Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

Now that we have endured more than a dozen long years of No Child Left Behind and five fruitless, punitive years of Race to the Top, it is clear that they both failed. They relied on carrots and sticks and ignored intrinsic motivation. They crushed children’s curiosity instead of cultivating it.* They demoralized schools. They disrupted schools and communities without improving children’s education.

We did not leave no child behind. The same children who were left behind in 2001-02 are still left behind. Similarly, Race to the Top is a flop. The Common Core tests are failing most students, and we are nowhere near whatever the “Top” is. If a teacher gave a test, and 70% of the students failed, we would say she was not competent, tested what was not taught, didn’t know her students. The Race turns out to be NCLB with a mask. NCLB on steroids. NCLB 2.0.

Whatever you call it, RTTT has hurt children, demoralized teachers, closed community schools, fragmented communities, increased privatization, and doubled down on testing.

I have an idea for a new accountability system that relies on different metrics. We begin by dropping standardized test scores as measures of quality or effectiveness. We stop labeling, ranking, and rating children, teachers, snd schools. We use tests only when needed for diagnostic purposes, not for comparing children to their peers, not to find winners and losers. We rely on teachers to test their students, not corporations.

The new accountability system would be called No Child Left Out. The measures would be these:

How many children had the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument?

How many children had the chance to play in the school band or orchestra?

How many children participated in singing, either individually or in the chorus or a glee club or other group?

How many public performances did the school offer?

How many children participated in dramatics?

How many children produced documentaries or videos?

How many children engaged in science experiments? How many started a project in science and completed it?

How many children learned robotics?

How many children wrote stories of more than five pages, whether fiction or nonfiction?

How often did children have the chance to draw, paint, make videos, or sculpt?

How many children wrote poetry? Short stories? Novels? History research papers?

How many children performed service in their community to help others?

How many children were encouraged to design an invention or to redesign a common item?

How many students wrote research papers on historical topics?

Can you imagine an accountability system whose purpose is to encourage and recognize creativity, imagination, originality, and innovation? Isn’t this what we need more of?

Well, you can make up your own metrics, but you get the idea. Setting expectations in the arts, in literature, in science, in history, and in civics can change the nature of schooling. It would require far more work and self-discipline than test prep for a test that is soon forgotten.

My paradigm would dramatically change schools from Gradgrind academies to halls of joy and inspiration, where creativity, self-discipline, and inspiration are nurtured, honored, and valued.

This is only a start. Add your own ideas. The sky is the limit. Surely we can do better than this era of soul-crushing standardized testing.

*Kudos to Southold Elementary School in Long Island, where these ideas were hatched as I watched the children’s band playing a piece they had practiced.

Franchesca Warren is outraged by “the deadening silence of teachers.” Teachers are afraid to say what they know and believe for fear of being fired.

She writes:

“As a pretty opinionated teacher, I am always full of ideas and speak out regularly against practices that are unjust or not beneficial to students. However, time and time again I have been “scolded” by more veteran teachers who warn me that being vocal would quickly get me “blackballed” in the district. This fact was even more evident when I was invited to a private screening of a new documentary entitled “Scapegoats.” The film uses teacher interviews to examine how teachers have historically been made to be the scapegoats with anything bad that occurs in education. While I was in total agreement with what was being said in the document, I was dismayed that more than half of the teachers interviewed opted to have their face (and voices) distorted so their administration would not retaliate against them.

“As I listened to teachers recall the atrocities that occur in public education, it was evident that these educational “pundits” and politicians have made it nearly impossible for teachers to exercise their first amendment rights. Teachers are terrified of voicing their opinions because many times it not only makes them a target but could possibly make them not get their contract renewed for the following year!

“Instead of forgetting my feelings and just chalking the film up to that how things are, I got angry.”

She adds:

“The truth is hidden while the public is made to believe that lies are the truth. Truth be told, the majority of teachers loathe the increased standardized testing in schools. Truth be told, the people who make policies about education don’t even have their kids enrolled in public schools. Truth be told, the people who run the school districts are usually not equipped with the pedagogy or experience to actually lead a classroom in 2013. Truth be told, federal programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are just programs to further destroy public education and allow private entities to take our tax dollars.”

