Posts Tagged ‘No Child Left Behind’

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.

 

 

 

The Testing Industry and Who Believes In It

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Do you believe in the companies that develop tests for schools and increase their capital on the backs of grade 3-12 students who take the test? Who are supported by the companies that provide on-line services and others who gather data from the tests to decide which teacher is doing well and which teacher isn’t? Is that a good use of state and federal money? And basing teacher salary on the performance of that year’s students? As scary as the witch and sorcerer myths about Hallowe’en!

This blog has written about on-line assessment and the technology preparation needed in schools for success. You can see examples of reading/language arts questions and math questions being prepared by going to PARCC or Smarter Balanced. As has been said, the anxiety is over on-line access, especially in the rural parts of the country.

The Common Core State Standards will provide the background for teaching subjects at each grade level in 45 states in America. The controversy about “this state teaches that and that other state never begins the subject until two years later” will resolve itself. For examples, go to www.teachingchannel.org/challenge. If you’re in education, sounds good, doesn’t it?

Student proficiency will be the same all over America because all students take the same exam, but two other all-important issues exist for the PARCC and Smarter Balanced collaborations.

First, what kind of testing will be used? Are we going to continue with the once-a-year summative exam, i.e., finding one score for everything the student has learned over the term. Then stick the student with that number until the following year. Or is the plan going to use formative exams which are taken 3-4 times a year, analyzed, and classroom teaching and tutoring adjusted. Pick one or the other system. Do not, however, give both kinds of exams which take days of time and frustration for the school, the parents, and the children.

Second, what is going to be done with all those assessments? Business leaders and pundits have myriad solutions, most of which downgrade public schools and praise vouchers, charter schools, private and parochial schools. Politicians can’t even come up with legislation due 5 years ago to revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now called “No Child Left Behind.” Some states and school districts have already used assessments to establish accountability for teachers as if that is going to make students succeed.

The companies that develop tests aren’t going to fix anything else. That leaves the universities and colleges who train teachers. What can education professors do? Should teacher’s colleges be more selective? Set a high bar because teaching is a serious profession. Should study be more rigorous? In California it’s almost de rigueur to have a Master’s Degree. How about sustained experience in the classroom? Look at the video on PBS “What Makes a Good Teacher” for one opinion. Perhaps a study for new teachers about education controversies so they learn to stand up for themselves? Ask for better pay and sufficient school budgets. And insist on being part of the team that makes decisions about testing.

 

Testy Words About Testing

Monday, April 8th, 2013
analyzing data from test results

analyzing data from test results

Them’s fightin’ words! Atlanta schools’ superintendent and a throng of teachers are alleged to have manipulated yearly tests in an effort to improve Atlanta’s public schools’ reputation. The last few months Atlanta’s school superintendent is the center of news attention.

You can bet there’s evidence on both sides of the question. You can put money on the fact that the case will erupt into a huge controversy of pros and cons about testing in the so-called No Child Left Behind legislation (not revised since 2007).

There are advantages to testing as promoted since 2003 by NCLB.

  • State departments of education have been forced to regularize state testing.
  • State departments of education can use data to see which public schools are doing well and which are not, so various remedies can be applied.
  • This tool can be used in plans for evaluation of schools, administrators, and teachers. This idea led to the controversial “value-added” assessments in Los Angeles.
  • Assuming knowledge is cumulative, tests let the analysts know if the test-taker has accrued the learning expected at a certain grade level.

Testing controversy has been addressed regularly by American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and affiliates. President Obama in 2009 called on Congress to revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the actual name for NCLB. Ultimately the federal Department of Education under the new superintendent set out its own new guidelines which started a rapid change for each state to upgrade its public schools, in spite of the recession. Came further lobbying for charter schools and choice-vouchers. Came Common Core Standards. Came federal waivers as 2014 neared and states complained that they could not reach the absurd goals set by the un-revised  NCLB.

Little federal word came out about testing design or strategy. Hard to believe! The disadvantages of the current testing model enrage all types from Diane Ravitch to Bill Gates, not just AFT and NEA.

  • The current goals set by NCLB’s Adequate Yearly Progress plan can’t be reached by all students in the country.
  • States were allowed to design their own tests and decide on levels of student proficiency. Results can’t be compared state by state from the outcomes of tests taken.
  • State promoted tests are not required by parochial or private schools. How can those schools be championed to be “best?”
  • Failing schools have received less money or been closed. While the issues of school districts may require some closures, the problem of testing is not helped or discussed in the debates.
  • Preparation for yearly testing has left less time for art, music, physical education in the elementary grades.

What is not addressed? All the difficulties with the current model of testing.

Who takes the test? Is it a criterion-referenced test like authorized in California or a standardized test? (A degree in statistics is needed to understand the difference.) How is each test designed? (Common Core Standards have been developed to make exams comparable.) Why does “proficiency” depend on which state you live in? (Only the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress provides a nation-wide sample of how students are performing in math and language arts and it has many critics.)

