"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, March 31, 2006

Grasmick Has A Fan Club

And guess who's the president of that fan club for Maryland's state superintendent in charge of school privatization? From WaPo:
Within hours of the vote, Spelling's department issued a statement backing the decision, but her comments yesterday indicated the degree of support for Grasmick in Washington as she battles a barrage of criticism from legislators, politicians and the community."I am president of the Nancy S. Grasmick fan club," Spellings said. Grasmick has worked on national commissions and makes regular trips to Washington.

If this privatization gambit fails, we can all expect to hear much, much more about the urgent need for a federal test (NAEP) to determine AYP in the states. With the current scaling of the NAEP, a move to federalize testing would make the inevitable failure much quicker. It would leave no wiggle room for states who are counting on the day when these scandalous crooks and liars get run out of Washington.

That day may be sooner than later.

NCLB Said I Could

The story gets more interesting in Baltimore, with the Maryland General Assembly ready to block the politicized state takeover of 11 Baltimore public schools. Governor Ehrlich seems shocked that there are elected officials who might try to preserve the public schools:

Ehrlich said he was stunned that lawmakers would seek to postpone steps -- authorized by the federal No Child Left Behind law -- designed to improve schools with long track records of failure.

"I'm not going to sentence another generation of kids to dysfunctional schools," the governor said. "We have one school system that's not cutting it."

With for-profit corporate welfare charters as one of the preferred alternatives by Ehrlich and other conservative privatizers, it is worth remembering that it was just 10 years ago that EAI (Education Alternatives, Inc.) was sent packing after a four-year failed takeover experiment in Baltimore that left academic performance no better off than it had been before the "bold experiment."

What was left better off was CEO John Golle's bank account, since he took advantage of cashing in about $1. 7 million in stock options before the eventual belly up and booting of EAI by the Nasdaq. Golle went on to head the Arizona-based Tesseract Schools, which flamed out as well, leaving thousands of parents stranded with no schools for their kids.

This morning I found this oldish piece from Business Week on for-profit schools. It has this interesting clip that reminds us of the dangerous assumption that education is simply a business and that children and teachers can be treated as equipment and widgets:
For-profits are also tearing up the rule book on hiring. Michigan's largest for-profit, Leona Group, tapped a former General Motors Corp. marketing manager, Rod Atkins, to be principal of its Voyageur Academy, a Detroit elementary school. Atkins got the job after serving on the school's board, which includes managers from GM and Ford Motor Co. He has no previous teaching experience and hardly acts like a traditional principal. Last year, he fired a kindergarten teacher for poor performance, which almost never happens in unionized public schools. And after discovering many kids were having trouble with multiplication tables, ''we decided to put everybody in lockdown from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.'' for additional work, he says. When parents arrived to pick up their kids, Atkins told them to come back later. They said ''fine,'' he recalls.

Most for-profits claim such methods are producing impressive results. ''After one year, we're showing 10% to 15% gains'' on student test scores, says Advantage CEO Steven F. Wilson. National Heritage says its students have been advancing the equivalent of 1.4 grades in a year. Some educators remain dubious. ''Each of these developers pulls out its best school and says that's what is happening,'' says Harry Levin, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University's Teacher College. Until rigorous studies are done over more time, he cautions, such claims can't fairly be judged.

CEP Highlights and Low Beams

California parent and activist, Lisa Schiff, has this excellent summary of the tiptoeing-on-eggshells CEP Report (Center on Education Policy) on No Child Left Behind. Though rich on data, the report, unfortunately, does not shine its light beneath the surface for implications or recommendations. If we waited for CEP to get the message out, Chris Whittle would have become the Bill Gates of the school business:
The CEP report is full of interesting analysis, including a case-study of neighboring Oakland Unified School District. The disappointing aspect of the report is in its recommendations, which are suggestions of ways to fix NCLB as opposed to a thorough critique of the policy, including the implicit educational premises woven through it. The data has been collected and the arguments are right there to make. While some of the recommendations are fine, such as the call to give states and districts more financial support to help struggling schools, overall these recommendations end up merely covering up the fundamentally flawed nature of this legislation.

No matter how much this legislation is nipped and tucked, NCLB is still a simplistic effort to narrowly reduce the educational activities and related assessments that occur in schools, call that success and be done with it. This is not really about increasing standards or achievement. It's a weak attempt to take a short-cut to building strong schools that support the wide variety of needs, skills, and abilities children bring to the classroom. The simple fact that the impossible 2014 deadline for having 100% of all school-age children be proficient in math and reading is still in front of us is only one of the many ludicrous aspects of NCLB that reveal its destructive core.

One of the recommendations of the CEP that is heard so often is that we need to fully fund NCLB. This would be a horrible outcome, because it would make it that much harder to expose and question the basic philosophy of NCLB, that one size fits all and that the academic success of a state, a district, a school or a child can be summed up in a number.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Conspicuously Absent

The House Committee on Science held hearings today on K-12 education but the Republican majority denied requests from ranking Democrats to have a teacher represented on the panel. Afterall, what do veteran science and math teachers know about "Rising Above The Gathering Storm" -- could it be the facts?

Here's some information directly from Congressman Gordon's (D-TN) office in case you missed the hearings on C-Span:

The foremost reports and experts in the field agree,” remarked Rep. Gordon. “Without a solid teacher base, progress in K-12 STEM education will be difficult to attain.”