And more:

“Despite the deafening silence, there are many educators who are getting angry and speaking up with no regard to the possible consequences. You have district administrators like John Kuhn who say “enough is enough” and write eloquent pieces like “Exhaustion of the American Teacher.”

“You have teachers who decided to make the film “The Inconvenient Truths Behind Waiting for Superman” and expose the policies that hurt our students.

“You have the teachers in Chicago and Oregon that courageously decided to strike to ensure that their voices would be heard.

“Times are changing, and I for one am glad. The truth is no longer being hidden by our deafening silence. There are more teacher in the world than people who might want to silence us. So speak, act, march, discuss and demand to be heard. Apparently, we might have the 14th Amendment on our side.”

Chris in Florida, who teaches young children, writes:

“My district has become program driven. We have a program to teach reading but there are now 3 reading blocks in our day since we are a D school. The state mandates a program for Tier II intervention and another program for extra reading instruction. There is no correlation between the fragmented programs. We have a program for math and another for math intervention. We have a science program but no social studies program and both are given a meager 20 minutes a day. Several programs are online only and kids hate them and say they are boring and too hard.

“We are no longer allowed to teach with good books or to have classrooms humming with excitement over a praying mantis or a bag of apples. That is not in the programs. We are threatened with discipline if we are caught doing things the old way during random walk throughs using the nefarious Danielson rubric.

“I sneak what I can as far as read alouds and living things in when I can but our discipline problems are skyrocketing and the kids are bored and overwhelmed much of the day with recess no longer allowed either.

“This is the result of Jeb Bush, NCLB, RTTT, CCSS, and all the reformist mess.”

Arne Duncan issued waivers to 43 states to allow them to avoid the sanctions of the No Child Left Behind Law, passed in 2001, signed into law in January 2002. NCLB is an utter disaster, recognized as such by everyone except the people who had a direct hand in writing it. It requires that 100% of all children in grades 3-8 must be “proficient” on state tests of reading and mathematics or the school will face dire consequences.

 

In no nation in the world are 100% of all children proficient in reading and math. Congress’s mandate was a cruel joke on the nation’s public schools.

 

In order to get Duncan’s waiver, states had to agree to Duncan’s terms. One of them was that the state had to create a teacher evaluation system based on test scores. Washington State initially agreed, but as the research accumulated showing that this strategy was not working anywhere, the legislature refused to pass such a system.

 

Duncan revoked the waiver he had in his lordly manner extended. Now almost every school in the state is a failing school and must spent at least 20% of their federal funding on private tutoring or allow students to transfer to “non-failing” schools, if they can find one.

 

This article by Motoko Rich in the New York Times shows the ugly consequences of Duncan’s policies have been on the public schools of Washington State. Schools that have shown dramatic improvement in recent years are now declared failures. Duncan says the state must suffer the consequences of its failure to follow his orders.

 

This man is not fit to be Secretary of Education. He is a promoter of privatization and high-stakes testing. His period in office has been marked by massive demoralization of teachers and educational stagnation (his own term). From his actions, it appears that he doesn’t care for public education and hopes it will be replaced by privately managed charters and vouchers. His action in this case has caused harm to the students and teachers of Washington State. The headline of the article says he put schools “in a bind.” It would be more accurate to say that Duncan has rained chaos on the schools and children of Washington State. The sooner he is out of office, the sooner we can turn to realistic ways of helping children and schools.

Here is a terrific article about a new video game: “No Pineapple Left Behind.”

Friends, our federal education policy has reached some absurdity and stupidity and child abuse that the best way to explain it is through satire.

Soon, as we continue on the path charted by George W. Bush, Margaret Spellings, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, and their devotees, we will be an international laughing stock. No other nation tests every child every year. No other nation subjects little children to 8-hour tests, no other nation rates teachers by the test scores of their students. We are breaking new ground. But it is not innovation. It is a misplacing of bad business techniques into education.

This house of cards will not stand.

Laura H. Chapman provides here the relevant federal statutes that restrict the role of federal officials to prevent federal intrusion and control of public education. The prohibition of federal employees exercising any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, instruction or personnel of public schools was enacted when the U.S. Department of Education was created in 1979. Secretary Duncan insists that the Department of Education is not directing or influencing curriculum or instruction by its ardent support for the Common Core standards or its $360 million funding of CCSS tests. We all know that standards and tests don’t influence curriculum and instruction, right?

