Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

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:

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.

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.”


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