Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

Want to know why spending on public education has mushroomed?

Look no farther than the booming education industry that federal dollars have created through No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, are siphoned away from schools to pay for consultants and services that have no track record but promise the moon. Private contractors will train your teachers, train your leaders, create teacher evaluation systems, sell you new technology, turn your school around with minimal or maximal pain, your choice.

As soon as Congress opens the door to the education industry, the industry returns the favor with lobbyists and campaign contributions.

Our tax dollars at work!!! Al the while, class sizes grow larger, the arts are eliminated, and basic needs go unmet because “we can’t afford it.”

Consider NCLB’s requirement that low-scoring students must receive tutoring. A sound idea, no? Unfortunately, it encouraged the creation of thousands of inexperienced, incompetent tutoring companies that recruited students by promising rewards to students or principals. The results: Nil.

Consider this story from the Texas Tribune, republished in the New York Times:

“Under the No Child Left Behind tutoring program, underperforming schools had to set aside a portion of the federal financing they received for economically disadvantaged students to get outside tutoring. In Texas, with minimal quality control at the state level, it resulted in millions of dollars in public money going to companies that at best showed little evidence of their services’ academic benefit, and at worst committed outright fraud.

“The program has been suspended in Texas, as the state secured a waiver from the federal law’s requirements last month. Education officials have said that, for now, there are no plans to continue the program at the state level.

“But as No Child Left Behind awaits Congressional reauthorization, the tutoring industry is energetically pushing federal policy makers to preserve public financing for tutoring, either in the updated law or other legislation — lobbying efforts expected to be duplicated at the state level in Texas, where over the years tutoring companies have cultivated powerful political ties.

“I have no doubt that the next legislative session, they will lobby for this way of spending dollars to be decided in Austin instead of the neighborhood school level, and I think that would be a real disservice,” said State Representative Mike Villarreal, a San Antonio Democrat who passed legislation during the 2013 session tightening regulations on the federal tutoring program.

“The law resulted in a booming industry that created an unprecedented role for commercial tutoring companies in public education. At the time, the program’s proponents said such private-sector involvement would fuel innovation in public schools while offering top-notch instruction to students who needed it.

“Instead, it flopped, bringing years of complaints from school districts, which detailed practices like the use of incentives like iPads to recruit students into programs as well as significant concerns about instructional methods and falsified invoices.”

But the lucrative tutoring industry will not let failure for kids get in the way of profit, no-sir-see!

Here is more:

“Texas has taken a “shortsighted, irresponsible approach,” Stephanie Monroe, a former assistant secretary for education in the United States Office for Civil Rights, wrote in a letter to the editor published in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in response to The Texas Tribune’s series on the program.

“Without the tutoring program, Ms. Monroe said, the state’s poorest students will “no longer have access to the services they need to succeed and otherwise are unable to afford.”

“She said her organization acknowledges that stronger oversight of tutoring services is needed. But Ms. Monroe, who left her government post in 2009 to found a lobbying firm, added that “allowing states like Texas to arbitrarily eliminate them altogether due to a few bad actors is just reckless public policy.”

“Tutor Our Children, which describes itself as a group dedicated to preserving free tutoring for economically disadvantaged students, has spent almost $900,000 in federal lobbying expenses, including on contracts with Ms. Monroe, since it began in 2010. An additional $500,000 has gone to marketing, public relations and fund-raising costs, according to the organization’s tax filings.”

The lobbying was intense in the governor’s office and the legislature:

“In the last two years, the company has spent an estimated minimum of $240,000 on lobbying teams in Austin and Washington. The company’s founder, Charles Young, has given more than $140,000 in political contributions to state Republican lawmakers, including $20,000 to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and $26,000 to Mr. Perry.

“Mr. Young served on a 2013 Texas Education Agency committee that developed recommendations for the state’s school accountability system — a panel that also included Sandy Kress, a former Bush education adviser who has lobbied for Tutors With Computers. The company’s own advisory board has included Rod Paige, the former United States secretary of education and Houston Independent School District superintendent, who helped put No Child Left Behind into place.”

