Archives for category: No Child Left Behind

Historians and teacher John Thompson wonders whether Arne Duncan and other reformers will ever be held for the failed reforms of the past 14 years?

“To try to protect every patient, doctors order screening tests. Accountability systems exist to ensure the quality of those systems and their proper usage. It would make no sense to punish doctors and technicians for the results that their tests produce (although some healthcare reformers sound like they want to do so). Accountability systems also monitor the professionalism and practice of the healthcare providers who use them. Doctors, however, would not submit to the type of output-driven accountability regimes that are being imposed on teachers.”

When will reformers admit that test-and-punish policies have failed?

When will they be accountable?

Having read and reviewed every line of the Alexander/Murray proposal to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind), Mercedes Schneider here renders her judgment about the bill as a whole and compares it to the one that the House of Representatives has been working on.

 

There are aspects to this bill to dislike: its love for charters, which make no sense unless you think the nation needs two publicly funded school system, one free to choose its students, the other not; its retention of annual testing, which has not achieved its goals for the past 13 years, making the United States the most over-tested nation in the world. And there are aspects to like a lot: like stripping the Secretary of Education of any power to control state and local decisions about standards and tests.

 

Though the bill is not perfect, it has one great advantage: it abandons the absurd goals, mandates, and sanctions that were central to NCLB.

 

Read Mercedes to see what she concludes.

I am happy to say that Mercedes Schneider is reading the 600+ page bill written by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, under the bipartisan leadership of Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Patti Murray of Washington State.

She is reading every word of it, a daunting task. She is up to page 136. What she sees is that the bill restricts the powers of the Secretary of Education and prohibits him/her from telling states what to do unless specifically authorized by the law. Thus far, she is pleased with what she has read.

We can anticipate more posts, as she goes through the bill. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it, other than committee staff in the Senate.

Arthur Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., warns that bipartisan agreement on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind may be bad news.

 

Just as parents are expressing their disgust with annual testing, Congress is close to mandating annual testing for yet another seven years (or maybe another 12 years if past experience is any guide).

 

 

He writes:

 

Bipartisan agreement makes for strange bedfellows as seeming opponents engage in an uncomfortable collective embrace of federal mandates of yearly, high stakes assessment. In the absence of obvious political alternatives some civil rights groups fear that without the harsh light of disaggregated data poor performance will be ignored. Those whose ideology bends their policy choices toward privatization see inevitable failure in the face unreasonable demands as a means to undermine faith in public education. Some are in the campaign contribution thrall of testing companies that stand to gain or loose billions from publically funded testing expenditures. Still others have an abiding faith in the power of rewards and punishments to compel behavior.

 

The continued focus of high-stakes assessment is the education equivalent of building inspectors requiring pipe wrenches to be used by all plumbers, framers, electricians, roofers and tile-setters, while bypassing the advice and needs of contractors and workers. For education, the sure losers are deep sustainable learning and equity.

 

Like building a home, creating an education system is a complex endeavor. As anyone who has undertaken it knows, significant remodeling may be even more challenging. When building or remodeling a complex system, it’s best to have a large, varied set of tools. Choosing the right tool for the right purpose is an obvious but often ignored principle- not least in education assessment policy. Pipe wrenches are great for large plumbing valves, but wreak havoc on smaller nuts. They have nasty teeth that rip and apply too much torque. Selection from a full set of open-ended wrenches would be a far better choice. Needle nose pliers are just the right tool for bending wires for electrical connections, but far too imprecise for removing the accidental building-related splinter. So it is with large scale standardized testing in education. The right tool can get the job done. The wrong tool fails and often causes damage….

 

Let’s start with the big picture. Education has three equally important purposes: Preparation for students for life, work and citizenship.

 

The values principle of equity implies that the design of our education system should accommodate and address the diverse needs of all students. To be clear, equity as used here has two meanings: opportunity equity and lived equity. The former refers to what is often called a fair shot to move up the socioeconomic ladder. The latter refers to a shorter ladder, in which position on the lower rungs does not preclude access to a decent secure life, with adequate food, clothing, housing and health care– what we have come to expect of a middle class life. The United States has neither kinds of equity and needs both.

 

The precision principle suggests the need to develop and select a variety of tools to assess progress and success with respect to all of the purposes and components of an effective education system. To assess education’s how are we doing questions, we need subsystem precision, lest we make the education-equivalent mistake of using meter sticks when micrometers are needed….

