Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

Peter Greene discovered an article in the Vanderbilt Law Review by University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black that argues that Arne Duncan’s waivers from NCLB are unconstitutional.

Greene writes, quoting the article by Black:

“Two of the most significant events in the history of public education occurred over the last year. First, after two centuries of local control and variation, states adopted a national curriculum. Second, states changed the way they would evaluate and retain teachers, significantly altering teachers’ most revered right, tenure. Not all states adopted these changes of their own free will. The changes were the result of the United States Secretary of Education exercising unprecedented agency power in the midst of an educational crisis: the impending failure of almost all of the nation’s schools under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Secretary invoked the power to impose new conditions on states in exchange for waiving their obligations under NCLB….As a practical matter, he federalized
education in just a few short months.”

Greene then says:

“This allows the kibbitzing to start immediately in response. Black does not distinguish at all between Common Core Standards and a national curriculum, a distinction without a difference that reformsters have fought hard to maintain. Nor will reformsters care for the assertion that states did not all adopt reform measures of their own free will. But all of that background in the first paragraph of the article is simply setting the stage for Black’s main point.

“This unilateral action [writes Black] is remarkable not only for education, but from a constitutional balance-of-power perspective. … Yet, as efficacious as unilateral action through statutory waiver might be, it is unconstitutional absent carefully crafted legislative authority. Secretary Duncan lacked that authority. Thus, the federalization of education through conditional waivers was momentous, but unconstitutional.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan decided to punish Oklahoma for revoking the Common Core standards, according to Caitlin Emma in Politico. Oklahoma will lose its federal waiver from the structures of No ChildLeft Behind, which mandates that all students in grades 3-8 must be proficient in math and reading by this year. Since this is in fact an impossible goal, all public schools in Oklahoma will be “failing” schools and subject to a variety of sanctions, including state takeover, being turned into a charter school, or closed.

Indiana, which also revoked the Common Core standards, received a one-year extension of its waiver because it has not yet replaced the Common Core standards.

““It is outrageous that President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

“This marks the first time the Education Department has stripped a state of its waiver on the grounds of academic standards, said Anne Hyslop, a senior policy analyst for Bellwether Education Partners.

“This is obviously dicey water for the Secretary [Arne] Duncan, given growing opposition to Common Core,” she said.
States had to adopt so-called college- and career-ready standards to escape some of NCLB’s requirements, including offering school choice and tutoring or reconfiguring schools that are considered failing under the law. But most states with waivers adopted the Common Core.

“Fallin did an about-face on her support of the standards this year and signed a bill in early June repealing the Common Core after previously supporting the standards. The state reverted to its old academic standards, the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills standards.”

Even Michael Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a fervent supporter of Common Core, denounced Duncan’s decision:

“Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli called the Education Department’s move a “terrible decision.”
“While Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a case against Arne Duncan, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sure as heck does,” he said. “I hope she sues. Nothing in ESEA gives the secretary of education the authority to push states around when it comes to their standards.”

Whatever your opinion of the Common Core, Duncan’s actions make clear that the U.S. Department of Education is coercing states to adopt them through the waivers, and that Duncan is asserting federal control of state standards, curriculum, and instruction, all of which are interwoven in the Common Core standards and tests. The fact that this role is forbidden by federal law should concern someone somewhere.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/oklahoma-common-core-no-child-left-behind-waiver-110421.html#ixzz3BmReC5XW

Give it up, reformers. The scores on the ACT are flat from 2010-2014, despite the billions wasted on testing, test-based teacher evaluation, and merit pay. Your reforms have reformed nothing. They have failed. Pay attention.

Improve the lives of children and families. Improve working conditions in the school. Demand equitable resources for schools. Reduce class sizes for needy children. Do what works. Throw your punishments and sanctions into the ash-heap of history. It will happen sooner or later.

Start now to build the structures that work for students and teachers.

