Archive for the ‘Education Trust’ Category

Achievement

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The education world has heard the word “achievement” many times, usually commenting on the current data or survey and explaining the wonder about the “student achievement gap.”

Monday on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, there was conversation with Education Trust’s Amy Wilkins and American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess about more questions showing an achievement gap. The discussion did not organize itself around student academic achievement data. Thank goodness since such statements always set off a flurry of comment about testing. Data involving current test scores can be argued for years.

Instead the study looked at income data. Generally speaking (there are always exceptions), students in low-income areas do worse on tests than children raised in high-income areas. Mr. Hess was talking about GIFTed children in low-income areas needing support while Ms. Wilkins looked at all children.

Now, what does such data tell the lay folk? It seems that it has been said for a long time that policies need to be started that help neighborhoods, regions, and states. Unfortunately, that policy alone is not supported by Congress as a whole. Those members don’t have the political will.

As the program went on, speakers applauded teachers who are doing well and reminded the listener that those teachers do well no matter where they are, but in the long term such teachers would do more for low-income children as long as the policy of Congress or the state addressed the same problem. Isn’t happening.

The United States Department of Education is meeting with teachers today, Wednesday, February 15, 2012. It starts by offering $5 billion in grants to revisit teacher policies and is backed by the National Education Association. Who would of thunk it?

What will be said? Reform evaluation for schools and teachers; improve tests-standardized or criterion-referenced; buy technology like in Mooresville, North Carolina schools; promote parents to help with homework; provide places to do homework; decrease dropouts from high schools and promote graduation; raise taxes- suburban areas are affected when students don’t improve; stop doing what doesn’t help-use money granted in useful ways. Re-establish funds for college (Ghana and many other countries pay for students to finish). Quit arguing. See our website for ideas how to succeed without arguing.

All of the above solve part of the problem and have been written about over and over. The low-income versus high-income gap is real. Congress will have to grab political will.

Or ways to make end runs will have to be found. Mr. Hess spent a good amount of time stressing high-achievers who must be allowed to think of the change. Let’s watch and see.

Back to the Old Name for NCLB

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

When the U. S. Department of Education began to address the revisions to No Child Left Behind legislation (up to now put off several times), the first thing changed was the name.  NCLB (often pronounced Nickel B) has become toxic to most educators, governors, and state education departments.

We’re back to Elementary and Secondary Education Act aka ESEA, the original title of the legislation, in an effort to abandon the stigma attached to the NCLB revisions in 2001.

Heading the list of disliked provisions was distaste for “top down” mandates.  Seen as an especially noxious feature of NCLB legislation were mandates required by Congress with no money attached.  Even now, as word gets out about negotiations on ESEA revisions, the fear is for more top down requirements with no $$ attached.  As most states are currently in the middle of terrible fiscal times, all eyes are on m-o-n-e-y.

Looking at current deficits, states can’t bear to rewrite state tests, put new evaluation procedures in place, provide colleges adequate funds to train teachers, much less support school districts to turn around failing schools-even though, in the long term, all those revisions must occur to close the achievement gap among student groups, the top of the top priorities for ESEA revision.

On the other hand, states might as well face the facts.  The Obama administration has insisted on accountability, but no longer with a NCLB type of yearly test geared to state standards that are set to increase levels of proficiency to 100% by 2014.

As before, each state will set its own standards and choose its own test, but everyone in the education world knows how that worked under NCLB.  Lowered standards and simplified tests made the state look like it was making its benchmarks.

The overview of the ESEA legislation revisions have stressed the U. S. Department of Education’s insistence on data to show student growth and school progress over time with the plan to reward gains in closing the achievement gap among the students left behind in the ordinary school setting.

So now the focus is on the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to design common standards that become the core of each state’s plan for accountability.  This blog’s bet is that researchers at, for example, Education Trust will be comparing each state’s standards and tests so that low-performing schools are not left to fail.

As most school districts are just trying to get by for another year, such a big change in thought and structure for school reform requires investment.  Like flowers from a magician’s hat, the Race to the Top competition energized 48 states to think about change for high schools, and Title I School Improvement Grant competition sets those states to structure elementary education reform.

Get over it.  Whether a group of charter schools or a public high school district or a tiny rural public school district, someone is at the top.  Here’s the question: is the figure at the top looking ahead or keeping his/her head lowered?  Those are the stakes for legislative reform in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Where do you stand?  Paralyzed?  Or willing to grab this formidable bull of reform by the horns and wrestle it down?