Thursday, December 15, 2011

NCLB; Can We Just Kill It Now?

From the Seattle Times: (bold mine)

Nearly half of America's public schools didn't meet federal achievement standards this year, marking the largest failure rate since the much-criticized No Child Left Behind Law took effect a decade ago, according to a national report released Thursday.

The Center on Education Policy report shows more than 43,000 schools - or 48 percent - did not make "adequate yearly progress" this year. The failure rates range from a low of 11 percent in Wisconsin to a high of 89 percent in Florida.

State's scores varied wildly. For example, in Georgia, 27 percent of schools did not meet targets, compared to 81 percent in Massachusetts and 16 percent in Kansas.

That's because some states have harder tests or have high numbers of immigrant and low-income children, center officials said. It's also because the law requires states to raise the bar each year for how many children must pass the test, and some states put off the largest increase until this year to avoid sanctions.

What the Obama administration wants to do:

An overhaul of the law has become mired in the partisan atmosphere in Congress, with lawmakers disagreeing over how to fix it.


"No Child Left Behind is defective," Jennings told The Associated Press. "It needs to be changed. If Congress can't do it, then the administration is right to move ahead with waivers."

Waivers fix the immediate problem but likely will make it much more difficult for parents to understand how schools are rated because progress will no longer be based on just one test score.
Under the 11 waivers already filed, states are asking to use a variety of factors to determine whether they pass muster and to choose how schools will be punished if they don't improve.

Those factors range from including college-entrance exam scores to adding the performance of students on Advanced Placement tests.

At least 39 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have said they will file waivers, though it is unclear how many will get approved.

And Congress:

"The law needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed in Congress and not by executive action," House education committee Chairman John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, said in September after Obama announced the waivers.

Hey Chairman Kline, put up or shut up.  This has been the most do-nothing Congress ever.  Don't go after Obama if you sit on your duff.  

Educators?  Parents?

"A lot of educators saw the weaknesses in No Child Left Behind even when it was rolled out - that this day and time would come," said Georgia schools Superintendent John Barge. "It's kind of a train wreck that we all see happening."

ANYONE paying attention knew that it would be impossible for schools to get the kind of growth - across the board in all the subgroups including advanced learners - that NCLB required.

Note:  Stop reading here if you are sensitive and easily offended.

This was bullshit when it started and it's still bullshit and we need to end it now.  If Congress can't get its act together, so be it.  That's on them. 

This kind of puts a slowdown to the ed reform train if they can't continue to downgrade schools so they can take them over and "transform" them.  No wonder the Republicans are howling. 

33 comments:

mirmac1 said...

I miss the BS tag

Catherine said...

As I see it, the fundamental logic flaw with NCLB is that it assumes the next starting group of kids will have higher incoming test scores because of the work done with prior groups of kids. The "logic" extends to kids not even born yet will come in with higher test scores/capability because of the work with this year's kindergarden class.

Tests, charters, teacher evaluations, parents, teacher unions, and administration aside, it doesn't work that way.

That kids from poverty (and half of Americans currently qualify as poor or low-income Seattle times 12/14/2011) tend to have more trouble in school, exacerbates the logic flaw. As more and more kids start further and further behind... the gaps will tend to become greater. I'm not saying this is an excuse for not trying (all sides), but long standing trends should not be overlooked.

Please Stop said...

I would like the federal government to get out of the education business.

Catherine said...

@Please Stop - the Feds out of education gives me heartburn at the point where some states/localities have shown that they would choose to completely ignore certain topics, or not educated the less advantaged (race, immigration status, differently abled, as examples). I am unconvinced that all state governments would force the issue consistently enough for my liking. Where the line is, and how to keep it there, will of course be a challenge.

Maybe you have some information to share where I'd change my mind?

Anonymous said...

Anyone see the irony that Arne Duncan is being blamed today on the front of the New York Times for not getting projection of failing schools right? He used to quote 80 percent. Now down to half.

Perhaps he needs his own reform on math. More sinisterly, perhaps he took a page from Maria Goodloe Johnson's play fast n loose on statistics (ready for college) to cry FIRE and privatize the system.

Savvy voter

dan dempsey said...

It would be best to kill the US Dept. of Education now.

As reported by Valerie Strauss in the WA Post .....

We now live in a world where foundations and organizations have millions of dollars to spend lobbying and at the same time can bypass peer review in order to make a case for whatever they are selling. If you have enough money, science no longer matters.