FairTest_______________________
National Center for Fair & Open Testing
for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
cell (239) 699-0468
for use with annual ACT scores on or after Wednesday, August 20, 2014

STAGNANT ACT SCORES SHOW TEST-DRIVEN U.S. SCHOOL POLICIES
HAVE NOT IMPROVED COLLEGE READINESS,
EVEN WHEN MEASURED BY OTHER TESTS

Another year of flat scores on the ACT, the nation’s most widely administered college admissions exam, provides further evidence that a decade of test-driven public school policies has not improved educational quality.
Reacting to ACT scores released today, Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) said, “Proponents of ‘No Child Left Behind,’ ‘Race to the Top,’ ‘waivers,’ and similar state-level programs promised that focusing on testing would boost college readiness while narrowing score gaps between racial groups. The data show a total failure according to their own measures. Doubling down on unsuccessful policies with more high-stakes,
K-12 testing, as Common Core exam proponents propose, is an exercise in stubbornness, not meaningful school improvement.” (see http://fairtest.org/common-core-assessments-factsheet)

Stagnant scores and racial gaps have also been reported on the federal government’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the SAT college admissions test.

Schaeffer continued, “The lack of progress toward excellence and equity will provide further ammunition for the country’s growing testing resistance and reform movement. Ending the counter-productive fixation on standardized exams is necessary to create the space for better assessments that actually enhance learning and teaching.” FairTest actively supported this past spring’s opt-out campaigns and other protests that focused attention on testing overuse and misuse.

FairTest is also a national leader for test-optional higher education admissions. More than 830 accredited, bachelor-degree granting colleges and universities now do not require all or many applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores (see http://fairtest.org/university/optional). Eight more schools – Wesleyan University, Old Dominion University, Hofstra University, Temple University, Montclair State University, Beloit College, Bryn Mawr College and Emmanuel College — dropped test-score requirements already this summer. In addition, Hampshire College, which long was test-optional, is now “test-blind.”
– – 3 0 – -

2014 COLLEGE-BOUND SENIORS AVERAGE ACT SCORES
1,845,787 million test takers

COMPOSITE SCORE FIVE-YEAR SCORE TREND
(2010 – 2014)
ALL TEST-TAKERS 21.0 0.0

African-American 17.0 + 0.1
American Indian 18.0 – 1.0
Asian 23.5 + 0.1
Hispanic 18.8 + 0.2
White 22.3 0.0

Source: ACT, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014

Washington State declined to ask Arne Duncan for a waiver from NCLB because the legislature thought that the price was too high. In exchange for gaining freedom from NCLB’s demand that 100% of students would be proficient by 2014, the state would have to agree to endorse Arne Duncan’s inane idea that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students. Apparently some wise policy makers saw the research and the universal failure of Duncan’s idea and said “no thanks.”

Now virtually every school in the state of Washington is a “failing school.”

The superintendents are required to send a letter to parents informing them that their child attends a failing school. But 28 superintendents sent a cover letter explaining that the law required them to say something untrue.

““Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working,” the cover letter states. The letter is signed by John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, which represents the 28 districts.

“The signees include many of the larger school districts in King and Pierce counties, such as Bellevue, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Lake Washington, Northshore, Renton and Tacoma.
They announced the protest letter at an event Wednesday.

“Seattle Public Schools did not sign it, but supports the letter’s sentiments, a spokeswoman said.”

NCLB is a pathetic hoax that was intended to label almost every school in the nation a failing school. Kudos to the superintendents of Washington State for standing up to abusive federal power—not only NCLB but the coercive waiver too.

28 superintendents in Washington state join the honor roll for courage in support of public education.

This is a good news story about a state commissioner of education who stood up and said, with quiet determination, that the emperor has no clothes.

That state commissioner is Rebecca Holcombe of Vermont. She wrote a clear and eloquent letter to the parents and caregivers of Vermont, explaining the punitive and incoherent nature of federal education policy, which (under NCLB) requires that every single school in Vermont be labeled low-performing, even though many national and international measures show that Vermont is a high-performing state. She explained that Vermont refused to apply for a waiver from NCLB offered by Secretary Duncan because it would have forced the state to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores, which is unreliable and unfair to teachers and students.

