LETTERS TO CAL-EM A PERSONAL HISTORY OF HIGHLAND By Nick Smith
For more Screwed, enter ‘Screwed’ in the Looking for Something box and read away!
NCLB, PART II
No Child Left Behind or no teacher left employed or no school district left operational or no public school left.
The main distinction between an American President and the Pope is the Pope only expects you to kiss his ring. [Unknown Author]
Washington (CNN) – Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday his department estimates that four out of five schools in the United States will not make their “No Child Left Behind” benchmarks by the law’s target year of 2014 — and when the test scores are counted for the current school year, numbers could show that U.S. schools are already at that failure rate.
He blamed that failure rate on the law itself, not on schools.
“This law has created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed. We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk,” Duncan told the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Under the No Child Left Behind law, originally passed in 2001, all students are expected to meet a level of “proficiency” by 2014. Because standards under No Child Left Behind are higher from year to year as 2014 approaches, the percentage of schools that are not meeting “Adequate Yearly Progress” could rise from the current level of 37% to 82%, Duncan said.
Duncan pointed out that federal law requires states and districts to “implement the same set of interventions in every school that is not meeting AYP, regardless of the individual needs and circumstances of those schools.”
Under the Education Department’s estimates, 82% of America’s schools “could be labeled ‘failing’ and, over time, the required remedies for all of them are the same — which means we will really fail to serve the students in greatest need,” said Duncan.
“By mandating and prescribing one-size-fits-all solutions, No Child Left Behind took away the ability of local and state educators to tailor solutions to the unique needs of their students,” Duncan said calling the concept “fundamentally flawed.”
Duncan was on Capitol Hill to both push for the re-authorization and revamping of the No Child Left Behind law, and to defend President Barack Obama’s budget request for 2012.
The 2012 budget request comes to $77.4 billion — an increase of $4.5 billion over the 2011 request.
Republicans on the committee questioned any increase in the budget in the current economic climate.
Committee chairman Rep. John Kline, R-Minnesota, said in his opening remarks, “As we work to answer the question about the appropriate role for the federal government in education, one thing is for sure: it must be less costly and less intrusive.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, asked the secretary if he thought he could be successful without an increase in funding saying, “If you cut the right way and put the money into the systems that you know work, could you do that?”
The education secretary answered, “We have to do that, anyway, and I continue to think we under-invest” compared to higher-performing countries. [Duncan: ‘No Child Left Behind’ creates failure for U.S. schools, By Sally Holland, CNN, March 9, 2011 10:01 p.m. EST]
Surprise, surprise, surprise! What? No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was a bad law. Every teacher knew that NCLB was a totally bogus, lame, unworkable, unfair and downright silly law from the day it was passed. Of course, no one asked us. Every teacher knew the impossibility of the law, and every teacher knew from the first day of its enactment that they were destined for failure, termination and humiliation and that their schools would be failures as well, restructured, closed or taken over by the state. Now, twelve years after its passage, many politicians and state governments and even parents have begun to discover what teachers knew all along: a misguided reliance on one-size-fits-all testing, labeling, embarrassing and sanctioning schools, punishing schools, threatening schools and closing schools has failed the American education system, its students and their parents. In fact, a review of the whole NCLB program reveals that after 12 years it has neither significantly increased academic achievement nor significantly reduced the achievement gaps between people as measured by standardized exams.
It’s time to admit the failures and get this whole federally directed monkey off the backs of education and educators. All the federal government has done is succeed in ruining the entire educational system in this country. Policymakers must abandon their faith-based embrace of test-and-punish strategies and, instead, get their political gridlock out of the business of education and into the business of doing something (anything) for this country besides fight among themselves and profess supposed differences that don’t seem to aid anyone.
Shop for NCAA Bowl Game Merchandise
The data accumulated over ten years make three things clear:
- NCLB has severely damaged educational quality and equity, with its narrowing and limiting effects falling most severely on the poor.
- NCLB failed to significantly increase average academic performance and significantly narrow achievement gaps. And,
- So-called “reforms,” such as the Obama Administration’s waivers and the Senate Education Committee’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill, fail to address many of NCLB’s fundamental flaws and in some cases will intensify them. These proposals will extend a
“lost decade for U.S. schools.” (Progress, NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from this Policy Failure? By Lisa Guisbond with Monty Neill and Bob Schaeffer January 2012.)
Despite a decade’s worth of solid evidence documenting the failure of NCLB and similar high-stakes testing schemes, and despite mounting evidence from the U.S. and other nations about how to improve schools, policymakers cling to discredited models. This is particularly tragic for families who hoped their children’s long wait for equal educational opportunity might be ending. It is also tragic for our public
education system, whose reputation has been sullied by promises not kept and expensive
intervention schemes that do more harm than good.
No Child Left Behind’s ten-year report card offers little cause for celebration, whether you judge the law narrowly on its own terms or look more deeply at its impact.
- No Child Left Behind’s own narrow gauges of progress reveal major shortcomings: growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has stalled, achievement gaps are stagnant, and predictions of widespread school “failure” are coming true.
- The curriculum has narrowed, test preparation has displaced broader schooling, cheating is rampant, there is too little help for schools in need, and NCLB has contributed to the growth of a pernicious school-to-prison pipeline.
- A narrow focus on testing and punitive accountability has caused policymakers to ignore the real educational consequences of child poverty, which has grown significantly in recent years.
Instead of helping to create circumstances in which schools can provide a rich, well-rounded curriculum and address the needs of individual students, the law has pressed schools to narrow curriculum, teach to the test, and resort to deceptive and unethical ways to boost test scores. It has done so by defining student learning and school quality in the narrow terms of standardized exam results. Even though the state of Iowa has a waiver from NCLB, we are still pushing on with the Iowa core curriculum in order to comply with the Obama Race to the Top program for grant money. I don’t get it. We actually know that standards are a failure, resulting in the lowest denominator of educational proficiency. Look what Iowa did under NCLB; using the ITED and ITBS standardized norm tests to determine student proficiency. What a joke. They made the 41st percentile the proficiency level on the test, which meant that a student could be two years below grade level and still be considered proficient in the subject area. I can only cringe at the common core.
Cal-Em, we must do better than this. Every teacher knows that a norm-referenced test like the ITED is designed to spread the students out, not show their level of understanding. If there is a student at the 99th percentile, there must be one at the first percentile. The entire testing and labeling system was misleading from the very start. The MAP testing that we did was at least criterion referenced but it was not a true measure of what students knew. The only accurate testing that I know of is a teacher-made test created by the teacher who instructed the students covering the material that was taught. Forcing students to take high-stakes tests based on information that they may or may not have examined is biased and blatantly misguided. I used to watch my students take those tests. Many who were not at that particular grade level, for whatever reason, were frustrated and demoralized. It was even worse when Highland ran contests between classes to see which class could do the best on the standardized tests. This created winners and losers, and it created blame for the lack of success that usually fell on the shoulders of the disabled learners.
If it were up to me, there would be no grades, no testing, and no blame.
. ***Please read the disclaimer to the right. The preceding was is the latest in several installments by former teacher and school board member for the Highland Community School District, Nick Smith. They are lessons to a future student, Cal-Em