Archives for category: Race to the Top

Daniel S. Katz of Serin Hall University explains here why the New York Times is wrong about the value of annual standardized testing.

The editorial acknowled that there is too much testing, but failed to acknowledge that this condition is the result of federal mandates. It credits the high-stakes testing regime with higher achievement but doesn’t recognize that test scores increased faster before NCLB.

It is hard to believe that the Néw York Times editorial board is so out of touch with parents, students, teachers, and the realities of school.

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.

Susan Ochshorn, founder of ECE Policy Works, surveys the harmful impact of Race to the Top on early childhood education.

It was bad enough that No Child Left Behind turned into a Frankenstein:

“…narrowing curriculum, inspiring fear, trembling, and depression in the U.S. teaching corps, not to mention test anxiety among a growing — and ever younger — population of students.

“Today, kindergarteners, their fine-motor skills still wobbly, are darkening the circles of multiple-choice tests. Time for blocks and play is diminished. First and second graders are prepping for exams, exploration and skill-building sidetracked. Assessment in early childhood is hardly a recent concern, notes Kyle Snow, Director of the Center for Applied Research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, in a paper on kindergarten readiness and other large-scale assessment systems. He cites Samuel Meisels, former head of the Erikson Institute, a Chicago-based graduate school of education, whose vociferous criticism of standardized testing goes back decades. He’s the father of work-sampling, the early childhood equivalent of portfolio assessment — collections of essays, lab reports, research projects, and other student work, with nary a bubble in sight. Snow also warned of the “great need for additional research and development of assessments appropriate for young children.”

But the train has already left the station — sans Thomas the Tank Engine. As states have applied for Early Learning Challenge grants, as part of the Race to the Top initiative, assessments of children’s kindergarten readiness are par for the course. Teachers are also administering standardized tests in the early elementary grades — the better, some argue, to meet the demands of increased accountability.”

Ochshorn describes the growing movement among parents to opt their children out of inappropriate testing. At one school, Castlebridge in Néw York City, most parents boycotted the bubble tests for the K-2 grades. The children love to learn through play. They love school.

Ochshorn writes:

“Isn’t that the point? And isn’t that worth preserving? It’s time to turn the tables, and assess the damage of Race to the Top. If we delay, we risk turning out the light for another generation of students.”

Adam Bessie is a professor at a California community college. He looks back wistfully to the era when free community college was guaranteed and a path to making one’s way in the world.

 

But he fears now that President Obama’s plan will turn into a Race to the Top for community colleges, with federal requirements for test scores, VAM, and graduation, along with punishments for not reaching mandated targets.

 

“I worry that “free” college may be a Trojan horse for implementing a Race to the Top (RTTT) for higher education, which has been a disastrous policy for K-12 education. RTTT, which is essentially No Child Left Behind rebranded, uses the force of the federal government to institute a regime of standardized testing and so-called “competition,” which has narrowed the curriculum (especially in poor schools, which many of my students come from), emphasizing only reading and math, and tossing aside the arts, sciences and other areas which can’t be tested. Beyond this, RTTT has wrested control of classrooms out of the hands of educators and communities, and placed them into the hands of distant technocrats in the federal government and corporate America.

 

“Free” college might mean that community colleges would cede local, community control to the federal government; thus, the policies of Washington and corporate America would drive the curriculum, rather than the needs of the community. And based on what we’ve seen with RTTT, it’s likely that community colleges again would become junior colleges – designed primarily as trade schools, or for transfer, with a focus on getting students in and out the door as fast as possible, using standardized, impersonal methods more focused on efficiency than education.”

Robert Cotto, Jr., an elected member of the Hartford (CT) board of education, says that the state could save millions of dollars by reducing testing. Annual testing has been a waste of money. Before No Child Left Behind, Connecticut tested children in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10. Now it tests every child in 3-8 every year.

“Reducing the tests that students take in each subject to only grades four, six, eight, and ten could save millions of dollars. The funds saved could help limit any budget cuts that will affect communities across the state, particularly for the most vulnerable children and families. Cutting testing in this way could also result in yearly savings of up to $9.5 million. That’s half of current state spending to administer the tests.

“At best, the evidence is mixed regarding the impact of spending more on testing and ratcheting up punishments. Here are some trends:

“Same data: With the exception of a few new features, the State reports and uses nearly the same type of test information today as it did more than a decade ago.

“Addition through subtraction: Increases in test results over the last decade didn’t happen until students with disabilities (mostly low-income, Black and Latino children) were removed from regular tests.

“Same disparities: The results of the “low-stakes,” sample-based National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have shown high overall test results of children in Connecticut, but little diminishing of race and class-based disparities. This historical pattern remains even after more than a decade of increased testing and punishments.