Commissioner Holcombe wrote that Vermont believes that schools have purposes that are no less important (and perhaps more important) than test scores.

For her thoughtfulness, her integrity, her devotion to children, her understanding of the broad aims of education, and her courage in standing firm against ruinous federal policies, Rebecca Holcombe is a hero of American education. Most people go along with the crowd, even when doing so violates their sense of personal and professional ethics. Not Commissioner Holcombe. If our nation had more state commissioners like her, it would save our children from a mindless culture of test and punish that the federal department of education has imposed on them and our nation’s schools.

This is the letter that State Commissioner Holcombe wrote to every parent and caregiver in Vermont:

“Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), as of 2014, if only one child in your school does not score as “proficient” on state tests, then your school must be “identified” as “low performing” under federal law. This year, every school whose students took the NECAP tests last year is now considered a “low performing” school by the US Department of Education. A small group of schools were not affected by this policy this year because they helped pilot the new state assessment and so did not take the NECAPs last year. Because these schools had their federal AYP status frozen at 2013 levels, eight schools are not yet identified as low performing by federal criteria. However, had these school taken the NECAPs as well, it is likely that every single school in the state would have to be classified as “low performing” according to federal guidelines.

The Vermont Agency of Education does not agree with this federal policy, nor do we agree that all of our schools are low performing.

In 2013, the federal Education Department released a study comparing the performance of US states to the 47 countries that participated in the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, one of the two large international comparative assessments. Vermont ranked 7th in the world in eighth-grade mathematics and 4th in science. Only Massachusetts, which has a comparable child poverty rate, did better.

“On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Vermont consistently ranks at the highest levels. We have the best graduation rate in the nation and are ranked second in child well-being.

“Just this week, a social media company that compares financial products (WalletHub) analyzed twelve different quality metrics and ranked Vermont’s school system third in the nation in terms school performance and outcomes.

“Nevertheless, if we fail to announce that each Vermont school is “low performing,” we jeopardize federal funding for elementary and secondary education. The “low performing” label brings with it a number of mandatory sanctions, which your principal is required to explain to you. This policy does not serve the interest of Vermont schools, nor does it advance our economic or social well-being. Further, it takes our focus away from other measures that give us more meaningful and useful data on school effectiveness.

“It is not realistic to expect every single tested child in every school to score as proficient. Some of our students are very capable, but may have unique learning needs that make it difficult for them to accurately demonstrate their strengths on a standardized test. Some of our children survived traumatic events that preclude good performance on the test when it is administered. Some of our students recently arrived from other countries, and have many valuable talents but may not yet have a good grasp of the academic English used on our assessments. And, some of our students are just kids who for whatever reason are not interested in demonstrating their best work on a standardized test on a given day.

“We know that statewide, our biggest challenge is finding better ways to engage and support the learning of children living in poverty. Our students from families with means and parents with more education, consistently are among the top performing in the country. However, federal NCLB policy has not helped our schools improve learning or narrow the gaps we see in our data between children living in poverty and children from more affluent families. We need a different approach that actually works.”

What are the alternatives? Most other states have received a waiver to get out from under the broken NCLB policy. They did this by agreeing to evaluate their teachers and principals based on the standardized test scores of their students. Vermont is one of only 5 states that do not have a waiver at this time. We chose not to agree to a waiver for a lot of reasons, including that the research we have read on evaluating teachers based on test scores suggests these methods are unreliable in classes with 15 or fewer students, and this represents about 40-50% of our classes. It would be unfair to our students to automatically fire their educators based on technically inadequate tools. Also, there is evidence suggesting that over-relying on test-based evaluation might fail to credit educators for doing things we actually want them to do, such as teach a rich curriculum across all important subject areas, and not just math and English language arts. In fact, nation-wide, we expect more and more states to give up these waivers for many of the reasons we chose not to pursue one in the first place.