This is called “leaving no child behind,” or “students first,” that is, as long as there are federal dollars attached.

Paul Karrer teaches fifth-grade students in an impoverished community in California. Here, he apologizes to Hillary because he voted for Obama in 2008. He realizes now that he made a terrible mistake. His students gained nothing from NCLB or Race to the Top.

He wishes the president would understand the stress in his students’ lives. Testing is not helping them. It diminishes their lives.

He writes:

“I have four special education kids in my class. The pull of gangs is all-powerful here. A few years ago, a former student’s mother was gunned down in a gangland slaying in nearby Salinas. The same child’s grandmother was shot in the face in another gang incident.

“I boil over and fester when I hear any mention of “failing schools.” I teach in a desperate community of abject poverty. Poverty is the failure, not the bricks of my building nor the many noble and heroic teachers who have chosen to work in my school. Making teachers accountable for testing results with the abominable life conditions here is a disconnect so large the country is lucky teachers are not engaged in open rebellion. And the money lost to testing, test preparation, test result trainings, test motivation and test-improvement- consultant-magic-dances is repugnant.

“All is focused on language arts and math. Nothing else matters, as it is not tested. Result — a diminished curriculum, no music, art, band, restricted field trips, if any. But unctuous consultants show up with paycheck regularity, drive-by checklists in hand.”

Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity Network surveys the wreckage of “test-and-punish” methods of reform. Such methods lead not to “reform,” but to bullied teachers, who are demoralized by their situation. Some leave, some hang on, but the results have been unimpressive.

Bryant sees a slow-motion collapse of the coercive “reform” movement, as its bold promises turn out to be empty. The reformers’ day on the hill is coming to an end.

As Bryant writes:

With the advent of No Child Left Behind, the accountability had its mechanism for targeting individual schools, but with the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, the accountability arsenal aimed at individual classroom teachers too.

With Michelle Rhee as its celebrity cheerleader, the school accountability movement became the perfect PR campaign promising a way forward to ever increasing education “effectiveness.”

But all those years of promises for this: Studies can prove that teachers are capable of being manipulated by coercive management systems, but the wealth of improvement stemming from expensive new assessment systems has yet to fill the account left barren by the nation’s reluctance to invest in our children’s education.

Michelle Rhee-like accountability systems that have been in place a substantial amount of time have done no better than the one in D.C. A long-standing system in Tennessee, for instance, has done nothing to improve academic achievement and has revealed “almost nothing about teacher effectiveness.”

The most ardent reform enthusiasts now admit to “overselling, and underthinking [sic]” their cause, even as they try to dispel whatever is being proposed as a positive alternative.

Parents and public officials in places as diverse as rural Virginia and uptown New York Cityare more boisterously questioning the whole premise of ramping up more tests on students to determine the value of their teachers.

As the education reform movement’s empty harvest leads us into a winter of discontent, what’s needed are more proposals from multiple sources for a more positive way forward.

Far beyond the media spotlights focused on reform celebrities like Rhee, other credible voices are calling for a different course for accountability and an agenda based on opportunity and support for learning. No wonder more people are listening.

