Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

Daniel Koretz is one of the leading authorities on testing in the United States. A professor at Harvard University, he has written two important books about testing–its uses and misuses.

The first was Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us.

His latest is The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better. 

He recently wrote an article about how the federal government’s demand for high-stakes testing has actually undermined education.

He wrote:

In December, we received more bad news about the achievement of American students: Our 15-year-olds made no significant progress in math and reading on PISA, the largest of the international tests. This followed on the heels of a new report from our National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which showed no real progress in reading or math for fourth or eighth grade students for the past decade, and longer for reading.

The routine debate is underway about how bad this news is, but such arguments mostly miss a core lesson: America’s school reform movement has plainly failed. It’s time to face up to this failure and think about new approaches for improving education.

The routine debate is underway about how bad this news is, but such arguments mostly miss a core lesson: America’s school reform movement has plainly failed.

There have been numerous reforms over the past two decades, but at the heart of them are efforts to pressure educators to raise test scores. The idea is deceptively simple. Tests measure important things we want students to learn. Hold educators accountable for raising scores, and they will teach kids more. And by focusing accountability on low-scoring groups — most often by setting uniform targets via state or federal laws, such as No Child Left Behind and the Every Student Succeeds Act — we will close achievement gaps.

Unfortunately, this concept has turned out to be more simplistic than simple, and it hasn’t worked. Even though the primary focus has been reading and math tests, reading hasn’t improved. Test-based accountability has contributed to math gains among younger students, but these improvements ended a decade ago, were achieved in part by taking time away from other subjects, and don’t persist until students graduate from school, making them of questionable value. The effort to improve equity has also failed.

As I showed decades ago, the gap between racial and ethnic minorities and non-minority students started to narrow before the rush into test-based accountability, but that progress has ground to a halt in recent years. At the same time, as Sean Reardon at Stanford University has shown, the gap between rich and poor students has widened on a variety of independent tests. The gap between high- and low-scoring students overall has also recently grown larger.

“Reform” that involves mandating high-stakes testing is a farce. Some politicians have claimed that the way to make kids smarter is to test them more frequently and to make the tests harder and harder. Koretz says this is nonsense. I say that the politicians should be required to take and pass the tests they mandate for helpless students.

It is good to have our concerns and doubts about the pernicious effects of high-stakes testing confirmed by one of the nation’s leading testing experts.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was one of the few members of the U.S. Senate to vote against No Child Left Behind when it was approved by Congress in 2001.

Today is the anniversary of the signing of that law.

Sanders writes that the federal mandate for annual testing in grades 3-8 has been an expensive failure.

In this article in USA Today, Sanders calls for an end to the NCLB mandate, which remained in place through Race to the Top and the Every Students Succeeds Act of 2015 (Every student succeeds is another way of saying “no child left behind.”)

He writes:

Wednesday marks 18 years since the signing into law of No Child Left Behind, one of the worst pieces of legislation in our nation’s history. In December 2001, I voted against NCLB because it was as clear to me then, as it is now, that so-called school choice and high-stakes standardized testing would not improve our schools or enhance our children’s ability to learn. We do not need an education system in which kids are simply taught to take tests. We need a system in which kids learn and grow in a holistic manner. 

Under NCLB, standardized tests were utilized to hold public schools and teachers “accountable” for student outcomes. As a result, some schools that underperformed were closed and their teachers and unions blamed. 

The long-term effects of this approach have been disastrous. NCLB perpetuated the myth of public schools and teachers as failing, which opened the door for the spread of school voucher programs and charter schools that we have today. Some of these charter schools are operated by for-profits; many of them are nonunion and are not publicly accountable.

One error here: 90% of charters are non-union, not “many.” That is why charters have the enthusiastic support of right-wingers like the Waltons, DeVos, Koch, and other billionaires (see Slaying Goliath for a comprehensive list of the billionaires, foundations, and corporations that support testing and charters)

On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind law.

Thus began an unprecedented federal intrusion into state and local education.

The law was sweeping in imposing federally mandated annual tests from grades 3-8.

No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year.

The law mandated that every school must achieve 100% proficiency by 2014 or face increasingly onerous consequences, culminating in being privatized, taken over by the state or closed.

The law made appeals to research repeatedly, but there was no research whatever for its claim that pressure and punishment would ever produce 100% proficiency nor was there any evidence for the “remedies” it proposed.

NCLB was a hoax buil on a lie. The lie was Bush’s campaign claim that there had been a “Texas miracle,” the result of annual testing and accountability. We need only look at Texas’s middling standing on NAEP to see that there was no miracle. The hoax was the law itself, which threatened punishment to those who could not meet impossible goals and offered remedies that had never produced results for any district or state.