Like other Vermont educators, I am deeply committed to continuously improving our schools and the professional skill of our teachers. I have heard from principals and teachers across the state who are deeply committed to developing better ways of teaching and working with parents and other organizations to ensure that every child’s basic needs are met. If basic needs are not met, children cannot take advantage of opportunities that we provide in school. However, the federal law narrows our vision of schools and what we should be about. Ironically, the only way a school could pass the NCLB criteria would be to leave some children behind – to exclude some of the students who come to our doors. That is something public schools in Vermont will not do.

Matching Our Measures to Our Purpose

Certainly, we know tests are an important part of our tool kit, but they do not capture everything that is important for our children to learn. With this in mind, our State Board of Education clearly outlined five additional education priorities in our new Education Quality Standards, including scientific inquiry, citizenship, physical health and wellness, artistic expression and 21st century transferable skills.

As parents and caregivers, we embrace a broader vision for our children than that defined in federal policy. Thus, we encourage you to look at your own child’s individual growth and learning, along with evidence your school has provided related to your child’s progress. Below are some questions to consider:

• What evidence does your school provide of your child’s growing proficiency?

• Is your child developing the skills and understanding she needs to thrive in school and
the community?

• Are graduates of your school system prepared to succeed in college and/or careers?

• Is your child happy to go to school and engaged in learning?

• Can your child explain what he is learning and why? Can your child give examples of
skills he has mastered?

• Is your child developing good work habits? Does she understand that practice leads to
better performance?

• Does your child feel his work in school is related to his college and career goals?

• Does your child have one adult at the school whom she trusts and who is committed to
her success?

• If you have concerns, have you reached out to your child’s teacher to share your
perspective?

Be engaged with your school, look at evidence of your own child’s learning, and work with your local educators to ensure that every child is challenged and supported, learning and thriving. Schools prosper when parents are involved as the first teachers of their children.

The State’s Obligation to Our Children

Working with the Governor, the State Board, the General Assembly and other agencies, and most importantly, with educators across the state, the Agency of Education will invite schools across the state to come together to innovate and improve our schools. We hope your school will volunteer to help develop and use a variety of other measures that will give parents, citizens and educators better information on student learning and what we can do to personalize and make it better. These measures include:

• collaborative school visits by teams of peers, to support research, professional learning and sharing of innovative ideas,

• personalization of learning through projects and performance assessments of proficiency,

• gathering and sharing of feedback from teachers, parents and students related to school climate and culture, student engagement and opportunities for self-directed learning,

• providing teachers and administrators standards-based feedback on the effectiveness of their instruction,

• developing personalized learning plans that involve students in defining how they will demonstrate they are ready to graduate, and basing graduation on these personalized assessments of proficiency rather than “seat-time”,

• analyzing growth and improvement at the Supervisory level as well as the school level, to identify systems that seem to be fostering greater growth in students, as a way of identifying and sharing promising practices across schools.

Vermont has a proud and distinguished educational history, but we know we can always do better. We are committed to supporting our schools as they find more effective and more engaging ways to improve the skills and knowledge of our children. As we have done before, we intend to draw on the tremendous professional capability of teachers across the state as we work to continuously improve our schools. Our strength has always been our ingenuity and persistence. In spite of federal policies that poorly fit the unique nature of Vermont, let’s continue to work together to build great schools that prepare our children to be productive citizens and contributors to our society

Many years ago, in the 1990s and the early years of this century, I was a vigorous participant in what was known as “the reading wars.” I supported phonics and opposed whole language. I was influenced by the work of Jeanne Chall at Harvard, who described the ebb and flow of reading philosophies. I wrote many articles explaining why phonics was crucial and why whole language was deficient. In my book, “Left Back” (2000), I wrote an overview of the reading wars and showed the deficiencies of whole language.

In 1997, Congress created the National Reading Panel, composed of literacy experts who mostly supported phonics. Its report in 2000 strongly endorsed explicit phonics instruction. In 2001, No Child Left Behind included a program called Reading First, which gave large sums to districts that gave preference to phonics. Phonics was winning, for sure. Proponents of whole language (which valued meaning over the mechanics or reading) began calling their program “balanced literacy” to remove the implication that they opposed phonics.

