This from the Times Picayune:
Here is the Red Cross link to contribute.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
A Teacher Mourns
Bennett and Finn, Back When
See Bill and Checker.
See Bill and Checker cry about White House power grabs, ED control, and bad tests (in 1997):
As for the argument that voluntary national tests would reduce local and parental authority: If they are done right, the opposite will occur. The tests will empower parents by providing them with information critical to the success of reforms such as charter schools and school choice. And keep in mind: these tests would be voluntary. We are a nation at risk – and our flawed testing regime is one reason why. A good voluntary national test would be an important step forward. A bad testing program, on the other hand, would be a giant step backward, which brings us to the Clinton proposal.
In a brazen power grab, the administration has attempted to promote its version of a voluntary national test without seeking authorization from Congress. The Clinton plan would hand the test-development process to the very kinds of organizations and groups that have helped ruin modern American education. It would dumb down the test standards and reflect the "trendiest" – read: "worst" – ideas in education, things such as "whole language" reading and "constructivist" math. The result would be tests that wouldn't indicate whether students could read or do math. The Clinton plan would remove responsibility for national testing from the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) – a well-respected, independent, nonpartisan body created to set policy for NAEP – and give de facto control to the Department of Education.
For those with strong stomachs, here is the Washington Post link.
Info on Opting Out
Click here for that link that also includes "Do Not Consent" forms. PassThe ACLU of Mass has done a mailing today to
public high school principals in the state
to assist them in providing the notice
required by No Child Left Behind that parents
and kids have the right to have their name,
address and phone number withheld from military
or other recruiters. Copies of the materials
are attachedand are also available on our website
it on to parents, teachers, and students.
Catching up with China by Going the Other Way
There is no shortage of high tech or low tech workers in America, but there is a shortage of will to pay them American wages, rather than Chinese wages. BR types, now in the driver's seat of the American psychometric-technological complex, would like to emulate the draconian drill-and-kill education system of China as a way to churn out a passive, non-questioning, and well-behaved work force willing to accept any job at any wage. (Is this a form of capitalism emulating a form of communism that is emulating capitalism)?
Well, it seems that we may, indeed, catch up with China in this mode of learn-it-til-it-hurts education, but it will happen as China passes us going in the opposite direction. In a piece today from Canada's The Tyee that attacks Canadian tendencies to emulate America's testocracy, Rikia Saddy reports that
China's education system is currently undergoing the most massive transformation of any country in the world. China's leaders have come to see that a system that turns out students who can't think for themselves isn't going to help their quest to become a global economic power. In response, they're replacing the old system, dependent on rote memorization, with a new focus on communication skills, critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity.
In less than a generation, China could be turning out the brightest, most original thinkers on the globe. With 200 million students and 12 million teachers leading the way, you can be sure that other countries are paying attention.
It seems that the world may not be flat after all, as Republican middle-brow apologist Tom Friedman would have us think. It may, indeed, be filled with peaks and valleys that rise and fall as the great cultural plates of peoples shift. One can only hope that America is not drowned in its own self-imposed soup bowl of toxic testing before someone can re-start the pumps or turn off the spigots.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Lifting the Rock on Reading First
All of these good opportunists returning from their conversion experiences are now elbowing their way to the Federal feeding trough with their newly-minted reading materials inspired by the phonics and phonemic gospels of Doug Carnine and Co., hoping to be selected by states in the multi-multi-million dollar Reading First grant application process. According to some excellent investigative reporting by TitleI Online, companies assembling these ordained reading materials are being blessed by a handful of influential ED reviewers and consultants who accept, reject, and advise on grant applications based on research scripture that has been conducted and published by Carnine and Co. Did I say, too, that the reading materials being marketed and given favored treatment are being written by the same Carnine disciples who did the research? Incestuous, you ask? Well, it’s definitely all in the same small family of neo-conservative educational reformers, where science, marketing, ideology, business, and good old-fashioned corruption come together in an unprecedented, exploitative orgy that threatens to undermine the integrity of the entire preK-12 educational infrastructure. Along with the article linked above, there is a companion piece by Brownstein and Hicks on the rise, or is that ascension, of Doug Carnine (yes, of course, there is a Bush connection).
Oh yeah, here is the composition of the ED Secretary’s Reading Leadership Academy Assessment Committee that met in early 2002 to draft the guidelines for the Reading First Initiative, now pumping out 900 million dollars a year in state grants. More on these committee members later, but you may note the prominence of the University of Oregon colleagues of Doug Carnine:
Team Leader: Dr. Edward J. Kame'enui, University of Oregon
Dr. David Francis, University of Houston
Dr. Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University
Dr. Roland H. Good, III, University of Oregon
Dr. Rollanda O'Connor, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Deborah C. Simmons, University of Oregon
Dr. Gerald Tindal, University of Oregon
Dr. Joseph Torgesen, Florida State University
More H. S. Testing Dead on Arrival
Monday, August 29, 2005
Top 10 Reasons to Repeal NCLB: # 10
Reason # 10. Buried in the 600+ pages of NCLB is this little nugget that assures military recruiters access to personal information on every high school student in a public school receiving federal Title I funding:
SEC. 9528. ARMED FORCES RECRUITER ACCESS TO STUDENTS AND STUDENT RECRUITING INFORMATION.
(1) ACCESS TO STUDENT RECRUITING INFORMATION- Notwithstanding section 444(a)(5)(B) of the General Education Provisions Act and except as provided in paragraph (2), each local educational agency receiving assistance under this Act shall provide, on a request made by military recruiters or an institution of higher education, access to secondary school students names, addresses, and telephone listings.
(2) CONSENT- A secondary school student or the parent of the student may request that the student's name, address, and telephone listing described in paragraph (1) not be released without prior written parental consent, and the local educational agency or private school shall notify parents of the option to make a request and shall comply with any request.
(3) SAME ACCESS TO STUDENTS- Each local educational agency receiving assistance under this Act shall provide military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as is provided generally to post secondary educational institutions or to prospective employers of those students.
For those parents and teachers needing information about opting out of this “opportunity,” visit the Leave My Child Alone website for information on getting your child or your students off the recruiters’ prospect list.
From the Mouths of Babes
The Reality of No Child Left Behind
The No Child Left Behind Act that President Bush signed into law in 2002 was intended to reform America’s educational system and promised to be the answer for the nation’s educational gap. I believed it was a winning formula: The ideas and thoughts conveyed in the law had the potential to be the perfect program for America’s schools, and students.
The law promised to ensure the same education for children from low-income families attending public schools that children in private and parochial schools receive. NCLB is filled with rhetoric stressing the importance of having highly qualified teachers, encouraging and nurturing literacy in children, allowing parents to have choice in which school their child goes to, and holding schools accountable for the educational outcome of its students. The law promised adequate funding to achieve these goals.
However, being a student attending an urban public school, I’ve witnessed first hand the reality of NCLB, and how it affects public schools and have recognized serious flaws in the law.
To begin with, the NCLB proposes state assessment tests for students to take every year in grades 3-8, and at least once in high school. These are unfair measures of a school’s academic achievement or performance.