“Collateral damage: Curriculum hours in Connecticut narrowed to focus on the tested subjects. Students spent more time taking and practicing for tests throughout the year, taking away time for instruction.

“The State now uses the test results to rate students, schools, districts, and teachers.

“This isn’t educational progress.”

What really matters, he writes, is support for students, families, and communities. That’s a far better investment than high-stakes bubble tests.

Veteran educator Arnold Dodge warns that the corporate reform movement, led by the U.S. Department of Education, threatens democracy and creativity. In its quest for data and standardization, the DOE will crush imagination and innovation. Standardized tests reward right answers, not original thought.

Not content to standardize children and their teachers, the DOE now wants to control teacher education by collecting test scores of students and linking them to the institutions that prepared their teachers. Test scores above all!

Dodge quotes John Dewey, who wrote:

“”Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”

“Lack of the free and equitable intercourse which springs from a variety of shared interests makes intellectual stimulation unbalanced. Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means challenge to thought.””

Jeff Bryant analyzes the debate about the federal testing mandates and concludes it’s all about politics, not education.

By now, it is obvious that the testing required by “No Child Left Behind” did not leave no child behind. Child poverty, which is the root cause of low test scores, has increased, and testing does nothing to reduce it.

Bryant writes:

“How is the debate going? See if this makes sense to you:

“Conservatives want to let states have potentially more options for wasting taxpayer money on wayward attempts in “accountability,” and liberals are insisting on continuing measures that have been mostly bad for the education of black and brown students.

“Huh?”

According to the Southern Education Foundation, 51% of public school pupils–a new majority–are poor. More testing does not reduce poverty.

Bryant writes:

“Tests do uncover disparities in our education system, as the National Assessment of Education Progress has revealed for many years long before NCLB. Gerwerz, again, at Education Week, notes about NAEP, “When I look at it, I see the absence of nearly every single trigger point in today’s testing debates. Every kid required to sit for hours and hours of tests? Nope. Here we have only two hours of testing, given to a sample of the school’s students. Weeks of test prep? Nope. Students tied in knots over potentially bad test scores? Nope.”

“Further, as [Bruce] Baker concludes in a subsequent post, if the federal government really wanted to do something about inequities in our education system, it would develop policies that gave states more incentive to correct what’s really causing inequities: the ways “in which our schools are organized and segregated.”
Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Because the discussion over testing, at least how it’s being carried out in Washington, DC, isn’t really about education. It’s about power politics. Seen in this frame, it’s really hard to believe the Democrats are going to win.”

The most contentious issue in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently named No Child Left Behind) will be the federal role in mandating annual testing. The latest polls show that it is opposed by a majority of parents and educators, but Secretary Duncan has staunchly insisted it is necessary; 19 civil rights groups endorsed his position, even though the children they represent all too often are negativrly afrcted by such tests. Since minority children, English learners, and children with disabilities are disproportionately stigmatized by standardized tests, it is bizarre to assert that standardized tests are guarantors of civil rights.

So here comes an interesting debate in the conservative National Review. Michael Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Rick Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute take issue with Jonah Edelman of the corporate reform Stand for Children.

Stand for Children is an active and politically savvy opponent of teachers and teachers’ unions. A few years ago, Jonah Edelman boasted at an Aspen Ideas Festival about his role in buying up all the best lobbyists in Illinois so he could ram hostile legislation down the throats of teachers across the state and make it near impossible for the Chicago Teachers Union to go on strike. He was wrong about the latter, because the CTU garnered overwhelming support for a strike and followed through in 2012. Edelman pulled a similar stunt in Massachusetts, having collected millions of dollars from hedge fund manager to make war on teachers and their benefits and job security.

In the present case, Petrilli and Finn chastise Edelman for supporting an expansive federal role in education.

They write:

“In the piece, Edelman denounces efforts to shed some of No Child Left Behind’s more onerous and unworkable provisions as a “threat” to “your kids’ future.” He then recounts a parade of horribles from the last century. “Linda Brown was denied the opportunity to attend a nearby public school because she was black,” he reminds us. “Black students were denied access to a public high school by segregationist Governor Orval Faubus.” And states and districts weren’t meeting the “special needs” of students with disabilities.

“This is a shopworn parlor trick — equating conservatives concerned about federal micromanagement of schooling in 2015 with the “states’ rights” segregationists of two or three generations past (who, for what it’s worth, were overwhelmingly Democratic)….

“But this sort of rhetorical sleight-of-hand has not held up particularly well. Debating whether the federal government should tell states how to label, manage, and “improve” schools (all on the basis of reading and math scores) is a far cry from debates over whether states should be allowed to deny black students access to elementary and secondary schools. Moreover, those who, like Edelman, celebrate Uncle Sam’s expertise and the effectiveness of federal bureaucrats fail to acknowledge how often federal bureaucrats have gotten it wrong — and put in place laws and regulations that have gotten in the way of smart, promising reforms at the state and local level.