Today marks a sad day in the history of American education, when politicians proclaimed that they knew how to fix America’s schools.

They didn’t, and a new era of test abuse, failure, hubris, profiteering, consultants, and other ways to defund the nation’s public schools began.

The spirit of this failed law animated Race to the Top (President Obama said publicly that his RTTT was built on the foundation of NCLB) and survives in the current Every Student Succeeds Act, which continues to require annual testing and gives the Secretary of Education the power to review state plans for compliance with federal law.

NCLB was a noon for the testing industry and consultants but a tragedy for students and teachers. Teachers lost autonomy. Students lost the arts, recess, history, and the love of learning for its own sake. Test scores became the purpose of education.

The restoration of the promise of public education will begin when we have a President and Congress who expunge the legacy of this dreadful law from the books.

 

It was a curious fact that when billionaire Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York City for 12 years, he had complete control of the public schools yet did not have any fresh ideas about how to improve them.

This should not be surprising, because he was never an educator. He hired another non-educator–Joel Klein–to be his chancellor. The two of them relied heavily on McKinsey and other consultants to guide them. They hired lots of MBAs to staff top  positions. They hoped to adopt a corporate style of organization, which made sense because they had low regard for actual educators.

He adopted every aspect of No Child Left Behind: high-stakes testing, closing schools, firing teachers and principals. He loved opening small schools, and when they failed, he reopened them with a new name so they could start over.

New York City was a faithful replication of NCLB, with punishments and rewards leading the way.

His main idea was to hand schools over to private charter operators, assuming that they would have better ideas about how to run schools than he did.

Some of the charter operators made a point of excluding low-performing students, which artificially boosted their test scores.

Some closed their enrollments in the fourth grade, so they would not have to take in new students after that point.

Some kicked out kids who were in need of special services.

Bloomberg’s favorite charter chain was Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy, which used all of these tricks to get astonishingly high test scores.

Bloomberg was obsessed with data and test scores. He even adopted Jeb Bush’s policy of letter grades for schools (which his successor Bill DeBlasio abolished).

The New York City charter industry practiced all the tricks of raising test scores by manipulating the student population.

In addition, the charter sector mastered the ability to organize mass rallies, flooding legislative halls with students and parents, pleading for more funding for new charters (which they could not attend since they were already enrolled in charters).

So pleased was Bloomberg with his charter policy that it is now the centerpiece of his national education agenda.

He doesn’t care about the nearly 90% of kids who are enrolled in public schools.

He believes in privatization.

If elected, he could retain Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education and maintain continuity with Trump’s education agenda.

Jeff Bryant attended the Presidential Forum for Democratic candidates in Pittsburgh, and he watched to see how the candidates reacted to the Bush-Obama-Duncan agenda.

Michael Bennett was the only one to endorse it, and he got a tepid reception.

The others spoke of their love for public schools, their desire to raise funding, etc, but barely mentioned charters or testing unless pushed.

Duncan’s name was never mentioned.

Evaluating teachers by test scores never came up.

Everything that Bush and Obama had promoted was absent.

Of course, everything they promoted has failed, and the moderator kept referring to flat NAEP scores to challenge the candidates, without recognizing that the stagnant scores are the results of 20 years of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core.

But Jeff is not convinced that the change is more than cosmetic.

He thinks that the candidates will gravitate to where the money is: Wall Street; hedge fund managers; billionaires.

Warren and Sanders have not.

But he is right about this: Bad habits and bad ideas die slowly. If at all.

Not one candidate said simply and candidly, “everything that the federal government has imposed since passage of NCLB has failed. We need a fresh vision.”

 

 

Owen Davis writes here about the enrichment of the testing industry by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

The testing and accountability craze started before No Child Left Behind, but that federal law turned it into a bonanza for Pearson and other companies and led to a consolidation of the testing industry.

We now know, almost 20 years after NCLB was signed into law on January 8, 2002, that it has had very little effect on student test scores, on closing achievement gaps, or on any of the other wild promises made first by George W. Bush, echoed by Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings, and reiterated again by Arne Duncan and John King.

Who in Congress or the federal government will have the courage to call a halt to this insane investment of billions of dollars into the testing industry?

Davis writes:

Three days after taking office, George W. Bush unveiled his signature domestic policy, No Child Left Behind. The bill would triple the number of exams the federal government required of students, while dangling stiff penalties over struggling schools. For many educators it felt like a depth charge.

The mood was different at Pearson Education, a division of the London-based conglomerate Pearson PLC. As the education community was still absorbing the shock in February 2001, Pearson Education chief executive Peter Jovanovich spoke to a group of Wall Street investment analysts. He pointed them to the proposed annual testing requirements and school report cards. “This,” Jovanovich said, “almost reads like our business plan.”