---
A big ditto for what Duncan/Obama push based on the preferences of contributors to the 2008 Presidential campaign. ... Gates F, Dell F, Broad, Walton, & Koch et al rule.

No evidence required ever.
---

SPS Board keeps approving everything TfA with 6 votes.

If the Superintendent presents it, it is approved. Science no longer matters.

----
Catherine ... check the achievement gaps in the SPS ... the District provides only sham lip service.

The really good thing about NCLB has been the reporting required for various sub-groups of the student population. Now we know what a consistently bad job the SPS is doing for educationally disadvantaged learners. REA's Mark Teoh reported this to the Board.

Dec 7th, came Enfield's fessing up about the practices that have produced improvement at Mercer ... while failing to promote them elsewhere or put a "waiver" policy in place.

Three cheers for Mercer and its feeder schools..... Teachers at schools produce improvement not NCLB or the bloated SPS central administration.

A big BOO HISS for the Superintendent and the Strategic Plan.
----

Please no more bribery and extortion to promote the Common Core State Standards ... It is the current form of Race to the Bank for Vendors.

What a Bloated SPS Central Administration has failed to do ... may look significantly better than the results from the coming massively expensive CCSS fiasco.

Meanwhile Federal Dollars are pumped into TfA ... what a total waste of resources.

Crabby Patty said...

Hey Dan,

WOW, if NCLB and its related programs, materials tests, etc. as well as the people behind it are all BS, then I guess you can stop listing the scores that allegedly prove which schools, districts and materials work well or do not work to ease the acheivement gap. Because you can't have it both ways, dude.

Either it ALL needs to go or you need to stop yapping about the test score gaps-gaps that have existed with AND without NCLB. If the Dept. of Ed needs to go, and NCLB needs to go, and the high stakes testing needs to go, then so do the stats you use that derive from all of the above.

Anonymous said...

I said it before and I'll say it again: NCLB was DESIGNED to lead to this end. I cannot believe people cannot see that a program designed to reach 100% success at the federal level - which is physically and literally impossible - was anything but a sure-fire, fix-is-in way to toss a pineapple grenade into the middle of public education as we know it. After under-funding public education, the feds under NCLB offered money only in exchange for impossible, unreachable goals.

If I want to foreclose on my neighbors house, the easiest way to do so is to write a loan with escalating terms in it until it becomes so expensive and risky, he cannot pay it, nor will any bank refinance him out of it. Done. And I get to call him the "failure" or "loser who can't pay his bills," giving me the fig-leaf of authenticity and a convenient scapegoat to shield myself from blame and responsibility.

Dems went along with NCLB, as usual, by selling their souls to keep the federal dollars flowing, knowing it would turn out this way.

Again, and again, and again: Follow the money. Look at all these astro-turf groups and anti-teacher/anti-union comissions and such, and ask yourselves a) when they started? Answer: Right after NCLB was passed, and b) what purpose they serve? Answer: to fill the gaps left when we bust the unions and get rid of those damned expensive teachers and their pensions.

It was a trojan horse and poison pill from the day it was passed. And it almost worked. The real goals of declaring the entire US public education system as in crisis, or a "failure" was certainly achieved.

Milton Friedman's & Ayn Rand's zombie squads are smiling with glee, for certain. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

@Catherine: I share your concerns, but take a long look at NCLB, and ask yourself if Please Stop has a point. Many federal agencies are chock full of former and soon-to-be industry lobbyists. Congress lets industry write its own regulatory schemes. Wall Street marches right along. The horses left the barn long ago.

At some point, when a government turns against its people, in favor of only a select handful of deep pocketed donors, it no longer represents its citizenry, but, more importantly, it ceases to function in a manner that effectively improves its society. We are arguably at that point today, and NCLB is proof that the Dept of Ed lost its core mission a decade or more ago. It now functions primarily as an agent for the Gates Foundation and Common Core standards, while our competitors abroad are tossing such ideologies aside, recognizing how they suffocate innovation and creativity.

Yes, there may be some costs to losing the department of ed. I just don't know what they would be anymore. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

In my perfect world, every penny that is being spent by lobbyists and corporations to influence the government would, instead, go toward the social service and other people-oriented agencies instead.

Oh...and rainbows and unicorns too—and a kitten in every lap.

Solvay Girl

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think the feds have a role and that is (1) to track how the nation's kids are doing and (2) provide support in areas of weakness.