Legal Restriction: “U. S. Congress. General Provisions Concerning Education. (2010, February). Section 438 (20 U.S.C. § 1232a). US Code TITLE 20 EDUCATION CHAPTER 31, SUBCHAPTER III, Part 2, §§ 1232a. Prohibition against Federal control of education. No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, or to require the assignment or transportation of students or teachers in order to overcome racial imbalance.” Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/20/usc_sup_01_20.html

Legal Restriction: “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2002). Section 9527 ESEA amended by NCLB (20 U.S.C. § 7907(a).1) This provision is based on 20 U.S.C. 7907(a) (Section 9527(a) of NCLB). Section 7907(a) is one of the ESEA’s general provisions contained in Title IX of the Act. It states: Nothing in this [Act] shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this [Act]. 20 U.S.C. 7907(a).”

Since 2002 federal officials have been threading legal needles with the carefully contrived language of “deniability” if they are accused of violating federal law.

No one in Congress has the interest or courage to call for the hearings needed to expose the damage, incompetence, and under the table deals with lobbyists–all enabling the destruction of public education except for the funding that will subsidize for-profit schemes conjured by billionaires who see education the nation’s young people as a source of profit and, in some cases,opportunity for indoctrination.

In 2001, Congress passed a law called No Child Left Behind. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002. It is the worst federal education legislation ever passed. It required that 100% of children in grades 3-8 must be proficient by 2014 or their schools are failing and subject to harsh sanctions. In no nation in the world are 100% of children proficient. This is an impossible goal. Yet many schools have been closed, many educators fired, because they could not do the impossible.

Although NCLB should have been re authorized in 2007, Congress has been unable to agree on how to change it. It should have been scrapped. Accountability should be the job of the states, not the federal government.

Into the stalemate over NCLB stepped our present Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who offered waivers from the 2014 deadline to states that agreed to evaluate their teachers based on their students’ test scores. States lined up to seek waivers. Washington State, however, asked for a waiver but the Legislature refused to evaluate teachers by test scores. Many studies have shown that this a fundamentally flawed way of evaluating teachers. But Duncan stuck to his guns, oblivious to the research. He decreed that Washington State would lose its waiver. That men’s that every school in the state is a failing school and must inform parents that their child attends a failing school.

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Educators in Washington State have written a plea to Arne Duncan not to rescind the state’s waiver from what is, in fact, a ridiculous law. They have a petition and invite you to support them by signing it.

Here is their press release:

This year, most school districts across Washington state were forced by Secretary Arne Duncan’s selective enforcement of the No Child Left Behind Act to send letters to all parents that labeled our schools as failures. We are parents, teachers, students and community members who reject this label that has been placed on our schools.

We know that our schools are not failures. In fact, their accomplishments have been remarkable, especially given the deeply flawed policy imposed on them by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). While there are certainly changes needed for our schools – many due to the legacy of racism, class inequality, and lack of equitable funding for our schools – we believe that those changes should be directed by communities that make up local school districts, not by top-down mandates. This website will share stories and testimonials about the great things that are happening in our schools that should be supported and connect our communities so that we can organize opposition to Arne Duncan’s policies and No Child Left Behind.

According to NCLB, our schools should have had 100% of students test at proficient levels in reading and math by 2014. No county, no state, and no school district has ever achieved 100% proficiency on standardized tests and, in fact, the way the tests are designed make it statistically impossible to achieve that goal. Washington, like many other states, originally had a waiver in place that would have exempted it from this absurd NCLB mandate. However, when the state legislature refused to pass bills tying teacher evaluations to test scores (following overwhelming evidence that this would not improve teaching or learning), Arne Duncan chose to punish Washington state by revoking the waiver. With the waiver gone, nearly all of Washington’s schools have been labeled failures, we may lose control of millions of dollars in federal money, and some schools will be at risk of state takeovers and mass layoffs of teachers.

This kind of political game-playing has no place in our schools. Our schools and teachers should not be labeled as failures simply because we have rejected extremely flawed education policies. In August 2014, 28 school superintendents from around the state authored a letter, where they declared that their schools’ successes are not reflected in these ratings and criticized No Child Left Behind. We agree. It’s time for the voices of parents, teachers and students to be heard and respected.

If you have a story to share about why your school is not a failure, tell us here.