 

 

Equitable resources are essential, but they do not ensure equitable outcomes. While constitutionally, much of education decision-making authority in U.S. is delegated to the states, the interconnectedness of the nation clearly indicates that local outcomes are a national concern. Ineffective or poorly funded education in one state impacts another. The periodic National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) serves to monitor outcomes across the states. The NAEP is not given to every student at every grade in every year. Instead, it is administered at the end of grade bands and uses the well-known statistical strategy of sampling. Politicians know this technique well. They rely upon it extensively when they do polling to gauge potential policy positions because querying every citizen is impractical and not needed to get the information they need. As a tool for fair state or large city level big-picture achievement monitoring, NAEP does the trick, but different non-comparable state-designed tests do not….

 

 

ESEA reauthorization should not:

 

Mandate consequential state testing;
Include requirements for student assessment-based teacher evaluation.

 

ESEA reauthorization should:

 

Ensure funds to provide for and measure the attainment of equitable resources;

 
Provide funds to locales to increase educator expertise in the use formative assessment strategies to improve daily learning.

 
It is past time for all supporters of equitable education for life, work and citizenship to call out No Child Left Behind with its high-stakes testing centerpiece as a failed Faustian bargain. Choosing the right tools for the right purposes is a common sense starting point.

 

 

High-stakes testing has reached down into kindergarten, where it is developmentally inappropriate. Kindergarten is supposed to be the children’s garden. It is supposed to be a time for learning to socialize with others, to work and play with others, to engage in imaginative activities, to plan with building blocks and games. It is a time when little children learn letters and numbers as part of their activities. They listen as the teacher reads stories, and they want to learn to read.

 

But in the era of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, kindergarten has changed. Little children must be tested. The great data monster needs data. How can their teachers be evaluated if there are no standardized tests and no data?

 

This frightening article in Slate by Alexandria Neason describes how high-stakes testing now permeates kindergarten.

 

The author describes the kindergarten classroom of Molly Mansel in Néw Orleans.

 

“Mansel’s students started taking tests just three weeks into the 2014–15 school year. They began with a state-required early childhood exam in August, which covered everything from basic math to letter identification. Mansel estimates that it took between four and five weeks for the teachers to test all 58 kindergarten students—and that was with the help of the prekindergarten team. The test requires an adult to sit individually with each student, reading questions and asking them to perform various tasks. The test is 11 pages long and “it’s very time-consuming,” according to Mansel, who is 24 and in her third year of teaching (her first in kindergarten).

 

The rest of the demanding testing schedule involves repeated administrations of two different school-mandated tests. The first, Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, is used to measure how students are doing compared with their peers nationally—and to evaluate teachers’ performance. The students take the test in both reading and math three times a year. They have about an hour to complete the test, and slower test takers are pulled from class to finish.

 

The second test, called Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress, or STEP, is a literacy assessment that measures and ranks children’s progress as they learn letters, words, sentences, and, eventually, how to read. Mansel gives the test individually to students four times throughout the year. It takes several days to administer as Mansel progresses through a series of tasks: asking the students to write their names, to point to uppercase and lowercase versions of letters, and to identify words that rhyme, for example.

 

Although more informal, the students also take about four quizzes per week in writing, English, math, science, and social studies. The school’s other kindergarten teacher designs most of the quizzes, which might ask students to draw a picture describing what they learned, or write about it in a journal.

 

“By the end of the school year, Mansel estimates that she’ll have lost about 95 hours of class time to test administration—a number inconceivable to her when she reflects on her own kindergarten experience. She doesn’t remember taking any tests at all until she was in at least second grade. And she’s probably right.”

 

Whoever made this happen should be arrested for child abuse and theft of childhood.

The New York Times is convinced that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been a great success, and the editorial board urges Congress to stick with annual high-stakes testing. The editorial is couched in terms of the wonderful things that have happened to children of color, echoing the “reform” theme of testing as a “civil right.” This editorial is so out of touch with reality that it is hard to know where to begin. States are now beginning to test little children for 10-12 hours to see if they can read and do math; the amount of testing and the stakes attached to it are not found in any high-performing nation in the world, only here. The billions of dollars now devoted to standardized testing is obscene, especially when many of children who need help the most are in overcrowded classes and in states that have slashed the budget and/or opened charter schools and handed out vouchers to drain funding away from the public schools.

 

For a different point of view, read Carol Burris’s strong article about why it is time for civil disobedience, why parents should refuse to allow their children to take the tests.