Last, but not least, recall that private companies design the tests for public school districts and make a lot of money nation-wide.

Until tests are designed and implemented so schools and teachers can analyze how to help students; until it is recognized that some children are not good test takers but may have other traits to be supported; until a magical test is designed that can evaluate a highly-qualified teacher, arguments will only be arbitrated in the court.

Public schools and students deserve better.

Stand up for legislation that helps kids

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

This warm summer parents continue to worry about finances: how to pay the mortgage and other utilities, buy food, save for health care premiums, clip early coupons for school supplies, and contemplate a short vacation if they have money left. They don’t have much time. School begins mid-August unless students go to a year-round school which is already in session.

In the meantime, the news media tells how conservatives in the House of Representatives have determined a reauthorization of Farm Bill HR 6083 and reduction of the deficit by cutting funds for food stamps and school lunches ($16.1 billion to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]). Note that small farmer surpluses reduce the cost of school lunches and provide products for food assistance to families with low-incomes. The farm bill will, however, spare cuts to agribusiness subsidies.

California is one of the fifty states with hefty budget problems still unresolved. Students, notably in low-income neighborhoods, will go back to schools for which renovation money has been yanked to bolster other state services.  The California lawsuit settled in 2005 to fund repairs in dilapidated schools with health and safety hazards has never been adequately implemented. Teachers and students continue to walk over fallen ceiling tiles and skirt around mouse traps.

With some nerve, conservative pundits criticize the one federal program authorized under the current administration to give states waivers to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.  States that provide a good plan to reform their low-performing schools will be allowed to adjust the unreachable required 2014 levels of proficiency in math and reading. Congress, as this blog has noted time and again, has not been able to legislate a revision to the NCLB Act. Nevertheless, Michael Gerson of The Washington Post, “The Quiet Overturn of NCLB,” July 20, 2012, wrote, “New accountability systems will once again be so confusing that no taxpayer or parent can understand them.” Such a statement doesn’t note the abundance of excellent accountability systems that are being implemented and have been explained in this blog.

Last, if, by December 2012, the erratic Congress doesn’t resolve its fight over raising revenue and chopping government funds, parents, teachers, and students will feel a severe contraction of services to education and the safety net.

What will happen? Education will be gutted and the safety net will shrink because federal funds to the state will shrivel. Notice of these calamities is reported in the Annie B. Casey Foundation annual rankings.

Talk to your Congressional representatives. Thank them if they are looking out for education needs; correct them if they do not see the outcomes for students on end-of-year votes.

Waivers Set Off More Change

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The news that five more states have received waivers from Congress’s 2001 No Child Left Behind Act adds up to 29 states so far that have requested help from the United States Department of Education.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation which has cluttered Senate and House committee desks since the 2007 date for revision, still has not made it to any votes. Therefore, action by the U.S. Department of Education allows states to make changes. Several other states who have sent applications for waivers have not received notification yet. And Iowa, for instance, had no measures for teacher performance in its application and was returned for further development.

For a state to get a waiver to abandon NCLB goals of 100% student academic grade level status by 2014, the application must have new reasonable standards in place that evaluate school and teacher progress for student academic success. The waivers must emphasize service to special education, English Language Learners, and economically disadvantaged youth. Test scores on a yearly summative test must be used as only one of several factors such as peer review, graduation rates, and attendance to establish school success.

Waivers are big news. Another specific issue in the media concerns middle school age students. (See New York Times, 6-18-2012, The Middle School Conundrum) Should those students be relegated to separate schools with teachers who are isolated from elementary teachers? Often, especially with budget cuts by state legislatures, teachers do not receive professional development that may open eyes to the range of academic and social/emotional issues for that age student.

The question comes down to support K-8 schools or 6-8 middle schools. Honestly, the configuration of school demographics and infrastructure for each school district will determine the outcome. Either way, the administration and faculty must set up the school program to care for the intellectual range and be sensitive to the emotional needs of these students.

No state education department want students to fail a reading or math course, have a poor attendance rate, receive marks for unsatisfactory behavior. That student is unlikely to graduate.

With the possibility of failure or success in mind, Ohio has been in the news for revising its school goals. (See The Plain Dealer 7-2012) With a GOP governor and legislature, a Democratic mayor in Cleveland, a strong superintendent of Cleveland schools, and 2010 Race to the Top funds, the state will put a new plan in place by the 2013-2014 school year, affecting all state schools but especially Cleveland.

The most important changes were agreed to by all from the governor to the teachers. The school principals as well as teachers will be observed, asked to establish yearly goals, and be evaluated on them. Principals will be required to assert more academic leadership, not just address the budget and discipline. Evaluations for all school employees will determine hiring, moving to another school, and raises. Seniority will not be the factor it once was. Besides test scores, staff will take part in team professional activities and engage the community.

For Cleveland Schools, the need for change is most important. The schools have depressed scores which has led to Watch status. Passage of a tax bond will be required to support changes in Cleveland.

Hope for success.