Pearson Education was a relative newcomer to the education market. Three years earlier, Pearson PLC had paid $4.6 billion to buy the textbook wing of publishing house Simon & Schuster. In 2000, the company acquired a leading standardized test provider. Now Pearson’s stars had aligned.

“Content has been king,” Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s top executive, said at the time. “But now we’ll have the ability to put content and applications together and that will really allow us to be king.” With a hand in both delivering curriculum and testing students over that curriculum, Pearson would capitalize on America’s newfound school accountability kick.

Pearson Education’s profits increased 175 percent in the decade following No Child Left Behind. The company, whose properties included Penguin Books and the Financial Times, soon derived most of its profits from American education. Test sales jumped fivefold between 2000 and 2006. “Our assessment businesses are in the sweet spot of education policy,” Scardino told investors in 2005 – a year when more than 60 percent of American school kids lived in states giving Pearson tests.

Since 2000, the testing market has roughly tripled in size, to nearly $4 billion a year, with annual achievement tests spawning a range of more frequent tracking assessments. As testing has flourished, more and more functions of the school publishing industry the have fallen into fewer and fewer hands. In 1988, ten publishers shared 70 percent of the textbook market. Today, the “Big Three” —McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the juggernaut Pearson—control at least 85 percent of the market. These lucky few have since expanded their offerings; Pearson hawks everything from student data trackers to online credit-recovery courses to ADHD diagnostic kits.

But along the way the American public grew wary of the companies’ influence in education. Parent groups on both the left and right have cast testing mandates as political favors to test makers, a notion that has helped spark a recent nationwide pushback against accountability policies. Hundreds of thousands of parents across the country have opted their children out of mandatory tests last year, and entire schools have held test boycotts.

The sense that students are over-tested is no illusion. A 2013 study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found the stakes attached to testing in the U.S. to be the highest in the developed world. One study of the 66 largest urban school districts found the average student took 112 standardized tests from kindergarten to graduation, spending an average 22 hours a year just taking the exams, let alone preparing for them.

The efforts of testing companies to secure and expand their business have helped pushed American schools toward an overbearing focus on assessment – one that has failed to achieve its desired result of dramatically improving student and school performance. Here’s the story of how we got to this point.

It is a sad story, an awful story, that involves lobbyists, business plans, and billions of dollars. Nothing good there for students or teachers.

Every blogger who has written about MSNBC’s Public Education Forum expressed gratitude that a big cable network paid attention to our most important democratic institution.

Nancy Bailey is angry about the issues that were ignored, the ones that threaten the future of students, teachers, and public education.

She is also streamed that the program was not on live TV. Public education not important enough for live TV? 50 million children are in public schools. They have parents. Quite an audience to overlook.

Good work, Nancy!

She writes (in part, read it all):

Candidates talked about making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes to help schools, but no one mentioned Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg or any of the corporate reformers who are taking control of public schools.

They didn’t mention Common Core or the failure of the initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation and taxpayers. Nor did they speak about portfolio schools, the latest corporate endeavor to push choice and charters.

No one mentioned using Social Impact Bonds or Pay for Success to profit off of public schools. See: “Wall Street’s new way of making money from public education — and why it’s a problem” by Valerie Strauss.

CEO Tom Steyer mentioned corporate influence towards the end, but it was brief, and no moderator attempted to explore what he said.

Ed-Tech

No one mentioned what might be the biggest threat to public education, the replacement of teachers and brick-and-mortar schools with technology.

Disruption was initially described by Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn in their book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. This is seen as the revolution by those in business and the tech industry and is being played out in online charter schools like Summit and Rocketship. Summit also has an online virtual school.

Many students across the country get school vouchers to be used for substandard online instruction like K12 and Connections Academy.Preschoolers are subjected to unproven Waterford UPSTART.

The candidates might want to review Tultican’s “Ed Tech About Profits NOT Education.”

Wrench in the Gears is another blog good at describing the threat of technology.

Teach for America

Teach for America corps members with little training have taken over classrooms, and they run state departments of education!

Do Democratic candidates have Teach for America corps members as consultants on their campaigns? It’s troubling if they do. They should not be wooing teachers with professional degrees and experience while relying on TFA behind the scenes.

Other insidious reform groups are also about replacing education professionals. Relay Graduate School, The New Teacher Project, New Leaders are a few.

This needs to be addressed, sooner, not later.

Betsy DeVos et al.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy hearing Democratic candidates say they’re going to boot Education Secretary Betsy DeVos out.

But President Obama had individuals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other corporate reform groups, working in the U.S. Department of Education. Arne Duncan was no friend to teachers or public schools.