By 2001, it seemed clear that phonics had won the war. But in 2006, the Reading First program blew up; not only were the evaluations unimpressive, but there were allegations of self-dealing and conflicts of interest as some phonics promoters were pushing their own textbooks. And the “war” itself lost steam.

As for me, I no longer think this “war” is a worthy cause. Reading teachers understand that students need both phonics and meaning. They know that children need to be able to sound out words but that it is boring to do that for weeks on end. Children need meaning. They get it when their teachers read to them, and they get it when they learn to read by themselves.

I am no reading expert, but I can see good sense in both approaches. I have seen balanced literacy classes where children were enjoying reading. I understand the importance of phonics as a tool to help children get off to a strong start. Wise teachers know when and how to use the literacy approach they need. Children’s needs are different. Good teachers know that and don’t need to be told by legislators how to teach. (And for older children, I love grammar, spelling, and diagramming sentences).

I read recently that NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina was reviving balanced literacy in the New York City schools, and some of my old allies wrote to ask if I was outraged. No, I was not. Balanced literacy can co-exist with phonics. Children need both decoding and meaning. Most important, they need to learn the joy of reading. It unlocks the door to the storehouse of knowledge.

I am no longer a combatant in the reading wars. What matters most today is the survival of public education. We must stop nonsensical curriculum wars and stand together for equitable funding, stable staffing, and community support for community schools.

If you have not read Rachel Aviv’s “Wrong Answer” in The New Yorker, drop everything and read it now.

Aviv tells the story of the Atlanta cheating scandal through the ideas of one man, one teacher, who cared deeply about his student. Step by step, he got sucked into the data-driven obsession with test scores, thinking that if he raised the children’s test scores, it was a victimless crime. He knew that his students had needs that were even greater than their test scores, but the law’s absurd requirement that scores had to go up year after year drew him into a widespread conspiracy to falsify test scores.

One day will we look back on the Atlanta cheating scandal as the wake up call that made us think about how successive administrations and members of Congress have given their approval to laws and goals that hurt children and warped education? Or will we continue on the present path of destruction?

Joy Resmovits reports that the Onama administration plans to enforce a provision of NCLB that requires states to put experienced and highly qualified teachers in schools serving high numbers of poor and minority students.

Will this create a crisis for Teach for America, whose corps members have no experience?

Since this administration believes that teachers can be judged by student test scores, watch for policies attempting to reassign teachers from affluent suburbs to inner-city and rural schools. Watch for the next step, when those highly qualified teachers are reclassified as “bad” teachers if they can’t raise scores.

Will the Obama administration ever figure out that test scores reflect socioeconomic conditions more than teachers? They might look at research or even the recent report of the American Statistical Association, which attributed 1-14% of score variation to teachers.

Does anyone know an authoritative source for the number of public schools closed because of NCLB and Race to the Top? Either turnarounds, turned over to charters, or just closed?

Yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial vigorously agreeing with the Obama administration’s plan to give ratings to colleges and universities and agreeing with Education Trust that federal aid to colleges should be tied to those ratings. EdTrust was and remains one of the strongest supporters of NO Child Left Behind, having helped to write that abominable law.

On principle, I oppose the ratings game and believe it will turn into NCLB for higher education, with incentives that undermine the mission of the institutions as they get caught up in the numbers game. How will colleges measure the “value-added” of courses in philosophy, ancient history, art, and music?

The Times apparently doesn’t read its own stories. It doesn’t recognize that students are discouraged not by a lack of information but by the crushing debt they incur. Why don’t we have low-cost or free public colleges? The Times has reported in the past about how states have shifted costs from the public to students. Why is this not a more pressing need than data?

When the Times says that the U.S. has among the lowest college graduation rates in the developed world, it should have mentioned that one nation with a much lower rate is Germany, the dominant economy in Europe. What does Germany know that we don’t know?

If the Times thinks that getting a higher college graduation rate matters, why not propose ways to reduce the cost to students? The greatest barrier to college access and completion is affordability, not lack of data.

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