We should have ONE national test. Not 50. If we want to know how ALL the students are doing, one test. That would certainly put the cold eye on states that are the most likely to be failing their students rather than allow them to trump up ways to look better than they are.

Supports. What do states need more? Technology in Mississippi, literacy in Alaska. Help and then let states figure out how to deliver services.

dan dempsey said...

A response for Crabby Patty:

#1 The WASL was not much of a test. It was largely a political tool used by Terry Bergeson to snow the public. Huge increases in reading (at grades 7 and 10) were reported from 2000 thru 2005 when at the same time Iowa reading test results (at grades 6 and 9) were constant.

#2 The MSP given at grades 3 thru 8 is an improvement on the WASL.

#3 The End of Course Assessment given in Algebra is a monumental improvement over the grade 10 WASL math.

#4 Testing does NOT prove anything but it gives strong indications about what is occurring and can be used as a guide in decision-making. Unfortunately the Central Administration fails to do this.

#5 Use of the word "Dude" reminds me of a Chris Korsmo outburst.

#6 Your statement of all or none is absurd. High stakes testing are often invalid due to cheating. Using testing to assess educational programs is worthwhile especially when the tests are well constructed.

#7 What is your point?

A. Are you against information?

B. Do you not like the results I report?

C. Sunquist and Maier never paid any attention to the data I submitted ... not because it wasn't accurate ... but because they did not like the results. So we blew $800,000 on the New Tech Network and $1.2 million on Discovering Math for high school .... and the students can now continue to be poorly served in High School math with mathematically unsound materials.

D. To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data
-- W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) .....

So what is your plan for improvement and how did you arrive at it?

E. Allegiance to blatant tribalism is not a plan for improvement nor is emotional reaction.


The following is not a valid logical conclusion:

If the Dept. of Ed needs to go, and NCLB needs to go, and the high stakes testing needs to go, then so do the stats you use that derive from all of the above.

Why would you ever think so?

The information I obtain is hardly without use.... It can serve as a guide in decision-making. The test info may not be fabulous but it is better than nothing. Note I usually compare the District with state changes to get meaningful differentials.

Now as for using MAP for Value Added Testing ... that really is absurd.

dan dempsey said...

We should have ONE national test.

That is the NAEP. It allows states to compare their progress with others. It also reports on State poverty, ELL population percentage and a variety of demographic factors.

What is really needed is a plan to meet the educational needs of individual students. This will only occur at the student - teacher level. The MAP was absurd from the beginning as a tool for instructional decision-making in the classroom ... Planning for the individual needs of each student ... three months at a time from MAP data ... What nonsense.

=====
So who makes up the test and what content is covered? The coming CCSS testing is beginning to look like WASL sequel part II ..... lots of process and not much content tested.

So says Dr. Wilson about CCSS-mathHERE

In addition, they will be unable to provide student-level data for critical procedural skills, instead providing data only at the classroom or school level. And, unclear on the concept of a summative assessment, the content assessed on end-of-year assessments will generally be drawn from standards from previous years. In the end, the Draft supplies little guidance for curriculum developers or for the assessment of mathematical content knowledge.

The very hierarchy of the organization of the bulk of the Draft demonstrates the consortium’s emphasis on the Mathematical Practices rather than content.

dan dempsey said...

I think the feds have a role and that is (1) to track how the nation's kids are doing and (2) provide support in areas of weakness.

What leads you to believe that providing support for areas of an individual student's weakness is the Feds responsibility or that the Feds could do that efficiently and effectively....

Looking at the mess the Seattle Public schools have made of "providing interventions", imagine the politicized mess the Feds could and would produce.

The Board repeatedly has failed to step up.... the teachers are the ones that need to step up and often do. Unfortunately the Administration, which should be assisting the teachers is all too often an obstacle.

If Seattle spent the same amount on Central Admin per student as Auburn $25 million would be saved annually .... Are we getting value for that $25 million? ... Now project that to the Federal Gov. .....

We have already seen a large negative return on investment from the NSF/ Education and Human Resources division spending of over $100 million to develop reform math programs.... Look at the results of NSF funded math guidance from UW .... supposed support has been worthless on several occasions..... think more Fed support would be better? Why?

========
In many high performing nations Ed Research is performed by teachers to improve instructional programs, NOT at the University level. Programs that can quickly respond to student needs and use proven instructional practices are needed. Note: Race to the Top had no research basis for what it was pushing.