So, while applause against DeVos are justifiable, now’s the time to address the role Democrats have played (and continue to play) in corporate school reform.

The fact is, many groups and individuals are working to end public education, who wear Democratic name tags. It’s imperative that Democratic candidates address this.

 

Nancy Bailey writes here about the idea–promoted by NCLB, Race to the Top, and Common Core– that kindergarten children should know how to read. She says this is wrong.

Young children should be encouraged to speak and listen, she writes, which is something they do while playing and interacting with other children.

She writes:

With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core State Standards, some adults have been led to believe that four- and five-year-old children should read by the end of kindergarten. Preschoolers are pushed to be ready for formal reading instruction by the time they enter kindergarten.

This is a dangerous idea rooted in corporate school reform. Children who struggle to read might inaccurately believe they have a problem, or reading could become a chore they hate.

Pushing children to focus on reading means they miss listening and speaking skills, precursors to reading. These skills are developed through play, which leads to interest in words and a reason to want to read.

Some children might learn to read in kindergarten, and others might show up to kindergarten already reading, but many children are not ready to read when they are four or five years old. And just because a child knows how to read in kindergarten, doesn’t mean they won’t have other difficulties with speech and listening.

When children come to schools from poor home environments, much of what they’ve missed involves a variety of language skills like speech and learning how to listen. When children have disabilities, speaking and listening skills are critical.

Forcing children to focus on reading early denies children opportunities to work on those other missing skills.

Also, there’s no research, no evidence that a child’s brain has evolved to indicate children can and should read earlier. Our culture has changed, but children have not. Even if new reading methods are developed that assist children to be better readers, there’s no reason to push children to read before they are ready.

In the drive for higher test scores, play has been minimized or eliminated. This is a crime against children.

This is a good time to recommend some reading: Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle, Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive. 

 

 

In the era of Bush-Obama education policy, it became conventional wisdom to blame schools for the effects of poverty. Civil rights lawyer Wendy Lecker explains that the test-and-punish regime continues by blaming schools and punishing them for chronic absenteeism. 

She writes:

NCLB measured school quality based on standardized test scores and relied on sanctions such as school turnaround, takeover and privatization. After almost two decades under NCLB, and the acknowledgment that the metric was inaccurate and the prescriptions were ineffective, the federal government decided to try a tweaked version of its failed test-and-punish regime.

The ESSA system employs multiple “indicators” of school quality. Each indicator provides schools and districts with points that together dictate what types of sanctions are imposed. The dashboard showing the schools’ and districts’ points for each indicator are also published online.

Nowhere on this dashboard is the state graded for whether or not it adequately funds Connecticut public schools, even though nationwide evidence proves a causal connection between school spending and student achievement.

One indicator under Connecticut’s ESSA plan is chronic absenteeism. The rationale Connecticut provides for including this indicator is the research and data demonstrating an association of chronic absenteeism to student academic achievement and high school graduation. What the ESSA plan does not detail are the causes of absenteeism.

A new study from Wayne State University tracks the incidence of chronic absenteeism across U.S. cities. The researchers found that nationwide, certain factors are significantly correlated with chronic absenteeism, namely: long-term population change, asthma rates, poverty and unemployment rates, residential vacancy rates, violent crime rates, average monthly temperature, and racial segregation.

Thus, although under Connecticut’s accountability system, chronic absenteeism is an indicator of school quality, and can contribute to a school or school district being subjected to increasingly draconian sanctions, none of the factors listed above that are significantly correlated with chronic absenteeism has anything to do with school.

Common sense in federal education policy would be nice for a change.

John Merrow writes here about the stagnant scores reported on NAEP, PISA, and every other measure. They are an indictment of the test-centric policies of Bush, Obama, and Trump, he says.

He writes:

Given the PISA results and the harsh truth that NAEP scores have been disappointing for many years, it’s time to rename NAEP. Let’s call it the National Assessment of Educational Paralysis, because paralysis accurately describes what has been going on for more than two decades of “School Reform” under the test-centric policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Unless and until we renounce these misguided “School Reform” policies developed under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, educational paralysis will continue, and millions of children will continue to be mis-educated and under-educated.

Right now, too many school districts over-test, which means their teachers under-teach. Too often their leaders impose curricula that restrict teachers’ ability to innovate.  At the same time, these narrow curricula have curtailed or eliminated art, music, physical education, recess, drama, and even science.  Today many districts judge teachers largely by student test scores, leading teachers to devote more and more class time to test-prep, not teaching and exploration of idea.  This is what I and others label the ‘test-and-punish’ approach to education, instead of a far more desirable ‘assess to improve’ philosophy.