Brock Cohen taught for a dozen years in the public
schools and is now pursuing a graduate degree. Here
he tries to explain
the madness of local, state, and
federal mandates that crush teachers, principals and schools as
they labor under the burden of being labeled a “failing school.”
Here is a sample of how these mandates destroy schools instead of
helping them: “Most of my 12-plus years as a high school teacher
have been spent in a Title I Los Angeles-area public high school
that is perennially labeled with Program Improvement (P.I.)
probationary status. Being branded as such means continually having
to grapple with a host of federal, state, and local sanctions that,
at best, cast pall of shame over the entire school and at worst
cause direct harm to student learning outcomes. “Program
Improvement,” incidentally, is bureaucratic vernacular for
“failing,” which is ironic, since many of the California schools
designated with this term have actually been meeting or exceeding
their school-wide Academic Performance Index (API) goals for years.
I know: I don’t get it either. So what gives? “Here’s a hint: the
fundamental problem of “failing” schools isn’t lurking within the
decaying brick and mortar of dilapidated school walls. It does,
however, lurk within a dilapidated system that stubbornly refuses
to transform itself into what it should – or could – be. This
autocratic paradigm tries to paper over outdated or incoherent
curricula, abysmally low organizational capacity and scripted
“test-best” instructional mandates with a new generation of
high-stakes tests and massive rollouts of iPads. It also includes
the cynical but rosy rhetoric of school leaders and media pundits
who call for teachers and principals to work their way through this
manufactured crisis – to Teach Like a Champion! – as if balling
one’s fists and punching a concrete wall harder, harder, HARDER!
could ever serve as a template for reconstituting a building’s
framework. “The problem also lurks within an ethos that continually
fails to realize that our hallowed learning and achievement targets
actually descend into an abysmal rabbit hole. Without delving too
deeply into this abyss, let’s just say that data collection isn’t
inherently a bad thing. But the performance indicators on which
we’ve chosen to fixate have rendered the whole process pointless
and fantastically detrimental to the cognitive growth of a
generation of students. That leaders and practitioners have been
somehow coerced into believing that learning indicators are
something that can be reflected in the crudeness of high-stakes
standardized test scores reveals the extent to which intellectual
atrophy has devolved into an institutionalized norm.” Read it all
and weep for the children and those who are trying their best to
educate them.

I confess I have not followed all the twists and turns of the proposals to reauthorize the failed No Child Left Behind law. Almost everyone except its original sponsors agrees that it failed, yet Congress is locked into the same stale assumption that the federal government is supposed to find a magical formula to measure test scores and punish teachers, principals, and schools. Congress, in its wisdom, has forgotten that this school-level “accountability” didn’t exist until January 2002, when NCLB was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Having learned nothing from the failure of NCLB, they can’t now agree on what comes next.

In this story on Huffington Post, Joy Resmovits notes the irony that even Texas–yes, Texas–has asked for a waiver from the disastrous law that was foisted on the nation’s school by not only George W. Bush, and not only his advisers Margaret Spellings and Dandy Kress, but also Democrats George Miller of California and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Now, everyone laughs at the idea that 100% of students were going to be proficient by 2014. What a dumb idea to set an impossible goal. And how cruel to fire teachers and close schools that could not reach an impossible goal.

But look at this:

“Under the waiver, Texas will no longer subscribe to the much-derided “Adequate Yearly Progress” system that measures school performance and requires all students to demonstrate proficiency in reading and math by the 2013-2014 school year. Instead, it will use a new accountability system that expects 100 percent of students to be proficient in reading and math by the 2019-2020 school year.”

What’s this? The Obama administration expects “100 percent of students to be proficient in reading and math by the 2019-2020 year”?

Here we go again.

No nation in the world has 100% proficiency. Doesn’t anyone in DC have a fresh idea? Like one that has some connection to common sense.

This is a stirring, eloquent poem at a
slam in Boston, by a young man whose sister teaches new immigrant
children. After one year in a new country, they must take
standardized tests in English. If they fail, their teachers fail.
This is madness. Listen for three minutes and hear his vivid
imagery of cruel Federsl policy

Julian Vasquez Heilig is the most creative blogger I know in terms of his brilliant combination of flashy graphics, research, and informed commentary.

Here he describes the century-long battle between the managerial elites—who believe that schools can be improved by data, management, mandates and standardization, always controlled by them–and the pedagogical crowd–who have fought the managers that the starting point in education is the students, how they learn, what they need, not the management.

It is Taylor vs. Dewey.

The Taylorites run the show for now. They ARE the status quo.

The day of reckoning is coming.

They are losing because everything they have done has failed.

This was written by Raniel Guzman, who is a teacher in the School District of Philadelphia and an adjunct professor at Esperanza College of Eastern University:

May 100 % of your students score proficient or above on standardized tests by 2014.            