Also, sign our petition to reinstate the NCLB waiver for Washington state.

Endorsed by:

Parents Across America (PAA)
Seattle Education Website
Social Equality Educators (SEE)
Wayne Au, PhD, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington Bothell*
Jesse Hagopian, Teacher, Garfield High School*
Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member*
Sue Peters, Seattle School Board Director*
Melissa Westbrook, Seattle Schools Community Forum

*For identification purposes only

Peter Greene has been following the conversation at EducationPost, the blog funded by Broad, Walton, Bloomberg et al for $12 million, he says that the new spin from reformsters is that education is too politicized. He agrees but asks how it got that way. Who took the decision making power away from educators and gave it to legislatures, governors, the President, and Comgress? Not educators.

Peter Greene knows who did it:

“As it turns out, I think I have an answer for this one. Asking why the Common Core are wrapped up in politics is like asking why human beings are so involved with blood.

“The Common Core were birthed in politics. They were weaned on politics. And every time they have looked tired and in trouble, they have been revived with a fresh transfusion of politics.

“When David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit decided they wanted to standardize American education, they did not come up with a plan to sell such a program on its education merits. They called on Bill Gates to use his money and power to convince state governments to legislate systemic changes to education.

“The states signed on to a Memo of Understanding (a political tool for out-politicking politics) and many of them did it before there were even any standards to look at. This was a political move, using the political power of legislatures and governors’ offices to impose rules on educational systems– in many cases, before educators in particular states even knew that such a systemic overhaul was being considered.

“Common Core’s Pappy, No Child Left Behind, was a creature of politics, right down to its spin-ready title. It was created to put a glossy shine on bipartisan action for the kids. Educators (and other people with rudimentary math skills) pointed out early on that the NCLB end game of 100% above average was ridiculously improbable, but the political shininess plus the political notion that future politicians would find a political solution drowned out good sense. Because, politics.”

He concludes:

“At no point in all this reformy baloney have we seen the spectacle of bottom-up reform, a reform movement driven by teachers and other educators saying, “Hey, we have some ideas that are so revolutionary and so great that they are spreading like wildfire strictly on their educational merits!”

“No– Common Core and its attendant test-driven high stakes data-glomming VAMboozling baloney have come from the top down, by politicians using political power to impose educational solutions through the political tools applied to the political structure of government. Why do people get the idea that all these reformy ideas are linked? Because they all come from the same place– the linkage is the political power that imposed them all on the American public education system.

“Look. We live in the real world and politics play a part in many things. But for some reformsters to offer wide eyes and shocked dismay and clutched pearls as they cry, “Oh, but why does it have to be so political!” is the height of hypocrisy. It’s political because you folks made it political, every step of the way, and it’s not humanly possible for you to be too dumb to know that (particularly at a site like Education Post that is larded with career political operatives). So if you want to have a serious conversation about any of this, Step One is top stop lying, badly, directly to our faces. I can’t hear you when my bullshit detector alarm is screaming in my ear.”

Paul Karrer, who teaches in Castroville, California, writes a scorching review of what is laughingly called “reform.”

He begins:

“Arne Duncan and his patron President Barack Obama have gotten themselves in a bit of an educational bind. Big news came out of the White House on Aug. 21 but a lot of America missed it. It seems a collision course of: 1. sunsetting of the year 2014 and the imbecilic impossible fatwa of No Child Left Behind (the obscenity of schools held accountable for testing without a morsel of input for poverty); and 2. a large push by teacher unions to dethrone he of the basketball — Sir Arne Duncan.”

So Duncan made his statement about testing “sucking the oxygen” out of teaching, a typical Duncanism in which he denounces the policies he promote and still enforces.

Says Karrer of Duncan’s fancy step:

“Is it a complete flip flop? No, it is a little greasy middle-of-the-road weaseling meant to gain favor from Obama’s once-upon-a-time education supporters and to patch the rebellious hemorrhaging of his pet bamboozle Race To The Top and its ugly stepsister Common Core. Ever since Obama initiated his slash and burn policy regarding public education with pro-privatization, the green light to pro-charter corporations, his relationship with publishing-testing companies, and his knee in the groin and knife in the backs of teachers with rigorous evaluations based on kids’ test scores, he’s been trusted about as much as a pedophile at a playground by those who once-upon-a-halo included him in their sacred prayers.”

