown Center at Brookings, once known as a bastion of liberal thought, Whitehurst wants to see the programs he tended under Bush’s NCLB survive.

Yet they are, as he puts it, “in a bit of trouble.”

He is upset to see that Néw York City elected a new mayor who does not share his love of testing, accountability, and choice. Bill de Blasio is a progressive Democrat.

He is not happy that the Texas legislature rolled back some of its testing requirements, responding to public protest.

But most of all, he is upset that Linda Darling-Hammond, who is senior advisor to one of the federally funded testing consortia, recommends testing in only a single grade in each of the three levels of schooling: elementary school, middle school, and high school.

He frets: What would that do to teacher assessment? How could growth scores be calculated?

Whitehurst’s recommendation: we should test more, not less!

I am not sure I follow the logic here.

How will more testing quell the growing rebellion against testing? There will be more angry moms and dads, more Bill de Blasio’s elected. Maybe he is on to something.

John Savage, a freelance journalist and former teacher, reviewed “Reign of Error” in the “Texas Observer.”

I liked the review for many reasons.

First, because Savage liked the book. That pleases every author.

Second, because the first article I ever published appeared in the “Texas Observer,” a gritty liberal journal that covers Texas politics. The article was called “My Ghetto and Yours,” and it was about growing up Jewish in Houston. It appeared, I think, in 1961. I think I was lamenting how little I knew of the big world outside Houston. I haven’t read it since 1961, so I can’t be certain what I wrote but I feel pretty sure I launched my writing career by stepping on toes. I think that it would be called “juvenalia” if it ever appeared in a collection.

Hat tip to KrazyTA for sharing this great cartoon.

Jack Schneider here describes the frustrating and ultimate fruitless pursuit to create the perfect data system to measure the quality of schools and teachers.

The waivers from NCLB were supposed to provide greater flexibility but they provided no relief from the standardized testing mania.

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