Archive for the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ Category

Compare Education Views of 2016 Presidential Candidates

Friday, July 29th, 2016

No doubt, no time to linger over the education positions of the presidential candidates for the November elections: the new school year approaches. So, scan this summary.

Donald Trump, GOP candidate, has only a video issues website. In talk, he sticks to education points he has made since 2000. There is too much money, waste, fraud, and abuse in school systems and in the United States Department of Education. It’s not clear what he refers to when he says ‘abuse’ – cruel disciplinary punishment in schools (some evidence exists) or funding abuse.

He threatens to cut the Department of Education because it is a federal body, and it set up the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that he wants to get rid of. Education should be managed through each local, not the federal, government (i.e. the state). However, The Washington Post’s article by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, 2/2/2016, reminds us that the CCSS was crafted by bipartisan state governors and school chiefs (with major funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and the decision for states to adopt was voluntary – so it is already a local choice, not federal.

He does know about for-profit higher education, as we’ve all heard. He is likely to desire loosening regulations for accreditation, although he has not approached the higher education issue since word has spread about his attempt at a for-profit college. Also, Trump is opposed to ‘gun-free’ zones on school campuses and, last, he has come out against unions.

 

One can read in depth about Hillary Clinton’s education plans. The most written about is her proposal for higher education students to reduce debt from loans and tuition fees. A student from a family making $85,000 will be compensated to go to a four-year institution by 2017, and a student from a family making $125,000 by 2021. It is proposed to make community college tuition free. States must invest, colleges and universities must account for student success and low tuition. In addition to money for minority student colleges, all proposals will be paid for by limiting tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers.

For K-12 education, the most valuable programs are to modernize teacher preparation, support, and pay; to use a “Modernize Every School bond” to provide capital for infrastructure needs: energy efficiency, asbestos removal, science labs, and high-speed broadband; and to provide universal pre-school and child care investments for which parents pay less than 10% of their income.

 

Now, Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice-Presidential running mate, has one neutral education position: he voted against No Child Left Behind (because of federal intrusion) before the standards were seen as impossible. When he became governor in 2012, he got rid of CCSS to which his predecessor had agreed. He insisted the standards were a federal intrusion. Then he turned around and spent money to devise Indiana’s own standards, suspiciously similar to CCSS. Because of turmoil about CCSS-based testing Mr. Pence paid for a new test based on the Indiana standards. Everyone complained and so another test is being designed to use in 2018. Is this expensive or what?

The governor has been a full-throated supporter of charter schools and school vouchers. A second good thing is he started pre-school programs, but dancing around his dislike of federal money, grant applications have been written, pulled, and submitted again, destabilizing anything good for schools. In addition, he has slashed public school funds in order to pay for corporate tax exemptions.

 

What can Clinton’s Vice-Presidential candidate Tom Kaine bring to the ticket? His emphasis has always been civil rights, but as governor he is known for the gun safety laws he pushed through the legislature after the massacre at Virginia Tech. Also he pushed for high quality pre-K accessibility. He opposes school vouchers. In the Senate, he wrote a bill to extend the interest rate cuts for college student loans and increase in tuition assistance at the state level.

On July 27, 2016, Vice-President Joe Biden reminded voters that “Being a teacher is not what you do, it’s what you are.” That is how Take Care Schools looks at the candidates – to see who is supporting what you are.

SAT or Not 

Monday, November 16th, 2015
high school in southern California

high school in southern California

In spring 2016 a “new” SAT test, aligned with the Common Core State Standards, will be offered to high school juniors. In both the English section and the Math section, there will be more creative thinking, problem solving, and evidence-based answers from which to choose. I answered sample questions for a passage of text from a speech about impeachment by Barbara Jordan (New York Times, Education Life, November 1, 2015, p.10) and, politically interested in the article, I enjoyed thinking through the questions and answers. Most high school students would not appreciate the history of the piece, but as PrepMatters states, the questions are not traps, mysteries, or obscure.

It is still the case that exam results differentiate between high income students, able to take test prep classes, find more books available, attend schools which stress grades and graduation, and students that live in poor neighborhoods and don’t have access to the above.

Which brings us to the trouble for schools that cannot count on well-educated parents and high-achieving students to show off their success. Do we not want poor-performing students to see the value of an education, even if they should go for welding, not philosophy (as Marco Rubio so casually suggests)? The United States Department of Education is going to have a new leader. It is my wish that he concentrate on those schools and districts that need to rebuild themselves so that middle and high school dropout rates are reduced and graduation rates improve.

I continue to advocate for improved university teacher preparation to adequately train student teachers. I advocate for funds to assign teachers willing-to-stay at troubled schools and to provide the support they need to make a change. I advocate for models where the elementary, high school, and community college in a region work together to improve student outcomes from Kindergarten to college graduation.