Here is the process the Feds will likely use => lobbied by corporations, foundations and organizations putting millions of dollars into lobbying, peer reviewed research will be bypassed and whatever is being sold by lobbyists will be purchased.

A coherent consistent effective system of delivering interventions will not appear because money matters not scientific evidence when it comes to decision-making in politics.

Chris S. said...

I'm trying to think of an analogy to defend Dan...how's this?

Dan doesn't necessarily hate the "yardstick." He does note that some are better than others. He takes issue with the feds because they are using 50 different yardsticks and setting a goal of everybody the same height.

He takes issue with the district because they keep trying the same tricks even though their chosen yardstick reveals no benefit.

mirmac1 said...

I got one. At least Dan is serious when he says make data-driven decisions, don't just talk about them. Some people just pay it alot of lip service.

dan dempsey said...

Here is an awesome example of reporting from LEV.

Not only did they just report the math data that they wished to report .... but they did not even have the name of the school correct and they visited the school.

Lucky for LEV I made some corrections using OSPI data. I am sure they did not want to mislead anyone.

That Passionate Teacher said...

Dan uses a meter stick (METRIC, people!!!) to measure the relative growth--or lack thereof. He uses it consistently, and he uses the same meter stick every time. It may not be a pretty meter stick, but it's consistent and it measures the same way every time.

The District with its MAP tests uses a shiny, pretty measuring tape with variable markings (it's an adaptive test, remember) and applies it in different ways in different situations. Sometimes, the district even uses it to measure one thing by holding it up to something else. There is no consistency in measurement when they do this.

THAT is the difference.

dan dempsey said...

Many thanks to the defenders of measuring.

I am sure that LEV was talking about math... they just failed to measure most of it at Totem.

Totem Middle School was using one of the goofy turn around models .... thus LEV needed to show it works.

Except for a large number of kids it does not.

But LEV does not wish you to know that .....

..... because LEV is all about the glories of Ed Reform... that is what LEV club astro-Turf is paid to do. Push this reform stuff through creative reporting etc.

It would be best ... as in effective and efficient to Kill RttT, CCSS and the whole ball of crap NOW.

dan dempsey said...

Speaking of scamming the public with a bogus philosophy on measurement .... Here comes Arne D.

Failure Rate of Schools Overstated, Study Says
By SAM DILLON
December 15, 2011 The New York Times

Mr. Duncan insists his projection was based on careful analysis. Okay, so he lacks analytical skills (maybe he was absent the day they were handing out higher-order thinking skills and problem solving skills as well). Keep in mind, the data and evidence don't matter...

What matters is what you would like for the data and evidence to be.

I especially liked this part:

Asked why the Education Department’s projection was so far off, Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for Mr. Duncan, said, “Our intention was to look thoughtfully at the data and show how the law would impact schools and students if left unchanged.

Duncan's spokesman's response is so razzle-dazzle it easily can make you overlook the fact that it does not address the question that was asked.
======

Crabby Patty go after Arne D and his boys on testing and their inability to use data intelligently.... WOW predicted 80% of schools would be failing and wound up slightly less than 50% ..... This "failing schools nonsense" was an utterly bogus flim-flam idea to begin with..... brought to you by the Feds.

dan dempsey said...

Summary of above ...

Arne D and the boys think lying to you to make a point is a good strategy .... how SPS like.

MathTeacher42 said...

I'll go out on a limb.

I. ALL “Best Practice” ideas for classrooms and schools should be modeled with flow charts.

II. ALL flow chart models should have time estimates to complete each task / job / step.

III. All time estimates should have dollar cost estimates.

IV. Education policy people who aren't working in buildings with kids and who can’t generate I - III in a week for any Best Practice idea - those education policy people should be a different line of work.

BM

Catherine said...

@ WSDWG I think I wasn't clear earlier. It's not NCLB I want kept around, but a generic Federal Role, perhaps in a yet to be defined structure.

Anonymous said...