“What are the issues that have Edelman so worked up? Republicans on Capitol Hill make no secret that they envision a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind that will significantly reduce the strings attached to federal education dollars. Among the possible actions: Allowing states to test students every few years rather than annually; getting the federal government out of the business of telling states how to design school-accountability systems or address low-performing schools; and making clear that (contrary to the Obama administration’s designs) the federal government should have no role in dictating state reading and math standards.

“Casual followers of the education debate might notice that these changes seem both modest and sensible. Yet Edelman insists that if Congress dares to go down this path, “disadvantaged students will lose out, and millions of young people who could have become hard-working taxpayers will end up jobless, in prison, or worse.” (Worse?)….

“The deeper problem is that Edelman and his allies fail to grapple with the very real harm that federal education policy has caused, especially in the past decade. This is baffling, given his own admission that No Child Left Behind is “deeply flawed” and that “federal interventions don’t always work as intended.” But his solution — to simply update the law more regularly — indicates a misunderstanding of the realities of the legislative process (Congress updates laws when it will, not on the schedule of us pundits) and of the root problem. The real issue is not just that specific provisions of NCLB are problematic (though they are); it’s that the federal government is destined to mess up whatever it touches in education. That’s because it’s three steps removed from actual schools, with states and local districts sitting between its good intentions and its ability to ensure good results.

“All the federal government can do is pass laws telling federal bureaucrats to write rules for the states, whose bureaucrats then write more rules for school districts, which in turn give marching orders to principals. By the time this game of telephone is done, educators are stuck in a stifling, rule-driven culture that undermines the kind of practical discretion that characterizes good schools.

“During the Obama years, this problem has only grown worse. Convinced of their own righteousness and brilliance, Obama’s education officials have pushed all manner of half-baked ideas on the country (especially the demand that states evaluate teachers largely on the basis of test scores); helped turn potentially promising ideas into political hot potatoes (see Common Core); and embarked on ideological, deeply harmful crusades (using legal threats, for example, to discourage schools from disciplining minority students)….”

What Secretary Duncan has achieved in his six years in office is to persuade many liberals and conservatives that the U.S. Department of Education has abandoned any sense of federalism and has assumed far too much control. While liberals are uneasy about trusting either state or local government with the future of education, they are just as wary (or warier) of the heavy-handed power of the federal government. Duncan himself has become a symbol for many of the federal government’s abandonment of public schools and its commitment to privatize public schools “with all deliberate speed.” Duncan’s demand for annual testing and his determination to evaluate teachers based on students’ test scores–practices not found in high-performing nations–has put him on the wrong side of history. He simply ignores the failure of his pet policies, as well as the protests of parents and educators. His self-righteousness is no substitute for evidence and democratic governance.

Veteran educator Elliot Self says it is long past time to revise No Child Left Behind, and he urges everyone to make their voices heard.

My first recommendation to Congress would be to restore the original name of this landmark 1965 legislation, whose primary purpose was equity for poor children and districts, not accountability: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), not President Bush’s colorful NCLB.

Self offers nine recommendations in this article. The balance of the article explains each recommendations.

“I believe that we need a new National policy that supports a 21st century education for our children. I am suggesting nine broad changes to the law that would help schools and teachers across the country better meet the needs of diverse students and schools in a complex 21st century world. The recommendations suggest a very different type of law that, instead of a set of top down mandates, emphasizes collaborative working relationships with states, schools and districts and local flexibility, creativity and innovation. They suggest that NCLB should be focused around a 21st century education mission statement and set of goals and should support the development of high quality standards that make significant learning possible.

“The recommendations promote a broader view of accountability and assessment policies and practices, emphasize the development of a rigorous, expansive, high quality curriculum and school programs, and promote the use of powerful instructional strategies. They are designed to address the deep-seated problems with the current law.

Self’s nine recommendations are the following:

“Create a law designed to encourage and guide states, districts and schools to develop 21st century schools, rather than coerce them into submission.

Create a 21st century education mission and vision statement to focus the law.

Encourage the development of high quality state standards.

Support the development of curricular programs that are consistent with high quality standards.

Reduce the amount of standardized testing and encourage the use of multiple types of assessments to measure success and progress.

Encourage districts and schools to develop and implement benchmark and graduation projects.

Encourage districts to provide a variety of elective courses and comprehensive extra-curricular activities and programs.

Encourage professional development that supports the use of powerful instructional strategies.

Create the means for greater collaboration and sharing among states, districts and schools.”

What are your recommendations for the federal role?

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