 

Burris writes:

 

It has become increasingly clear that Congress does not have the will to move away from annual high-stakes testing. The bizarre notion that subjecting 9-year-olds to hours of high-stakes tests is a “civil right,” is embedded in the thinking of both parties. Conservatives no longer believe in the local, democratic control of our schools. Progressives refuse to address the effects of poverty, segregation and the destruction of the middle class on student learning. The unimaginative strategy to improve achievement is to make standardized tests longer and harder.

 

And then there are the Common Core State Standards. Legislators talk a good game to appease parents, but for all their bluff and bluster, they are quite content to use code names, like the West Virginia Next Generation Content Standards, to trick their constituents into believing their state standards are unique, even though most are word for word from the Common Core.

 

The only remedy left to parents is to refuse to have their children take the tests. Testing is the rock on which the policies that are destroying our local public schools are built. If our politicians do not have the courage to reverse high-stakes testing, then those who care must step in. As professor of Language and Composition, Ira Shor, bluntly stated:

 

Because our kids cannot defend themselves, we have to defend them. We parents must step in to stop it. We should put our foot down and say, “Do it to your own kids first before you experiment on ours!”

 

In contrast to the New York Times, which argues for the status quo on grounds of helping minority students, Burris sharply argues:

 

The alleged benefit of annual high stakes testing was to unveil the achievement gaps, and by doing so, close them. All that has been closed are children’s neighborhood schools. In a powerful piece in the Huffington Post, Fairfield University Professor Yohuru Williams argues that annual high-stakes testing feeds racial determinism and closes doors of opportunity for black and brown children.

 

Last year, Alan Aja and I presented evidence on how the Common Core and its tests are hurting, not helping, disadvantaged students. (The links to both articles are in Burris’s article.)

 

Burris concludes:

 

I am a rule follower by nature. I have never gotten a speeding ticket. I patiently wait my turn in lines. I am the product of 12 years of Catholic schools–raised in a blue-collar home where authority was not to be questioned. I was the little girl who always colored in the lines.

 

But there comes a time when rules must be broken — when adults, after exhausting all remedies, must be willing to break ranks and not comply. That time is now. The promise of a public school system, however imperfectly realized, is at risk of being destroyed. The future of our children is hanging from testing’s high stakes. The time to Opt Out is now.

This is a terrific short video, created by the BadAss Teachers Association. In images, it simply explains the blight that has descended on American public education because of the misguided policies of George W. Bush, President Obama, and Arne Duncan, because of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Lots of kids have been left behind, and the Race to the Top was won by Pearson and McGraw Hill.

 

 

This post, written by Joseph Ray Lavine, gives an account of Anthony Cody’s speech at the University of Georgia. Cody told the audience that programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top had squandered billions of dollars, and that methodologies like “value-added measurement” could not measure what mattered most in education. Teachers want students who can engage in critical thinking, collaboration, and who can persevere, but the testing regime does not promote or encourage these qualities, nor can it measure them. We are not raising the bar, he said; we are actually lowering expectations by relying so heavily on high-stakes testing.

 

Cody recently published a book about the Gates Foundation and its influence on current failed reforms. The book is “The Educator and the Oligarch”; it describes his exchanges with the foundation and his efforts to persuade it to change course.

The school board of the San Diego Unified School District voted 5-0 to urge Congress to eliminate the federal mandate of annual testing, Read their full statement below.

 

Remember that one of the crucial elements in the grassroots movement to roll back the tide of high-stakes testing started in Texas, when school board after school board voted to oppose high-stakes testing, and eventually more than 80% of the state’s school boards voted against high-stakes testing. The legislature heard the voters, and pulled back from a proposal to require 15 tests for high school graduation.

 

This is how a movement grows. Congress is rewriting NCLB as you read this. It is said to be on a fast-track for reauthorization in both the Senate and the House. Almost all the D.C.-based interest groups have joined to demand that YOUR children and YOUR students be tested annually. The best way to stop this out-of-control train of failed policies is to organize, speak up, speak out, demonstrate. Urge your school board to adopt a resolution akin to the one passed unanimously in San Diego. Visit the offices of Senator Patty Murray, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Al Franken, and all the Congressmen and Senators who are about to pass legislation keeping NCLB intact for another seven years. Make your voice heard.