In my own school, sometimes a month of critical class time is pushed back in order to prepare for a test, which at most only takes five days to complete. These state assessments are misleading because all a test can show is how well a student can take a test and how well the teacher was able to prepare a student to do so. Tests do not show the breadth of what a student was able to learn. I believe that when a school places so much emphasis on standardized tests, valuable teaching time that could be used to learn is wasted, preparing for the test.
Furthermore, schools and teachers are given an unrealistic timeline to fix their alleged “mistakes” if a school is not able to meet the standard annual yearly progress (AYP) within two years. By the law, if a school cannot perform up to AYP standards in four years it faces major teacher layoffs, and budget cuts.
In Indianapolis, where I have attended school since kindergarten, NCLB has seriously affected the IPS district’s funding, and is felt in every classroom, every day. Under the “Freedom to Achieve” program, if a child makes straight A’s, and the parent’s income is above the poverty level, that child is eligible to receive a scholarship to leave a school whose yearly progress does not meet AYP standards. Where does this leave the school?
Because of the “Dollar Follows the Child” philosophy that was adopted by the Indiana House of Representatives, when an academically adept child leaves the public school system, the funding follows him or her and is given to the new school district which the student will be attending. In this scenario, it’s projected that IPS could lose anywhere from $3 to $9 million in funding by 2006: In other words, making a poor school district, poorer.
Did President Bush really have public schools in mind? A public school that is in more cases than not already under funded and possibly under staffed cannot withstand the financial and educational strain of even more funding cuts and teacher layoffs. All of these factors added to the fact that many needed school programs for cultural literacy such as art or music programs are being cut, spell a recipe for disaster for America’s poorer students.
If there was one thing that I would let President Bush know, it would be that when making decisions about the human and civil right to an education on a scale such as the nation’s schools, it might be best to tackle the problem with local state officials. At the grassroots level, lawmakers have better access and information to the individual needs and wants of the state’s parents and students.
By working on educational decisions together, the nation and its future would benefit as a whole.
Sandy Kress's Place at the Feeding Trough
Something to Chew On
Although the report suffers from the overreaching and overpromising that have characterized education reform since Horace Mann, this document represents a huge step forward from the "take names, kick ass" approach of NCLB's back-to-basics-redux crew whose success would lead ultimately to the stupidification of the American people. One thing that this new plan does is to call attention to the direct correlation of family income to children's test scores. Another is to call for real accountability that goes beyond those same test scores that measure less learning than they do our capacity to maintain the social inequities that have haunted our democratic aspirations ever since the Founders turned a blind eye to slavery.
Let the discussion begin, then, on intelligent alternatives as we move forward to repeal the corrupt and cynical efforts of the neo-cons to corporatize American education and to further reproduce current social/economic inequities, thus further weakening the civic awareness and civic responisibility that are required by free people.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
While I was away
Many thanks to Judy Rabin, whose good sense, good sense of humor, and savvy reporting kept up the work while I was away for exposing the plans of our own Evil Empire to destroy public education.
Among the pile of email awaiting me yesterday were the results of the most recent Phi Delta Kappan poll on education issues. There is much to be digested here, but there are a couple of findings that form an interesting contrast. According to poll, the more one knows about NCLB, the more likely one is to have a negative opinion on the matter. In contrast, the more one knows about public schools, the likelihood increases that a positive attitude will result. We might surmise that, underneath the sweet-sounding rhetoric of NCLB, lies a reality that cannot ignored by anyone willing to lift up the rock; just as we might guess that public schools are not the sewers that our own U.S. Dept. of Education dramatizes them to be with the predictable failure to meet their impossible performance goals that are reported by an eager media.
It is clear that American attitudes toward public education have been shaped by the continuing salvos of bad news on the failure to meet the impossible requirements emanating from NCLB. When citizens are asked, however, about their own neighborhood schools, their opinions are much more positive. Interestingly, respondents are as likely to blame NCLB requirements for school failure as they are to blame the schools. That cannot be good news for Maggie and Co. at USDOE, whose ridiculous yearly progress requirements were intended from the outset to demonstrate the collapse of public education, even if that entailed an emotional and intellectual genocide against our most vulnerable school children whose capacities remain blighted by the poverty and lack of opportunity that our public policies do not even bother to acknowledge as the real reasons for the achievement gaps.
I keep coming back to the fact that the more people know about NCLB, the less they like what they see. Imagine that! In a series of subsequent posts, I will examine what Americans might be finding in NCLB that is not advertised by the fine-sounding pronouncements intended to garner support.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Why Schools Matter
One of the reasons I decided to go back to school to become a high school history and social studies teacher was because I wanted to share my love for the subject and inspire my students to become active, engaged citizens so maybe one day they would make a difference. After spending many years in the corporate world, I was looking forward to having autonomy and control over what I would be doing every day and over how and what I would teach.
Much to my surprise, I soon realized that the relentless push to raise test scores and to use standardized tests as the sole measure of the quality of education would have a great impact on what I might be able to do in the classroom. After spending nearly a year researching No Child Left Behind, it soon became clear that this country is in the midst of a war. The war being waged over education and the aims and purposes of schooling. The relentless push for more testing, privatization and accountability for teachers with virtually no discussion in the public discourse over the common good, the effects of poverty, health care, housing and the environment on student learning is outrageous. These issues must be addressed if there is going to be any chance of ever closing the achievement gap.
I hope that Schools Matter can become a place for that discussion to take place so that maybe one day real education reform will take the whole child into consideration. My daughter, along with the millions of other students who have hopes and dreams, who want to be educated and have opportunities, are much more than a test score. Children are not specimens in a petri dish to be measured. The politicians and business leaders who have hijacked education and who are profiting financially from this empty, meaningless reform, are stealing something very precious-- our collective future. It is time to hold them accountable for their failure to address the real problems in education.
PDK Poll: The Gig is Up on NCLB
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Bush's DOE: A Threat to Academic Freedom
The Un-empirical Presidency
By Bruce Fuller
(BRUCE FULLER is a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley. LA TIMES August 24, 2005).
PRESIDENT BUSH'S love affair with the scientific community is awkward at best. The White House science advisor, John H. Marburger III, is on record as saying that "in this administration, science strongly informs policy." But where's the romance for scientists if Bush casts a blind eye over evidence of a human role in global warming or the difference between evolution and intelligent design?
Now the administration's propensity to ignore empirical data threatens the search for effective school reforms. The latest case of science snubbed emerged last week and involves the quiet quashing of new findings on the success of bilingual teaching in the nation's classrooms. Californians understand how important such research is almost two-fifths of the state's schoolchildren come from non-English speaking homes. And parents and employers everywhere want to know what advances children's reading and language skills. Figuring that out was the charge given, along with 1 million in taxpayer dollars, to Bush's prestigious National Literacy Panel, appointed three years ago. Panelist Robert Slavin, an education professor at Johns Hopkins University, was asked to review the best-designed experiments, where children were randomly assigned to either bilingual or English-immersion classrooms. The administration, rightfully, wanted to test reforms with the same rigor with which it tests new drugs. Or so it said.
Slavin found that, according to the best data, children's early literacy skills climbed at a faster rate in bilingual classrooms. He wanted to publish his findings immediately; the Education Department said to wait until the panel's full report was done. "From the perspective of academic freedom, I didn't like the idea of something being held up," Slavin said. He resigned from the panel.