An attributed Chinese proverb is often wished upon one’s enemies by asserting, may you live in interesting times… This understated “curse” levied upon one’s enemies has a restrained Buddhist sensibility even as one wishes ill toward others. Educators today are indeed living in interesting times. Students and parents are certainly living in interesting times as well. However, the curse placed upon us all is not restrained but rather overt.

The curse is well known to educators and asserts the following, may 100 % of your students score proficient or above on standardized tests by 2014. So then, who has placed this “curse” upon us all? I am certain we can think of obvious enemies. Nonetheless, I am not certain many of us are thinking about the less obvious and thus more lethal enemies. They give politically correct speeches, and radiate a fatherly presence. Their threat resides precisely in the proximity to their victims, namely us. We often develop a blind spot for such figures and hope that they will protect us from sorcerers and things that go bump in the night. Unfortunately, simple examination of deeds, rather than speech, proves otherwise.

Their “curse” is characterized by dilution and diminution. Teachers, students, administrators and parents are diluted in endless paper chases disguised as tests, assessments and reports. Conversely, the edification of concepts and individual free will are systematically diminished. The combined effects may elicit the maddening image of a hamster running endlessly in a caged wheel. However, a more accurate image of these effects is more akin to desperate victims racing to the top of an inextinguishable inferno.

May 100 % of your students score proficient or above on standardized tests by 2014 is particularly stressful when father figures emphasize the deadline, by 2014. This has been the curse that has dominated the bulk of my teaching career. A curse so powerful it has decimated all attempts to render it inoperative. This “super curse” has brought forward other conjurers, who with wands in hand have temporarily waved away some provisions yet, have not been able or willing to undo this “super curse”. What would motivate someone to place such a curse?  Let’s entertain some thoughts.

Many profess that a goal as noble as ensuring that all students score proficient at the same time and place is beyond reproach. Well, it is simply reprehensible. This cynical goal suffers from a pernicious pathology, which advocates forgive as a delusion for perfection. Shamefully, these apologists hide the correct diagnosis. It is not a delusion of perfection that motivates the jinxers, but rather a pathology of exclusion. We all know the consequences of not scoring proficient and obtaining AYP, -they close your (our) school. However, 2014 can’t seem to arrive soon enough for some hexers. Hence, the rush by officials –this year-, to close as many public schools throughout our country under the convenient excuses of “austerity” and “scores” is well afoot. The unprecedented shuttering of dozens of public schools particularly in largely African American communities, as in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. etc. are justified under the rationale of budgetary challenges.

This rationale anchors itself on the operational premise of right sizing. Irrespective of the fact that we are talking about children and their development -this thinking may have legitimate administrative basis in the private sector. However, the current juxtaposition of private sector practices and public sector commitments, such as providing an adequate and free education as stipulated in the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have dissimilar agendas and unequal strengths. Why then the rush if the “super curse” will effectively close thousands of public schools all across our country within a year? We will surely have the right size and number of schools soon enough. Could it be that the proponents’ zeal for the “super curse” is waning? Hardly.

In fact the “super curse” is going very well. The political party, pardon, -the political parties, both of them, have put away their “profound pedagogical partitions” to unite in this effort. Likewise, the industrial testing complex continues to redact tests, assessments, practice workbooks, study programs, while hiring consultants, garnering ever greater budget allocations, and accumulating data all aimed to ensure that scores comply with targets of soon to be imposed common core standards. But above all of these machinations, one supersedes them all, the president’s silence on these matters is the best indicator that all is truly going well among the jinxers and hexers. Conversely, hope for a change is sequestered. So again I ask, why the rush? Could it be that the “super curse” itself is waning? Hardly.

In fact, the jinxers are emboldened by their powers and lack of meaningful restraints, -why wait? “Let’s exclude NOW!” they demand. What we have in front of us now is a turn to Kronos, but an inverted Kronos. We have all seen the depictions of Kronos devouring his children. His filicides are motivated out of fear, a fear of competition from his children. Thus, he eats them. In our case, our Kronos is not committing filicide, but rather devouring the children of others. One can imagine a repented titan with a renewed paternal instinct and displaced fear of competition in the presence of other children asking another titan, “How do we devour the potential competitors of our children?” The other titan may respond, “Well, one way is to be proactive. For example, you offer your children greater pedagogical and assertive experiences and opportunities. In addition, you enroll your children in a school that is free of stigma, for example, one that does not administer standardized tests, say a private school or a divinity school. In other words, enroll your child in a school that does not partake in omens or curses.”