Unfortunately, this school year 2015-2016 has seen a huge surge in teacher shortages country-wide at all levels, but especially in special education, bilingual education, math and science. Numerous articles show the reasons that stand out: poor salaries and inadequate funding for curricular programs; attacks on tenure; reduced collective bargaining; constant pressure to evaluate teachers based on the once-a-year test mandated by No Child Left Behind legislation and continuing even though teachers, students, and parents have said enough is enough; little time for authentic teaching because of all the tests required by plans for school reform.

Even  the latest attention to the idea that a class led by three or four great teachers in a row, in spite of poor attendance, large classes, weak school leadership, and students impacted by social problems, can raise the academic success of his/her students does not hold up over time.

So, the price for an excellent SAT score still is the student’s educated parents, lots of books, attendance at a high-performing school, and desire to be high-achieving. That doesn’t mean that a student who gets an average score can’t go to college, but choose carefully and hope your school district tackles the stakes at hand so good teachers enter and remain in the field.

 

 

 

School Days 2015-16

Monday, August 17th, 2015
rural California high school

rural California high school

A new school year begins country-wide, but few newly credentialed teachers frantically interview, cross their fingers, hope to find a position before the first day students appear. It’s the school districts that are frantic. Why?

School districts wouldn’t be the in this situation if there were enough teachers who remained at their assigned school. But, as you have heard many times, new teachers often leave after five years. New hires are few because experienced teachers who move to a new state have licensing trouble. Higher Education teacher preparation lags.

Districts wouldn’t be in trouble if sufficient budgeted funds for the school year were settled before October of the new school year. Does it make sense for a legislature to fight and schools to wait?

Districts would not be on the horns of this dilemma if salaries were high enough to make new teachers jump to replace retiring faculty. Right now, the only money perk in most school districts is health benefits. Do you hear ca-ching when a teacher sees the salary schedule and must repay debt for an education, buy a house, support a family?

Schools would not be in turmoil, even schools that are low-performing, if teachers had the opportunity for substantial professional development and leadership roles to “own” the school.

The final reason teachers are fed-up is testing. Not that students shouldn’t be tested, but the school districts and the states are unable to stand back and make testing decisions that benefit students first and parents, teachers, administrators last.

The latest protest confuses the Common Core State Standards (which strive to close the achievement gap for public school students in this country) with the fury about testing that has overwhelmed certain schools from the highest-achieving to the lowest-performing.

The disapproval is based on the number of tests that students take during the school year, an average of 113 country-wide. Critics blame the federal government under which the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a Congressional measure, is still the law and mandates accountability for students, teachers, schools, and districts. But only seven (7) assessments are required under federal law. They include the reading and math yearly assessments, testing to measure the fluency of English Language Learners, and assessment for Special Education. Anything else is designated by the state and district where the protest should be directed.

Teacher concern is based on the time used for assessment. According to the National Education Association (“Thousands of Students Opt Out of Common Core Tests in Protest” Associated Press, Christine A. Cassidy, April18, 2015), 30% of school year time is devoted to test preparation, proctoring, and reviewing results. In the view of this blog, analysis of test scores is valid, if time is set aside for such work and if teachers have the power to make curriculum decisions based on those results.

Another teacher criticism of assessment is the weight of student testing proficiency (which can be up to 50%) included in the teacher’s yearly evaluation. This year in revision of NCLB, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, not yet made into law, the Senate allows states to determine the weight to give tests when evaluating teacher and school performance. Oh, great!

In the end, parent protest to opt out of testing has reached a crescendo in states that use PARCC assessment, like New York and Colorado. On the other hand, in California and other states, opting out is legally authorized and is rarely used. Also, California has determined that schools will not be held accountable for results this year. However, in the spring 2015 California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance, a substantial number of 11th grade students in four high-achieving high schools in affluent areas of the state opted out. One high school with 37% low-performing students had a high rate of opting out. California has 9,324 public schools (2015 statistics).

Try these three (3) actions. Strongly advocate for alternative assessments at sessions of state and district school boards. Insist on funds so teachers have time to learn to analyze the assessments. Concede that teachers be paid to take time to assure assessment provides adjustments to learning. That’s how the achievement gap will close.

Opt Out

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Has the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) thought about the variety of students who must be assessed?

Or is each state, member of a consortium or not, only thinking of assessment in terms of the numbers No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires, which is still not revised in Congress?

The “opt out” strategy that has swept across the country, mainly in PARCC assessment states, but also in SBAC states, sheds glaring light. This post will look over the statements made about “opting out.”

“Opt out” supporters do not like the over-emphasis on testing; but also feel that student data privacy is not protected under the current assessment requirements. In reading various blogs and reports by parents on “opt out,” it can be claimed that middle class, educated parents and students are rebelling against the national fanaticism for testing. As has been said many times, students that come from high income, educated communities always do well. Testing all the time does not serve their learning well. Also, these parents have long been leery of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA. Note that in January 2015, President Obama called for revised federal legislation to regulate student data privacy. Up to Congress to change the current FERPA.

Let’s look at the national United Opt Out website. United Opt Out’s position is that corporations are dominating high-stakes testing decisions that the site intimates has influence over Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the consortia, and  the United States Department of Education. The website names ACHIEVE, a partner of the testing corporation Pearson, and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) which advocates for free markets, limited government, and federalism.