Now the panel's report is finished. Another of its members extended Slavin's research, with the same results: Good bilingual education programs produce faster results than good English-only programs. These findings (and others - for instance, that reading is best taught via basic skills, like phonics) have been peer-reviewed, but Bush's Education Department won't make the report public. "They said they weren't going to release it," the panel chairman, University of Illinois psychologist Timothy Shanahan, told me last week. Kathleen Leos, who heads the Office of English Language Acquisition in the Education Department, denies the report is being deep-sixed. "We are in negotiations, it's just not ready," she said. But another panel member, David Francis of the Universityof Houston, said the negotiations are over getting the government to relinquish copyright, so that the findings may be published independently.
Why would the administration sideline its own report? It's possible that the bilingual education results weren't what it wanted to hear. "English only" is a rallying cry in the culture wars, and evidence that works against it also works against such Bush allies as English First, which has lead the charge against bilingual education. And this wouldn't be the first time the administration has buried inconvenient education data. It was not until the New York Times brought suit and forced the release of a charter school study that we learned that such schools - which are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in some cases - do no better on average than public schools. And Republicans aren't alone in this game. In 2000, Clinton administration officials tried to recast research I led, which found that many toddlers were entering unhealthy child-care settings in the wake of its welfare reforms.
Scientific evidence alone shouldn't make or break public policy. But as conservative John Locke argued in the18th century, government must advance objective knowledge so that citizens can reason through remedies to their shared problems. When the government invests in legitimate research, we should not be prevented from hearing the results.
Education & Advocacy on NCLB
The video and resource guide are specifically designed for use as a training tool for parents, organizations, teachers, advocates, and other leaders seeking to improve educational outcomes for children of color and close the racial achievement gap. The NCLB video series and resource guide provide the viewer with a basic understanding of the No Child Left Behind Act, and high stakes testing. The video neither endorses nor condemns NCLB as a whole, but acknowledges both the serious harms and potential benefits that could result from the Act's implementation.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
The NYT reports:
But it (the lawsuit) goes further, arguing that the federal secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, has aggravated the harm to Connecticut by denying state requests for flexibility in complying with the law, including one to continue the state's alternate-year testing program, which the suit says has helped make Connecticut students among the highest-ranking in the nation.
Those interested in why Spellings and friends at the DOE just don't seem to get it when it comes to the mounting legal challenges and rebellion against NCLB, here's a story that can shine some light on possible motives. Emily Pyle of the Texas Observer wrote a story on May 16, 2005, High-stakes test aren't good for students, teachers, or schools. So who are they good for? Well, they're certainly good for Sandy Kress, old time family friend and high powered lobbyist for test publishers. Where's the accountability?
The good news is an investigation by the DOE's watchdog into the love affair and possible conflict of interest with the Reading First program is the first sign that the hanky panky at DOE is beginning to gain the attention of law enforcement officials.
It's high time to start holding these people accountable for the travesty being perpetuated on the American public. The tragedy of this reckless policy, couched in Orwellian doublespeak, are the valuable educational programs and resources not being funded because the administration continues to reward its cronies at the expense of our nation's children and teachers.
Let's get the story straight.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Intelligent Design - It's a Miracle!
These so-called scientists and scholars are miraculously converting heretics into true believers. Our President and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist have miraculously forgotten about the Constitution. And, Frist, the latest yahoo to jump on the ID bandwagon, may miraculously become President in 2008 despite alienating the faithful because of a few stem cells. Again, miraculously, ID is going to save our children and our schools by putting God where he belongs, back in the classroom and on the test. As this New York Times article a.k.a. ID 101 reveals - it's all PART OF THE BIG PLAN -- the Wedge project. Miraculously, it has created a wedge larger than the almighty when he split the Red Sea.
Oh and btw, the best part of this miracle is how NCLB is helping teachers and students recognize their sinful ways. Oh bless those standardista souls!
President Bush's signature education law, known as No Child Left Behind, also helped, as mandatory testing prompted states to rewrite curriculum standards. Ohio, New Mexico and Minnesota have embraced the institute's "teach the controversy" approach; Kansas is expected to follow suit in the fall. (NYT)
What's next? How about a chapter in the new science textbooks on the toothfairy, Santa Claus and leprechauns? Leaving them out would simply be un-American. Let's pray.
NCLB Documentary Premiers 9/25/05
View Clip 1
View Clip 2
(Reprinted from WTVS)
FILMMAKER TAKES ON ‘NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND’
Polarizing Film Finds Home at WTVS –
Detroit Public Television Filmmaker Lerone Wilson, 23, never envisioned himself producing a politically charged hour-long television documentary on the federal education program. Nevertheless 2 ½ years later, the resulting film ‘No Child Left Behind’ will air August 28, on WTVS – Detroit Public Television at 2pm.
During the course of his senior year at the New York University film school, Wilson spent a great deal of time tutoring students at PS217 as part of a work/study program. It was there that he became familiar with many educators’ discontent with the new legislation. “I remember one particular conversation where a teacher, knowing I was a film student, said ‘Lerone you have to do something’ …and she was right”, said Wilson. The film, which was designed to be a balanced look into the issues surrounding the NCLB program, has shown to be highly polarizing. “One woman who saw my website, even called to berate me about how I was essentially a liberal propagandist.” he recalled. Wilson has since re-edited the film’s trailer, yet complaints concerning its alleged political leanings continue from liberals and conservatives alike. “I’ve seen lots of hurtful, and offensive remarks flung around surrounding this issue. But after producing this film I’ve realized it’s not out of ill will, rather because it’s an issue that lots of people have a vested interest in, and care passionately about.”
Having attended schools in both Southfield, and Birmingham, Lerone spends a great deal the film’s time exploring a controversial aspect of the NCLB discussion, the black/white achievement gap. “Growing up I studied in these two demographically distinct school districts. I always wondered why despite the negligible economic differences, one group consistently outperformed the other. This really bothered me.” Wilson said. While he and his production company startup Boondoggle Films don’t intend to single-handedly solve the issues raised in the film, they do hope to have an impact upon social discourse.
Posted by Judy Rabin.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
NCLB Loopholes Undermine Title 1 Funding
Posted by Judy Rabin in Jim Horn's absence.
Poverty: The 600-lb. Gorilla in the Classroom
David C. Berliner, Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform.
Posted by Judy Rabin.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Save Head Start
If you care enough after reading this to notify your congressman and senators go to
Save Head Start and just click.
We’ll be watching closely as the House takes up reauthorization in September/October to see if Boehner’s proposed amendment to allow faith based providers to hire based on religion gets to the floor. But equally scary are the sneaky tactics contrived around the issue of accountability, being used as a mantra to save the program, while in fact, it will do the exact opposite.
Here are three of the top issues being proposed that threaten the program’s viability:
1. Parental involvement and shared governance are being threatened. Both bills under consideration would reduce policy council to an advisory committee taking power away from parents. Parents are basically being told we don’t want you involved in the program.
This is being done under the guise of strengthening the board for oversight purposes in response to the scandals that have allegedly been a source of great concern.