Curious what Dan thinks of this-

For immediate release: Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011


Seattle Public Schools celebrates
strong growth in high school performance
For the first time, two high schools reach Level 5, the highest performance level

The majority of high schools in Seattle Public Schools showed strong academic growth during the 2010-2011 school year, Interim Superintendent Dr. Susan Enfield reported today, thanks to great principals, great teachers and involved families who are connected to their schools.
“Improving student achievement at the high school level poses a particular challenge for any school system,” Enfield said. “The gains we are seeing at our high schools are a testament to the tremendous instructional leadership of our principals and assistant principals and the dedication and talent of our teaching staff.”
Seattle schools are ranked by their absolute performance and year-to-year growth from Level 1 (low) to Level 5 (high). A total of 20 schools overall achieved the highest ranking, Level 5, including two high schools, which reached that level for the first time. In addition, the number of schools at the lowest levels declined sharply, as schools improved enough to move up. No high schools were ranked at Level 1, and only two were ranked at Level 2.
High schools throughout the city showed robust improvement: Ballard High School and The Center School moved from Level 3 to Level 5; Nathan Hale High School moved from Level 3 to Level 4; and Chief Sealth, West Seattle, Ingraham and Cleveland high schools moved from Level 2 to Level 3.
“Principals and teachers have focused carefully on student progress, using data on student achievement to plan the best ways to reach out to individual students,” said Heather Swanson, the president of the Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools (PASS). “These segmentation results show that those efforts are succeeding spectacularly. I am so proud of the work that is happening in our schools.”
Every year, Seattle schools are ranked from Level 1 (low) to Level 5 (high). This ranking system allows the District to design customized support for schools and students, while providing clear measures of success for families and community members. The rankings are based on both absolute scores that show how close schools are to achieving District-wide 2013 targets; and growth scores that show each school’s rate of improvement, as well as the progress students are making based on the progress of similar students at other schools.
Lower-ranked schools (Levels 1 and 2) receive more oversight from the District office, and may receive targeted interventions to help students improve. Higher-ranked schools (Levels 4 and 5) receive more autonomy in terms of professional development and discretionary spending. Please see http://bit.ly/SPS_SchoolReports for more detailed information.
SUCCESS STORIES: Three schools
Ballard High School’s focus on 9th grade transition leads to school-wide success.
At Ballard High School, which moved up from Level 3 to Level 5, the percentage of students meeting standard on the state reading test increased from 86.6 percent in spring 2010 to 91.7 percent in 2011; in science, the percentage meeting standard went from 63.1 percent to 71.4 percent. For juniors and seniors, the percentage taking college admissions tests (the SAT or ACT) increased from 59.0 percent in 2009-2010 to 72.2 percent in 2010-2011.

Anonymous said...

Ballard principal Keven Wynkoop credits the school’s 9th grade transition program for helping to launch these successful trends. “This is the sixth year that Ballard has utilized a 9th-grade mentoring program known as Link Crew,” Wynkoop said. “We were the first Seattle high school to commit to this program and we have seen dramatic improvement in the grades and disciplinary rates of our 9th graders.”
Wynkoop also pointed to the Ballard High School staff’s commitment to collaboration, noting that Ballard uses its early dismissal days as an opportunity for teachers to work together in subject-area Data Teams, which design curriculum and measure student success; and interdisciplinary Professional Learning Communities, which organize themselves around a topic of study for teacher improvement.
Center School focuses on rigor, relevance and relationships
At The Center School, which also moved up from Level 3 to Level 5, principal Oksana Britsova uses one word to describe her school’s success: “focus.”
“We focus on the three R’s,” Britsova said, “rigor, relevance, and relationships.” This focus led to significant gains between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. The number of Center School graduates who had taken a college-level course (AP or IB) increased from 66.7 percent to 95.1 percent, and the percentage of test-takers who successfully passed a college-level test during high school (in AP or IB) increased from 68.2 percent to 75.0 percent.
For underclassmen, the percentage of 10th-grade students meeting standard on the state reading test increased from 90.8 percent to 96.0 percent; and the percentage meeting standard in writing increased from 90.9 percent to 96.0 percent.
Britsova noted that students’ performance was a direct result of increasing rigor in the classroom. “All our staff strive toward excellence,” Britsova said. “We have high expectations for student work, and we make sure students know that.” She pointed out that The Center School has developed a reputation as a college-focused, academically-oriented school, and teachers and staff work hard to help students succeed.
On the second of the three R’s, relevance, Britsova pointed out that The Center School’s arts integration focus provides a natural way to make academics relevant to students.
“We have a goal of involving at least two community members in each unit to show how our lessons relate to the world around us,” she said.

anonymous said...

Dan says:

"#1 The WASL was not much of a test. It was largely a political tool used by Terry Bergeson to snow the public. Huge increases in reading (at grades 7 and 10) were reported from 2000 thru 2005 when at the same time Iowa reading test results (at grades 6 and 9) were constant.