From my perspective, even more paranoid are the views named in the book Crimes of the Educators written by Alex Newman and Sam Blumenthal. Mr. Newman, in his post for Brave New Schools on WND News, “Common Core: Obama’s Assault on Children” (4/12/2015) wants to “stop the nightmarish plot and keep liberty alive.” He includes CCSS in the testing tirade. He has said that CCSS shapes minds with propaganda and reduces critical thinking for nefarious purposes. He asserts CCSS is a federal encroachment on every child’s education and that the assessments leave privacy of student records open to the world. He places guilt on the Obama administration, the UN, crony capitalists hoping to profit, population control zealot and Common Core financier Bill Gates, and “the whole corrupt educational establishment”. According to his convictions, students should “opt out.” Now, to whom is he speaking?

School districts from Seattle, Washington, to Pacific Grove, California, to the state of Colorado and New York have counted thousands of students and parents opting out of this year’s tests. Many districts have made applications that must be signed. Only California (SBAC) and Utah have regulations that allow parents and students to “opt out.” Since the country must still abide by the regulations under NCLB, state and school district administrators pale with fear of punitive measures because schools must include the number of test takers to fulfill the Adequate Yearly Progress, known as AYP, reports still required by federal law.

Before thinking that getting rid of the federal government’s place in schools will solve the CCSS and assessment problem, ask the administrators at SBAC and PARCC if they have thought of how to equip the United States’ diverse schools, students, and teachers for this future? Opting out does not help student achievement; supportive alternatives are the answer.

What about supporting diverse needs? Look for the next post that will address the problems for the actual tests.

 

 

Three Ways to Help a School

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Believe it or not the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted last week to bring its revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known to teachers in the 21st century as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), to the Senate floor.

Understand, only the Senate’s committee has voted for any change – not the entire Senate — and reconciliation must occur with House of Representatives legislation. ESEA has not been revised—disagreement has reigned over options and policy — since NCLB was passed and signed in 2001. The original bill was designed to be revised every seven years to address poverty and unequal education in America.

Why hasn’t complete revision yet been made? These days, why does this blogger suspect politics — not success for students — is the culprit? Look at who is the current president. Look at the mean-spirited lawmakers who run the current Congress.

It can be said that the latest is an amazing reconciliation among 22 members of the Senate committee. Committee leaders, Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), must have patiently twisted recalcitrant arms after hearing enough from the public who, I’m thinking, said “We’re not going to take it anymore!” At least I wish they had.

According to Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers, the legislation “moves away from the counterproductive focus on sanctions and high-stakes test, and ends federalized teacher evaluations and school closings.” Opinion, p.2, New York Times, Sunday, April 19, 2015.

So what will help a school succeed, if a low-performing school no longer spends the day on high-stakes tests and teacher evaluation? The country is full of foundations researching and reporting on good educational programs that succeed in low-performing neighborhood schools. One foundation study that has caught my eye is the series of reports from The Wallace Foundation relating to the need for valuable leadership in a school. Since the possible – notice, I said possible – revised ESEA legislation will support strategies for under-performing schools in impoverished neighborhoods, it behooves districts to train new principals to be those leaders. Read the reports! They emphasize the ways for a district to expand the number of quality principals. They provide tools to achieve leadership quality.

Once strong leadership is established, and once high-stakes testing is no longer the be-all and end-all of the school year, an abundance of programs can help teachers improve student behavior and academics. Articles from workshops and education magazines have shared math projects, said to improve both confident behavior and student academic success.

Have you, high school teachers, been introduced to Build, a program that leverages both reading and math literacy? Districts using this model can be found on both coasts. In a ninth grade course, students form a partnership of four and divide responsibilities to design and produce a product, design a business plan with a budget, marketing plans, and consumer services. One product I read about was a bracelet made from melted toothbrushes decorated with motivational slogans. Sweet, as kids say. Designed in 1999 for East Palo Alto schools by Suzanne McKechnie Klar, by now students even make pitches to venture advisors.

A larger project motivates middle school students in a school with math abilities from kindergarten to eighth grade levels. It’s called School of One and it’s expensive. However, it uses computers for teaching, not playing computer and video games, it does more for teachers than design, administer, and score tests. At one school, on any day, you may see four seventh grade math teachers work with 120 kids, some individually, some small group, others working on a group math project. The teachers’ computer program analyzes the quizzes from the previous day, organizes the period for the day, and students check the monitors when they enter to know what their station is. At the end of the day, they take quizzes again which tell the teachers what the student should do the next day.

Critics have said that such a model is disruptive and hard to organize. So? It’s disruptive when students are not being taught at their level. The organization is geared to improve their achievement. New Classroom Innovations Partners can support introduction and management. Again this teaching model can be found across the country.

Three strategies to implement if school boards no longer have to spend time on high-stakes tests and sanctions: good school-site leadership, and two math models to improve achievement for all the graduates in the 21st century. Cross your fingers!