What will this mean in REALITY: Parents will feel disconnected, less a part of the
program, and make it easier for outsiders to gain more control of the programs within the communities.
2. Increased degree requirements for teachers. Without additional funding or resources will drive teachers out of the program who make twice as much money in public schools after they receive their education. This is expected to create a $3.4 billion in added expenses at a time when funding for the program isn’t even keeping up with inflation.
3. Continued use of high stakes tests on 4-year-olds. Despite a GAO report on the inherent problems with NRS testing and recommendation that the testing should be halted until the NAS studies it, the practice is continuing.
The title of David C. Berliner’s report, Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform, pretty much sums it up.
Anyone interested in this story or Head Start reauthorization can contact Erika Argersinger, Associate Director Government Affairs at NHSA: email@example.com
In Jim Horn's absence, Judy Rabin will be posting from August 19 - 26, 2005.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
The Real Achievement Gap
The widening disconnect between the two America's is becoming more and more obvious as children and teachers in private schools are free from the mandates imposed by No Child Left Behind. Instead of CLOSING the achievement gap, stories of white flight and teacher flight from failing public schools with large minority populations are starting to finally make the headlines and giving us a clearer picture of how NCLB is WIDENING the achievement gap. The flight to wealthier districts and private schools has put this country on a dangerous path towards increasing social inequality as the poor and struggling middle class are left behind along with their children.
Until people begin to recognize that providing an equal education is a constitutional right that was established over 50 years in Brown v. Board of Education, the politicians will continue to do nothing to deal with any real school reform. Changing the way schools are funded and taking the shackles off public school teachers who are bound and gagged with federally mandated testing standards, would be a good start. According to Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University, the wealthiest US. public schools spend at least ten times more than the poorest schools ranging from over $30,000 per pupil at the wealthy schools to only $3,000 at the poorest. This is the source of the achievement gap, not test scores.
For those who don't live in a wealthy district in NYC or any other city, just try getting your kid into one of those elite nursery schools or private schools , you better run for office or you won't stand a chance -- the lines are getting longer.
Posted by Judy Rabin in Jim Horn's absence August 19 - 26, 2005.
Fearmongering Returns to School
I spent almost 20 years as a public school teacher, and this kind of alarmist crap was taking up faculty meeting time back when 2 Live Crew was first being banned by WalMart. Here is an example of things to watch for (besides blackness, of course) as reported in the Post:
In student notebooks, they said, scribblings or illustrations often reveal gang affiliations. And synchronized wardrobes can publicly identify gang members or associates. The experts displayed jerseys, bandannas, baseball caps and other paraphernalia confiscated from gang members. There were, for instance, jerseys with the number 13, signifying the gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.
This type of fear-mongering can also be seen, of course, on the cable trash news channels. MSNBC, in their role as Fox Lite, seems particularly inspired to "inform" the public on the dangers of black males.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Exit Exams: Another Trap for Immigrants
Another reason that holding all children to the same standards doesn't work.
NCLB Rebellion Grows
As America’s children and teachers head back to school, the grassroots rebellion against NCLB already has caught on in 47 of the 50 states, with five states – MN, ME, NV, NJ and VA – likely to be the biggest anti-NCLB hotspots in 2005-2006 . . .
IB Curriculum and Conservative Resistance
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Program is an internationally recognized course of study for highly motivated 11th and 12th grade students. Currently, the program is offered in over 800 secondary schools in nearly 100 countries. To earn the IB diploma, students must pass examinations in 6 subject areas, write an extended essay of some 4,000 words describing an independent research project, complete 150 hours of creative, action, and service activities (CAS), and take part in a critical thinking seminar called Theory of Knowledge. This rigorous, comprehensive curriculum offers an integrated approach to learning while exposing students to a diversity of viewpoints in hopes of fostering tolerance and intercultural understanding.Should it come as a surprise that this curriculum has already met resistance from the wing-nuts who see this curriculum as inappropriate, nay, unpatriotic--especially for African-American students. From the Post:
Some say IB does not align with some of the college courses for which it, like the much larger Advanced Placement program, was designed to substitute. Others say it puts too much emphasis on international understanding. One Fairfax County parent went so far as to say IB "promotes socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism and moral relativism while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty."The IB school certainly doesn't resemble the MacSchools for African-Americans that the privatizers are dreaming of--IB has no uniforms (brown?), no Open Court direct instruction, no open embrace of self-subjugation in a pre-conceived and fruitless future. Unpatriotic, I guess.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Must Reading Research
Understanding Colorado’s Achievement Gap (pdf):
An Analysis of Student Performance Data by Race and Income
Bell's newest report summarizes the academic achievement gap in Colorado. It serves as a comprehensive sourcebook for test results, comparisons and recommendations. Click the title for a link to the document online as a pdf, or contact Bell for a free copy.
Bloomberg Strikes Again
August 16, 2005
Panel Votes to Hold Back 7th Graders Who Fail English TestBy SUSAN SAULNY
The Bloomberg administration won approval of a new seventh-grade promotion policy last night during a contentious meeting at the Department of Education's Lower Manhattan headquarters, where the Panel for Educational Policy voted in favor of holding back seventh graders who fail citywide English tests starting next year.
Although three members of the panel were absent and two abstained, a resolution to adopt new promotion standards for seventh graders received eight votes -- one more than needed to win approval. But before the vote, several protesters in the audience stood and, with scarves tied around their mouths, turned their backs to the panel.
During the approximately 15 minutes allowed for public comment, several other people criticized education officials for tying students' promotion to success on standardized tests. Others said that the new policy placed undue blame on students for what is, ultimately, the system's failure to educate.
But none of those objections compared to the avalanche of complaints that followed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's first announcement of tougher promotion rules for third graders in early 2004. Back then, the Panel for Educational Policy threatened to veto the plan. Mr. Bloomberg won approval only after he fired two of his appointees to the panel and the Staten Island borough president dismissed a third.
During a presentation about the promotions standards for seventh-graders last night, the city's deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, Carmen Fariña, told a roomful of parents and teachers that the administration's promotion rules introduced during the past two years for third and fifth graders had produced ''a tremendous amount of achievement.''
In fact, the administration's policies to end so-called social promotion in the lower grades have meant that fewer children have been held back, not more, mainly because of intense and expensive remedial efforts.
''It's time to do the same thing for middle school students so they can be successful in high school,'' Ms. Fariña said. She added that the initiative was not about punishment but about ''being prepared.''
Mr. Bloomberg first vowed in May to take on the issue of poor performance in junior high school after fewer students passed the state's eighth-grade reading test than in last year. Fewer than a third of the city's eighth graders were reading at or above grade level, according to the most recent scores.
The administration has pledged $40 million toward intervention efforts for the middle grades, including, Ms. Fariña said last night, Saturday classes, organizational and study skills workshops for students, counseling for parents of adolescents, and more teacher training.
''If we do not do this, we are dooming students to fail in high school,'' she said.
Once new state math requirements take effect during the school year 2006-7, promotions for seventh graders will be tied to scores on both of the city's standardized reading and math tests.