 

The resolution adopted by the school board of the San Diego Unified School District on February 10:

 

SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

RESOLUTION IN THE MATTER OF SUPPORT

TO REMOVE THE ANNUAL TESTING REQUIREMENT FROM THE ELEMENTARY

AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT (ESEA)

AND MAKE OTHER MODIFICATIONS AS CONGRESS CONSIDERS REAUTHORIZATION OF ESEA (NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND) )

 
RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” was due for reauthorization in 2007, and the U.S. Congress has not reached a bipartisan agreement that will ensure passage to streamline existing federal requirements and allow states and local educational agencies to develop and implement policies that will best support students; and
WHEREAS, there are several significant aspects of ESEA that should be amended during the Act’s reauthorization, including the elimination of sanctions and unintended consequences; granting states and local educational agencies greater local flexibility; the elimination of federally mandated, annual standardized testing; and maintaining provisions of ESEA that support its original intent of supporting students with the greatest needs; and
WHEREAS, the nation’s future, social well-being and economic competitiveness relies on a high- quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship, and lifelong learning; and
WHEREAS, the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to contribute and thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and
WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that high-stakes standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness, and the over-reliance on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing student’s love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and
WHEREAS, the San Diego Unified Vision 2020, long-term strategic plan, Quality Schools in Every Neighborhood, supports and provides for quality teaching, access to broad and challenging curriculum for all students, closing the achievement gap with high expectations for all, and is committed to using multiple formative measures of success that go beyond standardized achievement tests; and
WHEREAS, the ESEA Discussion Draft repeals the long-standing Title I Maintenance of Effort (MOE) and the Title IX General Provisions MOE requirement, and without them, state and local education funding could be lowered by states with no consequences to the state’s ongoing receipt of federal aid; and
WHEREAS, the ESEA Discussion Draft freezes funding for reauthorized programs for Fiscal Year 2016 through Fiscal Year 2021, eroding the investment of federal funding for public education that would result in reductions in services to student subgroups that require additional investments and support systems, including low-income, English learners, and students of color; and
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District calls on the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” eliminate the federally- mandated, annual testing requirement in each of Grades 3 through 9, and at least once in Grades 9 through 12; promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability; and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District calls on the U.S. Congress to reinstate the current Maintenance of Effort requirements in ESEA to protect the integrity and benefits of federal ESEA programs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District supports a ESEA reauthorization bill that provides states and local educational agencies with additional flexibility to design their own accountability systems, including how states identify schools that are under-performing and determine appropriate interventions or technical assistance to support student growth and achievement, and support the use of multiple measures and growth models of academic achievement that reflect a well-rounded education necessary for success in the 21st century; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District supports a ESEA reauthorization bill that provides school districts the flexibility and resources needed to respond to the educational challenges in local communities, and provides greater local flexibility in the use of ESEA funding for Titles I, II and III as states and school districts are in the best position to make spending decisions to facilitate local innovation and student achievement, without placing undue burdens on districts that would adversely impact effective governance; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District supports an ESEA reauthorization bill that eliminates the inflexible sanctions and prescriptive actions that currently result in more schools being identified as Program Improvement if one or more student subgroup misses Annual Yearly Progress, as without the sanctions, districts would have more flexibility to use Title I funds to develop and/or implement programs and services that have evidence of improving student outcomes and advancing academic progress of all student subgroups; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District calls on the U.S. Congress to remove the funding freeze for reauthorized ESEA programs that would severely cut services over the next six years, and urges the passage of a modernized version of ESEA that is fully supported by federal investments in Title I, which has been woefully underfunded for decades.

 
Adopted and approved by the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District at the regular meeting held on the 10th day of February 2015.

The latest from Politico on NCLB reauthorization: Democrat Patty Murray saves annual testing. Wonder if George W. Bush, Margaret Spellings, Sandy Kress, and Pearson will thank her.

“GRADE-SPAN’S LAST GASP?: Now that Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray are working together [http://politico.pro/1zMZ2Zn ] on a No Child Left Behind bill, it’s all but certain that any deal will keep the federal annual testing mandate. Nonetheless, anti-testing advocates are more vocal than ever: Over the weekend, congressional education staffers’ inboxes were flooded with more than 1,000 emails sent by Save Our Schools New Jersey asking Congress to roll back the federal testing requirement and “stop using test scores to punish students, teachers and public schools.” Save Our Schools NJ volunteers told Morning Education that they didn’t intend to bother the aides. They had asked New Jerseyans to copy the aides on letters they were sending to their legislators and stopped once they realized the blunder. The fact that so many Garden State residents “contacted their federal legislators in one day,” the volunteers wrote in an email, “says a lot about how passionately people feel about the negative impact that high-stakes standardized testing is having.”

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