#2 The MSP given at grades 3 thru 8 is an improvement on the WASL.

#3 The End of Course Assessment given in Algebra is a monumental improvement over the grade 10 WASL math."

This seems like great progress to me. I know Dorn gets a bad rap sometimes, but seems like he did his job in this area.

dm

Anonymous said...

@Catherine: I understood you. I'm posing the question of whether, on balance, given how twisted, politicized and corrupted the US Dept of Ed has become, is it in fact doing more harm than good at present.

It's almost unimaginable to myself that I am seriously posing that question, but I am.

What happened to the "small government" folks? You know, the "New Federalists" championed by Reagan and subsequent "conservative" leaders? Where did the "limited government" folks go?

NCLB has caused a culture shift at the Dept of Ed where Arne Duncan, the President's basketball buddy, sees absolutely nothing wrong with BLACKMAILING states into accepting unwanted "reform" measures, or starving them of federal funds.

RTTT is on its face nothing but institutionalized blackmail, extortion, and exploitation of states starving for education funding. It is as undemocratic a practice as I've ever seen by the feds, and Duncan and Obama, perhaps all to used to Chicago style strong-arming and corruption, see absolutely nothing wrong with picking winners and losers among the neediest, starving states.

It is deplorable conduct on multiple levels by the Federal Government, so I say, why not simply shut the damn place down. Who are they helping, versus who they are hurting? And what kind of sick, disgusting corruption does this force the citizenry to become part of, and to endorse, or else starve?

Duncan should be ashamed of himself, if he had any shame. But instead he's yet another Ivy League poser who talks a good game about education while demonstrating such a deficiency of critical thinking and cultural competency, that its a wonder he even works in the education field. And Obama makes him the Secretary of Ed.

Ladies and Gentlemen: It's time to drain the swamp. There is no reason why we cannot ensure strong educational policies via the legislative process (but for a corrupt congress, of course...but I can dream, can't I?) legislative oversight, and enforcement through the Justice Department.

It's worth discussing. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Maybe there are some positives with NCLB. At least it shines a light on weaknesses in the achievement and results. At least we now know that depth and breadth in the achievement gap, and that special education students are largely left beind. When I went to high school, nobody cared about that - even a little bit. A test can not fix the methodology that led to the results. But it can point to areas that need improvement. Grappling with the very difficult issues of how to actually provide better education that reaches more people, isn't going to be easy. And there's going to be a costs as well. Using tests to base measurement, is always going to narrow the breadth of education away from things which aren't measured. When you emphasize one thing - you de-emphasize others.

The main problem with NCLB is in how states are actually using it. It wasn't the federal govt that decided to make the tests graduation requirements - essentially robbing many kids of a high diploma. That's all on us - the voters who elected statewide officials that decided that.

And finally, we should all remember. The goal of any standard is in fact to exclude people. It is to differentiate those who learned (and can learn) from those who can't. If we had a standard that everyone could meet - we would all immediately demand a new standard. Because who wants a standard that everyone meets? It would be meaningless.

-another parent

Jan said...

Boy -- another parent -- LOTS of good points for thought. Here is what occurred to me, reading your post:

AP: Maybe there are some positives with NCLB. At least it shines a light on weaknesses in the achievement and results. At least we now know that depth and breadth in the achievement gap, and that special education students are largely left beind.

Sort of true -- sort of not. I had that EXACT thought when NCLB was passed, and because I have a SPed kid, I was really happy (having noticed exactly what you did -- schools could do a horrible job with a handful of kids -- but as long as their overall scores looked good -- no one seemed to care that they were totally failing certain kids). But -- in many cases, small subgroups don't count. My SPed kid passed all his WASL/MSP stuff -- mostly without accommodations -- and I thought -- yeah! We are helping the school's numbers for NLCB. When I looked at the actual report -- my kid's school didn't report or measure him, because his "subgroup" was "too small." In fact, in many schools doing ok under NLCB, when you look closer at the numbers, they get a total pass on the groups most likely to do badly (poor and minority kids) because they have too few to measure. The ones there could be totally failing -- and we would never know. There are all sorts of things in the NCLB protocol that screw up the numbers -- but the machine just rolls on, raising the percentages and labeling more schools as "failing." I have concluded that other than the "concept" of reminding evaluators to look at (and thus to care about) the various subgroups, NCLB has done absolutely NO good -- and it has done tons and tons of harm -- at great cost. I will no longer give it the credit you do. It's an utter failure.