NY Times Awakens from Long Sleep
By TIMOTHY P. SHRIVER AND ROGER P. WEISSBERGPublished: August 16, 2005
THE debate over education reform has tended to divide children's learning along two axes, the emotional and the academic. Either we can address children's academic performance, the conventional thinking holds, or we can address their emotional and social needs. Before No Child Left Behind comes up for reauthorization in 2007, we'd like to deliver some important news: The two kinds of learning are intimately connected. That means that promoting students' social and emotional skills plays a critical role in improving their academic performance.
Social and emotional learning is the process through which children learn to recognize and manage emotions. It allows them to understand and interact with others, to make good decisions and to behave ethically and responsibly. The best social and emotional learning programs engage not only children, but also their teachers, administrators and parents in providing children with the information and skills that help them make ethical and sensible decisions -- to avoid bullying, for instance, or to resist pressures to engage in destructive or risky behavior, such as substance abuse. When they are well designed and executed, such programs have consistently achieved these goals, turning out students who are good citizens committed to serving their communities and cooperating with others.
Recent studies, however, have revealed something even more exciting about these programs. Along with Joseph Durlak, a Loyola University psychologist, one of us (Roger Weissberg) recently conducted the largest-ever quantitative analysis, encompassing more than 300 research studies on this subject. The results, which will be presented later this week for the first time, show that social and emotional learning programs significantly improve students' academic performance. The review shows, for example, that an average student enrolled in a social and emotional learning program ranks at least 10 percentile points higher on achievement tests than students who do not participate in such programs. Moreover, compared with their counterparts outside of these programs, social and emotional learning students have significantly better attendance records; their classroom behavior is more constructive and less often disruptive; they like school more; and they have better grade point averages. They are also less likely to be suspended or otherwise disciplined.
The numbers vindicate what has long been common sense among many teachers and parents: that children who are given clear behavioral standards and social skills, allowing them to feel safe, valued, confident and challenged, will exhibit better school behavior and learn more to boot.
This simple observation is of monumental importance as we attempt to improve our country's public schools. We don't have to choose between academic achievement and the development of character. Rather, we should concentrate on both. No Child Left Behind has created greater accountability in American education, but it is inadequately financed, it fails to effectively address the needs of special education students, and its assessment standards for all children are far too narrow. A truly effective new law should include benchmarks for social and civic learning.
One state, Illinois, has blazed a path in this regard. There is a social and emotional learning component to the Illinois State Learning Standards, and the state's school districts now incorporate such programs into their curriculums. Federal legislation should follow that lead. The new law should also include provisions for conducting systematic classroom assessments of children's social and emotional growth.
What we now understand about the role of social and emotional learning in academic learning should lead us to dramatic action, but it builds on common wisdom. Good teachers know that they can't sacrifice one part of a child for another. Now they have the figures to prove it. The time has come for policy makers to help restore balance to our nation's classrooms and, in so doing, to help American children achieve their fullest potential.
Timothy P. Shriver is the chairman of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning and of the Special Olympics. Roger P. Weissberg is a professor of psychology and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and president of the collaborative.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Today's humor dose
Thanks to David Gabbard for picking this up from Working Assets.
NCLB Left Behind?
NCLB LEFT BEHIND: NEW REPORT TO DETAIL
GROWING GRASSROOTS REBELLION AGAINST
Study: 47 States Already in Varying Stages of Revolt Against
NCLB; More Momentum Expected in New School Year, With 5 States
(MN, ME, NV, NJ and VA) Poised to Be Biggest Battlegrounds in
As American children and their teachers head back to school,
the widespread grassroots rebellion against the controversial
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act has taken root in 47 of the
50 states and is likely to gain new momentum during the
2005-2006 school year, according to a detailed analysis from
NCLBgrassroots.org, a project of the nonprofit and nonpartisan
Civil Society Institute (CSI).
The major new report will be released during a live,
phone-based news event (with full Q&A) at 1:30 p.m. ET on
August 17, 2005. News event speakers will be:
* Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal;
* Minnesota State Rep. Mindy Greiling, Roseville, MN;
* Laredo (TX) Independent School District Assistant Superintendent
of Schools Sylvia Bruni;
* Parents for Public Schools Board President Lisa Schiff,
San Francisco, CA; and
* Civil Society Institute President Pam Solo.
Entitled "NCLB Left Behind: Understanding the Growing Grassroots
Rebellion Against a Controversial Law," the new
NCLBGrassroots.org report provides a detailed look at the
various aspects of the grassroots backlash in 47 states against
NCLB, including the three states (Colorado, Connecticut and Utah)
already in “open revolt” and the five states (Minnesota, Maine,
Nevada, New Jersey and Virginia) expected to be the biggest hot
spots of NCLB opposition during the 2005-2006 school year.
TO PARTICIPATE: To participate in the live, two-way telenews
event (with Q&A), dial 1 (800) 860-2442 by 1:30 p.m. ET on
August 17, 2005. Ask for the “NCLB Left Behind” news event.
CAN'T PARTICIPATE?: A streaming audio replay of the call will
be available on the Web at NCLBGrassroots.org as of 6 p.m. ET
on August 17, 2005.
To Dream the Impossible Dream. . .
Performance Goal 1 — Reading and Mathematics — By 2013-14, all students will reach high standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading and mathematics.
Performance Goal 2 — Limited English Proficient Students — All Limited English proficient students will become proficient in English and reach high academic standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading and mathematics.
Performance Goal 3 — Highly Qualified Teachers — By 2005-06, all students will be taught by highly qualified teachers.
Performance Goal 4 — Safe and Drug Free Schools — All students will be educated in learning environments that are safe, drug free, and conducive to learning.
Performance Goal 5 — Graduation Rate — All students will graduate from high school.
When a public law holds public schools accountable for their failure in achieving unachievable goals, what is the purpose of that law? Is it to prove the failure of the public schools, to demonstrate the uncaring stupidity of those who signed built this law, or both?
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Intellectual and Emotional Genocide Against Children
A genocide is a systematic slaughter of an identifiable group of persons, often involving an ethnic group. An intellectual and emotional genocide, then, would be a systematic destruction of the intellectual and emotional contents or capacities among member of any such group. On both counts, the testing hysteria of NCLB qualifies.
Can anyone in his right mind argue that it was necessary to label these hundreds of thousands of fourth and eighth graders as failures in order to move them up a few points on a test? To have the joy of coming to school sucked out and to have learning turned into the same type of onerous mind-numbing that most of these children will inherit when they leave school. What are these few points on a test going to gain them as they move from school to jobs? No one can argue that these children of poverty are headed in significant numbers to university? For those few who do make to higher education, how many of them will have got there because these tests inspired to them do so? How many will have worked and scraped in these test preparation schools to enter college entirely unprepared for the thinking that will expected of them. And if that was the only way to raise their pathetic scores, has it been worth it for hundreds of thousands who now see themselves as the failures we have made them? Would it not have been better to let them have their childhoods and the fun that once associated with coming to school, to insist that their teachers expect, and to accept, the best that each child can deliver, to insist that they come to take part in deciding their own lives and putting the
McGraw-Hill Scores Again
Presently, 10,000 or so 3rd graders are labeled failures each spring in New York City, but about half of those who respond to the City's "invitation" to attend testing boot camp during the subsequent summer, end up passing on to 4th grade. It is a much kinder and gentler way to remind poor children that they are failures in more ways than they ever thought--and a way, too, to make it appear that the Mayor actually has a plan to improve the public schools of the City. The populace seems to have bought in, so much so that that their 5th and 7th graders will now now get an equal chance to demonstrate their failure, too.