Karrer says time is running out for the Age of Test and Punish. More and more people are speaking up and the public is catching on to the failure of test, test, test. The momentum is growing. Time is running out.

Superintendent Mark Cross joins the honor roll for his willingness to stand up and be counted on the side of students.

Cross sent a letter home to parents in which he criticized high-stakes testing and Common Core. He spoke critically of federal and state initiatives whose purpose is to rank students rather than educate them. Many educators are fearful of saying what Mark Cross said because they are supposed to be docile and keep their professional ethics to themselves. A test score is like stepping on a bathroom scale, he said. It tells you something but not everything you need to know about your wellness. So, he told parents, we won’t be talking much about PARCC or Common Core. We will continue to focus on helping them become well-rounded people, with time to develop their creativity.

Read his letter. He makes clear that he and his staff take their responsibility to the children and the local community very seriously, and they will continue to do so.

If every school board, principal, and superintendent were equally willing to speak their convictions, there would be a genuine conversation about education, rather than the current top-down authoritarianism that typifies relationships between the federal government and everyone else.

The original letter can be seen here.

August 20th 2014

Dear Parents,

Today is the first day of the 2014-15 school year and I wanted to take the opportunity to share some personal thoughts regarding the current state of education at the national, state and, most importantly, local levels. I am very fortunate to serve as the superintendent of this great district and we are all very proud of the incredible progress we have made in recent years, building on previous years of excellence. At the end of the day, our kids and their safety and educational growth are all that matters to us. We work hard to keep anything from distracting us from these priorities.

Unfortunately, there are many federal and state education initiatives that can very much be a distraction from what matters most These initiatives are based on good intentions and are cloaked in the concept of accountability, but unfortunately most do little to actually improve teaching and teaming. Most are designed to assess, measure, rank and otherwise place some largely meaningless number on a child or a school or a teacher or a district. That is not to say that student growth data is not important, It is very critical, and it is exactly why we have our own local assessment system in place. It is what our principals and teachers use to help guide instruction and meet the needs of your kids on a daily basis. In other words, it is meaningful data to help us teach your child.

But no more than a number from a bathroom scale can give you a full assessment of your personal wetness, a test score cannot fully assess a student’s academic growth. Does stepping on the scale tell you something? Of course. But does it tell you everything? Absolutely not.

As one specific example, Peru Elementary District 124 puts great value on the fine arts. We believe that music and art enhances cognitive growth, creativity and problem solving. In fact we know this, and this is exactly why your children have access to an outstanding fine arts program with five music and art teachers from PreK through 8th grade. The state does not assess music or art or science or social studies for that matter. Only language arts and mathematics are assessed with the state’s new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.

This is why I wanted to let you know that we will not be talking to you that much about the PARCC assessment or Common Core or other initiatives that have some importance, but they are not what matters most to us. YOUR CHILDREN are what matter most and we believe that kids should be well-rounded, with an emphasis on a solid foundation for learning across all subjects by the time they get to high school and later college. We believe that kids need to be creative and learn to solve problems. We believe that exposure to music and art science and social studies, physical education and technology and a wide variety of curricular and extracurricular activities will serve them very well as they grow into young adults.

We further believe that there is no replacement for high expectations, and we must expect our students to achieve to the best of their individual ability. We believe that all children can learn, but not all at the same pace or in the same way. We believe that reading and literacy are the foundations of learning. We believe that children are each unique and have a wide variety of talents and skills, very few of which can be measured on a state assessment

The state and federal government have failed epically in their misguided attempts at ‘reforming’ public education. Public education does not need reformed. It may need intervention in school districts that are not meeting the needs of students on a grand scale, but it needs to be accountable to and controlled by our citizens at the local level. And in Peru Schools, this will continue to be very much the case.

So, I wanted to let you know that we will not let these other things serve as a distraction from educating your children in Peru Schools. When appropriate, we will use these opportunities as a chance to improve but we will not let political nonsense distract us from our true mission, which is to keep your kids safe and to provide them with a world class education. One of my favorite quotes is,

*Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least’

And the ‘things- which matter most here are your kids and their education. Nothing you read or hear about will distract us from that effort.

Thank you for your support of our children and our schools and as always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns at all as we start the new school year!

Sincerely,

Mark R. Cross Superintendent

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