Nonetheless, there is still another way, a more reactive way, to devour your children’s potential competitors, -you close their schools and in doing so -eliminate the competition. Once shuttered, you place stigma upon the displaced children and adults. Moreover, you place a scarlet tattoo on both and you never lift the curse. The calculation is the following; the failure of some children will ensure that mine will thrive. This charter is an open collusion devoid of formalities.

I am well aware that we live in highly secular times, which are dominated by facts and figures. But for some of us who recognize the evil that lurk in men’s hearts, we cannot ignore the immutable. Those who conspire against children are devoid of judgment. Consequently, their motivations are drawn from an irredeemable well. They practice technical numerology, model apparitions, and consult conjurers. Some of them believe in curses. Others still are weary of omens. Some even fear children, often their own. I believe in God. Evil may cause great pain and destruction, but evil never prevails. Evil’s harvest never mature and eventually in its rage devours its own seed.

Marc Tucker posted a fascinating dialogue with two testing experts, Howard Everson and Robert Linn.


Here are some of the salient points.

MT: Is this country getting ready to make a profound mistake? We use grade-by-grade testing in grades 3-8 but no other country is doing it this way for accountability; instead they test 2 or 3 times in a students’ career. If the United States did it that way, we could afford some of the best tests in the world without spending any more money.

BL: Raising the stakes for our test-based accountability systems so that there will be consequences for individual teachers will make matters even worse. Cheating scandals will blossom. I think this annual testing is unnecessary and is a big part of the problem. What we should be doing is testing at two key points along the way in grades K-8, and then in high school using end-of-course tests.

HE: I am in the same place as Bob. The multiple-choice paradigm first used in WWI and eventually used to satisfy the NCLB requirements has proven to be quite brittle, especially when applied in every grade 3-8 and used to make growth assumptions. The quick and widespread adoption of multiple-choice testing was in hindsight a big mistake for this country, but—now — states will tell you it is all they can afford.

Bob Linn points out that the increased reliance on external tests reflects a fundamental distrust of teachers. Our nation relies on these tests because teachers can’t be trusted to test their own students. The conundrum is that the reliance on standardized tests demoralizes and deskills teachers and reduces the prestige of the teaching profession

BL: One big difference between the United States and other countries is the prestige and trust in teachers, which is very low in this country and tends to be quite high in the top performers. This has led to the development of accountability systems that use external measures to see if schools and individual teachers are doing a good job. This has morphed into the next level: evaluating individual teachers. Unless we can find a way to increase the prestige of teachers and public confidence in them, it will be hard to move too far away from using testing for these purposes.

I am not a testing expert. I am a historian. I have studied the history of testing (see Left Back), and I served for seven years on the National Assessment Governing Board. One thing I know: the testing industry is the greatest beneficiary of the testing mandates of No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top. The testing industry has lobbyists who look out for the interests of the industry. They work on Capitol Hill and in the state capitols.

Can they be stopped? Can we bring the best interests of children to the fore, to replace the best interests of the testing industry?


Opt out.

Do not allow them to test your child.

Show your disdain for their flawed product.

Do not allow them to use your children as data points.

David Leonhardt of the Néw York Times interviews Arne Duncan, Mitch Daniels, and John Engler on the state of the “reform” movement.

How fitting that Duncan would be paired with two of the very conservative Republican ex-governors, and the three sound alike.

What is interesting to me is that I hear a subtle shift in tone. They are admitting that scores are up and graduation rates are up, but that whatever progress we have made is not good enough. Do I detect a new line of rhetoric? Did someone summarize the first few chapters of “Reign of Error” for them?

Did they skip the chapter about international comparisons?


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