In the meantime, McGraw-Hill has penned a five-year contract with the State, funded with $17 million from the US DOE, to fix all the scoring problems that McGraw-Hill created during the last five years. For a little history on New York's testing and scoring problems and its incestuous relationship with M-H, click here for Superintendent Bill Cala's summary of New York's efforts to scale the testing heights (what a great pun). The NY Times reported yesterday that
"the Office of State Assessment has hired six new staff members and signed a five-year contract with McGraw-Hill. Federal aid has helped pay for all the changes. New York received $17 million under No Child Left Behind to revamp its program."
For those readers wondering if Charlotte Frank, McGraw-Hill's Vice President, is still on the NY Board of Regents--no, she is not. She, like Reid Lyon, has moved on to greener pastures, if you know what I mean. She now is a prominent board member on, yet, another corporatizing school effort called, of all things, Teachers Network. Sponsored primarily by McGraw-Hill while using the motto, "For teachers, By teachers," this company site promotes corporate solutions to the problems created by corporate tests. This corporate lure should not be mistaken for Teachers.Net, which is an top-notch outfit run by teachers that offers free materials, discussion groups, etc.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Labor Wars and Labor Whores
NEA these days is particularly sensitive to criticism that they have been out of the loop, or too much in the Loop, busy, nonetheless, protecting their privileged positions at power centers in Washington, rather than speaking out against NCLB's planned destruction of public education and the intellectual/emotional genocide against children that has been the principal by-product of that effort.
NEA responds that, whoa, there, even Kennedy and Miller got snookered on the NCLB deal when they signed on, thinking that the elimination of the voucher requirement had meant a real victory. Well, it may be forgivable for a politician to be that stupid, but politicians depend on people who should know better, LIKE THE NEA. It seems to me that NEA got caught napping, not doing its homework, or, I don't know, playing golf with Ron Paige? Whatever the excuse, it is not good enough to take them off the hook for letting legislators, who might have acted differently had they had different information, do what they did--support the greatest educational boondoggle and assault against children in our history.
If the NEA's defense is that they are only now starting to "get it" in regards to NCLB's intent, then they have admitted to the inexcusable. Their chief tactic of resistance, suing the Feds for not fully funding NCLB, indicates that they did not get it. Court action along these lines only allows the White House more time to shovel out money for its stupidifying programs that become embedded in the fabric of school, and to continue their annual failure demonstrations that are documented ad nauseum by the lamest of media whores who will write any lie for nice lunch with a rep from the Business Roundtable.
If NEA is really "getting it," let Reg Weaver step out of the shadows and annouce a lawsuit against the DOE on grounds of civil rights violations, or for violating the intent of Brown v Board of Education, or for devising policies that encourage segregation, dropouts. There are enough crimes against humanity here to keep all of NEA's lawyers busy for the foreseeable future.
Political Power + Corporate Power - Civic Power = Fascism
Ms. Lipman (backed by research) paints a picture of the
intrusion of centralized power into local life, "globalization".
In her broad view, she describes the encroachment of the
centralized government and theeconomic sector, corporations,
into the cultural/civic life of schools, housing, and jobs. This
intrusion is marked by elitist classism, racism and sexism.
In essence, I agree with all she spoke of.
Without mentioning the word, what Ms. Lipman was
describing was theevolution of democracy into a
form of fascism. This trend of the marriage of the
state (political sphere) with corporate power
(economic sphere) is the classical definition of fascism.
In our case here in America, it is the wolf in sheep's clothing.
If anyone who reads this gets the chance to read
Shaping Globalization: Civic Society, Cultural Power and
Threefolding by Nicanor Perlas, it will be obvious to the
reader how Mr. Perlas has nailed down what is at the
heart of Ms. Lipman's speech. Without the third arena
called civic power, the gradual wittling away of political and
economic freedom will take placeand the elite few will rule
the overwhelming many. I have met Mr. Perlastwice. He is
one of the nicest people I have ever encountered: gracious,
listens attentively, and a man who does what he says. His
ascendance in Phillipino life came when he organized a
massive mobilisation of the civic sector against Ferdinand
Marcos and the unethical/unjust partnership of the
political and economic sector and prevented the Marcos
regime from building 12 nuclear power plants located near
active volcanoes and earthquake faultlines. In his speech
before Parliamnent where he received the 2003 Right
Livelihood Award, Mr. Perlas spoke of the "brave new world"
we are enteringwhich is "totally alien to history, totally alien
to our present experienceof the world." He goes on to say that
"This 'brave new world' will require more than ever our
harnessing of inner resources if we are not to plunge
ourselves into the abyss of destruction." His work and
movement is based onthree sectors working in harmony:
political, economic and civic. Currently,the partnership
of the political and economic spheres cast a wide global
net over the planet. Only when the civic sector rises to
share that powerwill the planet save itself. You can read
about Mr. Perlas and his work at www.globenet3.org as
well as at www.cadi.ph.
As for schooling, when the political and economic
interests overshadow the civic in the evolution of education,
we get NCLB. Only when the civic sector demands a seat at
the table will NCLB fade into oblivion and its
centerpieces of standardized testing, pressure to
privatize, and thecreeping presence of the military fade
away to take their balanced place inthe matrix of our
lives. Without this taking place, school will slowly but
surely succumb to the security state appearing deceitfully
in an Orwellian semantic of democracy in order to justify
the removal of our civil and personal liberties. In this context,
NCLB can be considered a branch of a fascist tendency now
on the rise in America.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Update from Congressman Miller's Office
The GAO reported back that the ABCTE giveaway will be part of a larger investigation of other DOE funding complaints and issues. Rep. Miller's office was told by GAO to expect a final report early in 2006.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Struggling Schools Face Sanctions as Private Tutoring Companies Reap Bonanza
The tutoring requirement became the late-inning replacement for the favored privatization pitch, school vouchers, that was pulled from NCLB in the late stages of the negotiations that eventually assured passage in 2001. Privatization would have to take a more subtle route, embedded in the increasingly-draconian sanctions that would result from impossible test performance demands over time. In the meantime, the best that could be arranged for the eager education industry was a massive giveaway in the form of tutoring contracts to private ventures that have sprung up since NCLB passage.
Unlike the strict oversight of schools receiving federal funds to stringently implement the renewed phonics orthodoxy pushed by Reading First, there are no federal accountability enforcement measures for the companies who are now collecting the carloads of cash from NCLB's tutoring program.
And carloads there are. The Baltimore Sun reports that a local company, Educate, Inc. saw profits jump 402% in 2004, as more and more urban schools failed to meet their mandated testing targets for the third year, thus requiring these schools to set aside up to 20% of their Federal Title I funds to pay tutoring companies to tutor students who request extra help.