AP: Using tests to base measurement, is always going to narrow the breadth of education away from things which aren't measured. When you emphasize one thing - you de-emphasize others.

Just "using" the tests is not the problem. NAEP and ITBS tests have been given, and result reported, for YEARS without deforming and degrading the curriculum. No, the problem is tying testing (with the flaws you mention) to really high stakes: firing teachers, closing schools, firing principals, denying kids the right to graduate, cutting off funding, etc., etc., etc. NONE of these tests has the chops to bear this kind of weight. And -- while some of the public is deceived -- I no longer think the Ed Reform crowd really believes in the validity of their tests either. They just know that they have set up a system where huge numbers of teachers and kids will "fail," which will give them the excuse to intervene in whatever way they want (the current vogue is "privatizing" -- where education is outsourced to the private side and staffed accordingly -- a few "execs" at the top get huge salaries and percs, and huge golden parachutes; lots of high priced consulting contracts for pr, lobbying, materials; all the front line workers (teachers and aides) get paid as little as possible and are commoditized so that they can be fired if they complain or if they have stayed around long enough to become expensive). All NCLB testing needs to do is create the chaos and churn to permit the restructuring.

Jan said...

And -- another parent -- you are correct. The NCLB didn't say we had to make the WASL a graduation requirement. But the only way to "force" the kids to do their very best (so the school would not get screwed by the penalties) was to hold their diplomas hostage to a test that specifically states that it is NOT valid, and should NOT be used, for such purposes.

Ugh. How craven was that!

Jan said...

WSWDG: I am totally with you. I am not sure how to handle the current Pell/student loan programs -- but I think the entire department has to go. It was a bad department under Bush/Spellings. Obama and Duncan have totally ruined it.

Education should be largely a family and local thing -- I realize that much of the funding is state funding (because it would be too unfair to leave to local funding sources) but even kicking it to THAT level is bad for it. I see no function for it (at least K through 12 -- after that, there may be a spot for the feds, in research, career readiness, etc.) at the federal level at all.

Anonymous said...

Jan, first of all, your child absolutely did count. He/she was counted in the ALL category - and that is definitely still a category. His/her numbers are reported there. He/she also definitely counted in the gender and ethnic categories to which he/she belongs too (eg. White, Black, Hispanic, etc). A failure would have counted against the all those categories as well. Since your school must be small, that means your child actually counted MORE as a percentage than at a larger school.

Secondly, your child must be relatively young. By the time your child in special education gets into middle school - there will be enough of special education students to "count" in the "special education" category too. The numbers of special education students in middle and high school is large enough in all schools because the schools are larger. It is valid not to count as a group, a number that isn't really large enough.

But sadly, if your child stays in special education, the chances that he/she will continue to "pass" the MSP or EOC dramatically diminishes. Look at the numbers, and it is not at all pretty for students with disabilities. Secondary schools have all but given up on students with disabilities and do little to try to get them to pass these tests. And then, the one good thing about the high stakes testing for students with disabilities is that it does indeed count - and people look at that result. So far, not a lot of action - but the results are in some ways actionable should parents wish to raise them.

If we are going to have high stakes testing for students, the next group that must share in those high stakes is the teachers. You can't really have it both ways - high stakes for one (the kids) but not for the teachers. The two go hand in hand. And even more unfortunately, the heaviest burden so far is on the students unable to pass the test (for whatever reason). They have indeed been left behind already. Not too many teachers have really had sanctions. In fact, I don't know of any. Nor have there really been significant sanctions on schools. I don't favor high stakes testing - but if we're going to have them, it needs to go all the way. And it needs to cover everybody. I think low stakes testing is a fine way to go. Is there no way we can reward or motivate our students into "doing their" best? I find that hard to believe. And if we can't have everybody motivated to absolutely do their very best - we should still be happy with whatever information we can glean from most people giving it a good effort. That's how the ITBS always was.

-another parent

Jan said...

another parent -- I am totally in your corner on the horrible job that the District does with special ed kids.

As far as the "stakes" for tests -- kids work hard either for internal rewards (they work hard on everything, because it makes them feel good to do so) or external rewards -- I want to do well on the SAT exams because I want to apply to X or Y school. If we only test kids for things that legitimately mean something to them -- I suspect we will have virtually no problems with kids blowing off tests.