In a recent study conducted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the American Institute for Social Justice, researchers found that Louisiana is the only state that monitors the effects of the private tutoring services on test score performance. The study, which examined 91 separate districts, found that $300 million was paid to tutoring companies in one year “with almost no scientific evidence that this spending has contributed to academic achievement."
As the draining of Title I funds continues, The Center for Policy Alternatives reports these interesting facts, some of which are from the same study cited above:
Of the 1,000 tutoring providers on current state approval lists, 63 percent are private companies. In future years, the market for in-school services by for-profit companies is estimated to be $20 to $30 billion. One of the biggest tutoring companies, Sylvan Education Solutions, expected to tutor 20,000 students in 2004, at $20 to $40 an hour. Some companies try to take unfair advantage. In one case in North Carolina, a tutoring company submitted an invoice for providing 48 students a total of 56 hours of instruction at a cost of $37,455—a rate of $674 an hour.It would seem, then, that NCLB's impossible demands that are advertised as accountability, and the draconian sanctions that are offered as remedies, really only apply to those public institutions that are in need of extremist makeovers or outright replacement. Left immune from these relentless bare-knuckled policies are those who are sure to profit from the resulting carnage.
The Big Business of Education Reform
With the growing list of investigations and the widening coverage of complaints by those shut out of the insider feeding frenzy at US DOE (click here for news of another complaint filed by Robert Slavin in June), it is becoming easier to see the cozy relations among federal consultants and researchers, and the companies for which these same consultant and researchers devise solutions that are then recommendeded by US DOE, often receiving Federal money to sustain their product development and market their products.
Here is the way it works. The DOE recruits the true believers in the version of "scientifically-based" literacy that the President's advisor and enforcer, Reid Lyon, has placed front and center in the intellectually dishonest National Reading Panel Report. The DOE then sponsors studies, recruits academics, issues reports, and funds efforts to advance strategies that advocate the preferred solution. As the USA Today article points out, "since Reading First's inception in 2002, several well-known reading experts have both advised states on federal grant applications and worked for major publishers. Publisher Scott Foresman touts two former Reading First officials on its website."
In fact, McGraw-Hill, the Bush family favorite, is now taking on an assertive tone in their public financial pronouncements, or is that just a cozy confidence. They tout their "broad base of knowledge about what is happening across state lines." Indeed. And they are obviously proud of their overlapping roles as congressional advisor, grass roots consultant, policy expert, psychometric high priest:
While we have no interaction in creating general social policy, we do have conversations with members of Congress advising on technical issues. We work across all states, and are a contractor for 23 different states, so have a broad base of knowledge about what's happening across the nation for anyone drafting legislation at this time.Yes, yes, let's not forget teaching and learning.
As states and districts implement NCLB--in the earlier grades and potentially at the high school level--we encourage educators, administrators, and policy makers to consult with us. CTB/McGraw-Hill can provide valuable policy resources, technical assistance, and advice. We are not only the leading publisher of educational assessments in the United States; we are also a key resource for information on standards and testing. Our national team of Evaluation Consultants is involved at a grass-roots level in each state-- meeting with educators, helping districts and schools understand the impact of the new law, and offering solutions that meet both the letter and spirit of the law--to improve teaching and learning.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
It's Official--Reading First is Under Investigation
"At best, it seems that there has been a lack of clarity" about what programs qualify for funding. "At worst, one or more officials contracted to work for the Department of Education may be working to further their own interests."
More Investigations at US DOE
Cited in RRCNA's letter to the Inspector General are these points:
1. State and local control. The implementation of Reading First has restricted state and local control in the selection of scientifically based reading programs.Complaint #4 focuses on an administration that has perfected the art of sliming its opponents, and the hacks running the show at US DOE are no different. The sham of "scientifically-based research" has been made clear by Gerald Coles (reviewed here) and others who have examined the propaganda piece, the National Reading Panel Report, that provides the foundation for all this fanatical phonics phenomenon that dismisses any study that does not echo the party line--and eventually disregards excellent well-documented strategies that improve literacy and thinking.
2. One-to-one instruction. The Department has excluded one-to-one instruction in the Reading First program, contradicting the authorizing statute, congressional intent, and scientific research findings of effectiveness for the lowest-achieving children.
3. Selective application of scientifically based research criteria. In the implementation of Reading First, the Department has systematically favored some programs while excluding other programs with a scientific research base.
4. Misinformation about Reading Recovery. The Department has supported a quiet yet pervasive misinformation campaign against Reading Recovery despite a large body of research demonstrating Reading Recovery’s effectiveness and long-term results.
A Reporter Who Thinks and Feels
By MICHAEL WINERIP
LAST spring, not long after a ninth-grade girl was murdered in a drive-by shooting in front of Locke High School, Liza Levine, an English teacher, assigned an essay about what it was like being a student at Locke.
Teachers rarely know the full story behind their students, and this is particularly so at Locke, in South Central, one of the city's poorest and toughest areas. ''So much goes on away from school,'' says Ms. Levine, who loses students to homelessness, pregnancy, work, drugs and jail. She never knows which ones will make it through. Most don't. The ninth grade at Locke four years ago had 979 students; in June, 322 graduated.
The 657 who disappeared? Much of current education reform is aimed at developing a formula to accurately calculate their disappearance; creating programs and new schools to prevent their disappearance, and punishing schools that lose them.
But those who disappeared are teenagers and remain elusive, even when you can ask them why.
Ms. Levine's favorite ''Day in the Life'' essay was by Lesly Castillo, 15, who was repeating ninth grade, and, the teacher feared, on the verge of dropping out. The teacher liked the quiet honesty of the essay. Ms. Levine usually has three or four students in each class who cannot read and more who do not focus, but says, ''I can count on Lesly to be cognitively all there.''
Being physically all there is another matter. From Lesly's tattoos, Ms. Levine suspected she was a gang member. Lesly has a history of skipping, and has been taken to court by school officials for truancy. When she missed a few days early in the semester, Ms. Levine called home.
Lesly's mother came in immediately. The parents are Mexican immigrants who do not speak English, common at Locke, where two-thirds of the students are Hispanic, the rest black. Her father works nights for a demolition company removing asbestos, and her mother is a housewife. Lesly's younger brother and sister get A's in elementary school.
''Lesly has two responsive parents,'' Ms. Levine says. ''That's a big part of the battle. I told her mom, she's the kind of kid who can graduate, go to college.''
Lesly's attendance improved, which gave Ms. Levine hope. Her midterm grade was C. Then she disappeared the week the class was preparing for the final on ''Lord of the Flies,'' returning in time to try and bluff her way through.
''I gave her a mercy D,'' Ms. Levine says. ''Was it right to pass her? Probably not. But the course teaches them to write for the state test and she has the capability. If I gave her an F, it would have just put her five credits further behind.''
A Day in the Life. English, Period 3. Every morning I wake up around 6:30 and I tune in the oldies radio station My little brother runs to the bathroom first and he takes forever in there so me and my little sister just have to wait I wake up arguing with my mom for any reason, so I just can't wait to get to school, just not to be home any more. Once I'm in school I can't be there anymore. I get bored and sometimes that just makes me want to go back home.
When I get to first period it's boring throughout until third period, but not all the times, only sometimes when the lesson is hard to understand or sometimes it's just hard to concentrate in school when you have problems and you're thinking about when it's your next court date or after a whole day in court Or just thinking of a way to stay safe when you walk home.
Locke is one of the city's lowest performing schools, although the principal, Dr. Frank Wells, who is starting his second year, and several teachers say there have been gains in recent years. A new after-school program and night school give failing students the chance to make up credits; a second algebra class a day was added to help students pass the state test; a college-prep support program for midlevel students is credited with adding 100 graduates this year.
''Six seniors are going to Ivy League colleges,'' Dr. Wells says.
Even at Locke, the motivated find opportunity.
As with many city schools, a major obstacle to improving Locke is the exodus of veteran teachers. A quarter of Locke's teachers last year were new; three-quarters had been at Locke five years or less.
The principal is constantly filling vacancies. Lesly's summer school English course was taught by Ammarin Vacharaprusadee, 23 -- or Mr. V -- a recent college graduate, dispatched to Room 226 at the last minute. ''They just gave me the key the first day and said take the class,'' he says. ''They didn't give me a curriculum. No books. I'm making it up as I go.''
Several of the 23 students had their heads down much of the class. A few slept. They were supposed to do a half-hour of silent reading and write about it, but only a handful brought books. The rest, including Lesly, were allowed to write an essay on why it's important to bring your book. ''If I write, 'I ain't got it; that's why I don't got it,' is that worth points?'' asked one of three boys who taunted the young teacher the entire two hours.
Lesly arrived that day in late July having turned in only 5 of 11 assignments. In an hour she handed in the missing six, and Mr. V quickly gave her credit in his grade book. ''I was getting a failure and Mr. V said that boosted it to an A,'' she says.
Mr. V acknowledged that he barely skimmed the dozens of papers handed in that day. ''As long as they're turned in they get credit,'' he says.
THIS is why veterans like Ms. Levine, 47, who started at Locke in 2001, are so important. ''She's mastered her craft,'' says Dr. Wells, the principal, ''and I love her heart.''
Ms. Levine made a dozen home visits last year. When they read Elie Wiesel's ''Night,'' she took the class to the Holocaust museum in Los Angeles. When they read ''Romeo and Juliet,'' they translated it into modern speech. When a senior with a baby hadn't arrived to take the AP English test, Ms. Levine raced to the girl's home, dropped the baby off at day care and delivered the girl on time.
But it is hard to hold the Ms. Levines. At urban schools a major exodus comes by the fourth year, and Ms. Levine recently decided to leave, for a suburban job.
''I'm racked with guilt,'' she says. ''But you burn out. There's always this feeling that something else bad is going to happen to the kids that's out of your control.''
She was angry after hearing why Lesly missed the week before finals. ''I called the house,'' Ms. Levine says. ''She told me she'd gone to live with her boyfriend. She said, 'Don't worry, Miss, I'm not with him anymore, he's 24.' I said, 'Lesly, that's statutory rape, he can go to jail.'''
And Lesly? ''Didn't say anything,'' Ms. Levine says.
After fourth period is lunch and I like to kick back and just chill and talk about the problems we have and to find a way to fix them. We only get to kick it for a little while because sometimes we get searched just in case we have any type of weapons or drugs. Then the bell rings to go onto fifth period My friends have that class and we just make fun of the teacher.
At the end of the school day my mom picks me up and I go home and just talk on the phone until my dad gets home and starts ripping on me, then we all just start arguing over using the phone. Then around 5:30 me and my mom leave to go to the park to work out When I get home I take a look at my caller ID My boyfriend calls or just one of my friends calls to tell me about a new problem we have on our backs. Or I also receive calls from homies telling me that one of the homegirls or homeboys got shot or killed or just simply put in jail. Not long ago my homie Caprice, rest in peace, got shot and killed by the police It was all over the news.
The Castillos came from Mexico when Lesly was 4. As they struggled up the ladder, they moved eight times in 11 years. Her dad, Ramon, wanted to own a house, and the area he could afford was South Central. It is a small immaculate home on a street bordered by a freeway and junkyard. He says he hopes to sell for a profit, then move away, so his younger children do not have Lesly's troubles. ''Everything I do in this country is for my family,'' he says.
In eighth grade, Lesly says: ''My parents were real strict, they wouldn't let me go out. So I went out during school. I had a schedule. Monday I went to school. Tuesday to Thursday I didn't. Friday they gave tests; I went a half day and left after lunch.''
Lesly looks mature for her age and liked the attention of older boys, even if they were gang members. ''I was 13 they were 18, then like 20, 23, 24.'' She now attributes much of her trouble to her relationship with the 24-year-old gang leader. At one point, she was sent to court for truancy, another time for a fight when she kicked a girl's eye shut. She had her gang name tattooed in inch-high letters on her left breast. ''My dad wouldn't talk to me,'' Lesly says. ''He kept saying why did you do it? You have a family, why do you need them?''
Why did she? ''I don't know,'' Lesly says. ''I guess I was just hanging with the wrong people, doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.''
Moving in with the 24-year-old was a turning point. It was miserable, she says. He was lazy, wasn't around much, spent most of the time at the house of another girl he'd gotten pregnant. After a week, she returned home.
Recently, through a mutual friend, he sent back her love letters and photos. She tore them up. ''He has no power over me,'' she says. ''He can't force me to go back to him.''
I also have to go to counseling. Counseling is mostly given to you by court or your parents sign you up It's when you do bad in school or at home and in counseling they try to help you Personally I think it doesn't work.
When I get home I take a shower. I like to draw and listen to some oldies and start to worry on what you have done bad and the consequences. I also think on how to do things right and not to get caught doing bad things. I also try to find a way to stay out of probation, house arrest or do things right so I won't get locked up. After I get tired I put everything away and I go to sleep.
The guidance counselor told Lesly that she still does not have enough credits for 10th grade. Lesly says this fall she will go to after-school from 3:30 to 5 and night school from 5 to 8 to make up the credits. But Ms. Levine says it is a bad sign that Lesly dropped her second summer course, algebra.
''I hope she'll make it,'' Ms. Levine says. ''But I'm too much of a realist. I don't think so.''
Lesly's father, too, is guarded. He says he sees small signs of change, but wants to see the grades.
Lesly herself is not sure. ''Sometimes I think I can,'' she says, ''but I may not. I've been in ninth grade so many years. Ninth grade! What's hard about ninth grade? I think it's that I haven't been to school so much.''
The only person Lesly is allowed out with now is Stephanie Zamora, her best friend since seventh grade. Stephanie is in 11th grade with a B average and has plans for college. Stephanie takes Lesly to her church. Her boyfriend is a senior who plans to join the Marines.
''My boyfriend treats me right,'' she tells Lesly. ''He tries to help me in school. He shows me he cares about me. He's a serious person.''
''So serious,'' Lesly says.
''He cracks a little joke,'' Stephanie says.
''Only with you,'' Lesly says.
''Lesly's problem is she goes for the easy stuff,'' Stephanie says.
''She just thinks about the right now,'' Stephanie says.
''Yeah,'' Lesly says.
''I'm still worried she'll go back to this guy.''''I'm not going back to him,'' Lesly says.