In fact, Committee Democrats requested that a distinguished 30-year classroom science teacher join the panel today and share her experiences in working with the federal education programs under discussion. Committee Republicans refused the witness, forcing the Minority to request an additional day of hearings on this important topic.

Committee Democrats also questioned panelists including U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings as to why the Administration’s FY07 budget claims to enhance K-12 education through the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), yet focuses 70% of the funding on math curriculum development at the Department of Education – a seemingly narrow area that ignores calls for improvement in both math and science education to provide a foundation for competitiveness.

“We should certainly concentrate some efforts on math curriculum development, but 70%?” questioned Rep. Gordon. “In a time of limited budgets, it makes much more sense to me to focus our efforts on funding current programs that are working and producing measurable results for students and teachers.”
Sense? Hmmm.... The Democrats need to dig a little deeper and so do the reporters.

The 65% Distraction

The latest scheme to dismantle public education is playing out across the country in state legislatures and on ballot initiatives but voters aren't buying it. They aren't distracted and they are finally starting to pay attention and wake up to the dense web of fabrication and lies being spun by the right wing think tanks that masquerade as education reformers.

Nathan Newman, policy director at the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN), gives the 65% Solution a good airing. THANKS NEWMAN.

Of course, none of this is surprising, because the 65% Distraction was not crafted to meet the needs of students, parents, or teachers, but of rightwing ideologues who are seeking to dismantle public education.

Consider this: Not only does the 65% Distraction include football uniforms, it also considers all vouchers to be spent “in the classroom,” nevermind the profits sure to be taken by the companies lining up to benefit from corporate-conservative privatization efforts. Those profits? Classroom spending.

And the backers of the 65% Distraction have even be admirably honest with their true goals. As laid out in a leaked memo, Tim Mooney and Patrick Byrne, the leading advocates of the bill, make it clear that they see this move as a political one, to create division among teachers and administrators and begin laying the groundwork for vouchers, all while providing an opportunity to funnel soft money into ballot issue campaigns.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: People who write memos about how to take political advantage of children should not be responsible for writing education policy.

Of course, the fact that the 65% Distraction was crafted by political hacks and not by serious policy experts is unsurprising. Despite a massive rightwing network of think tanks, you would be hard-pressed to find serious education work being produced....

Maybe if the policy debate wasn't being dominated by such corporate-backed policy outfits, we could actually have a debate on the reforms that would help our children: expanding early childhood education, more equitable funding for poorer districts, better retention of good teachers, and accountability that amounts to more than a mandate to "teach to the test."

Slapping down the 65% Distraction in the states where it is being proposed is the first step in getting back to a discussion of real reforms for our schools.

Academic Bill of Wrong

If crackpot, David Horowitz, had bothered to check the research, he would have found out that his thesis regarding "the war on conservative students" is in the same category as the war on Easter bunnies. A clip from Inside Higher Ed:

In debates over the Academic Bill of Rights, supporters of the controversial legislation have suggested that conservative students are the victims of classroom bias — and receive lower grades or even failing grades because of their political views. . . .

It turns out that there is actual research that has been done on the subject. And the research suggests that there is no widespread relationship between students’ political views and their grades. But there is one exception: In some disciplines favored by conservative students, liberal students seem to receive lower grades. . .

What Maryland is Doing . . .

In a thinly-disguised political move by Maryland's Governor Ehrlich and soon-to-be-candidate for lieutenant governor, State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, efforts are underway to stage a state takeover of 11 schools in Baltimore, possibly turning them into for-profit charters (corporate welfare schools)--paid for with tax money.

The plan is to use the inevitable NCLB-mandated school failures as the cudgel to beat down claims of school improvement by Baltimore mayor and gubernatorial candidate, Martin O'Malley (D). The Center on Education Policy's Jack Jennings, quoted in WaPo yesterday, has this to say about efforts by Grasmick and Ehrlich:
"What Maryland is doing will be a precursor to what a number of other states will do."
Whether or not Grasmick and Ehrlich are cut down by a political buzz saw that is already getting revved up in Maryland, I think Jennings has it right--this kind of state action is not only predictable but inevitable elsewhere. Unless, of course, we ditch NCLB next year or make serious modifications in it.

To hear the for-profit charter and voucher proponents tell it, however, they are shocked to hear that 25,000 American public schools have been labeled as failures already. Michael Petrelli, VP at one of the neocon's top education sludge tanks, the Fordham Foundation, said this in a Bloomberg.com propaganda piece that could have been written by Petrelli, himself:
"Most people thought that at this point in the law, we'd be seeing these numbers go way, way up'' as standards toughen."
The fact is that Petrelli and other privatization planners knew very damn well that there would be mass failure as a result of NCLB, and he also knows that we ain't seen nothing yet. As we move toward 2014, the states that have laid out modest goals for testing gains in the early years will have very large balloon payments coming due soon as we move toward the impossible goal of 100% proficiency by 2014.

Have a look at this slide (click slide to enlarge) from a presentation in 2004 by Bob Linn,
An Evaluation of the NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress Requirements (pdf). Note: the comments beneath the slide are mine :

How likely will schools meet this ridiculous requirement of 100% grade-level proficiency? Here is a slide from a Massachusetts study on where Massachusetts will stand by 2014 if NCLB remains in effect:

If we can expect a 74% failure rate in one of the strongest education states, what can we expect in Louisiana?

And how long will the American public put up with this insanity?

Or will we simply roll over and let the education privatizers do their dirty work?

Just Saying No

Did you know that schools can't require your students to drink the Kool-Aid? In fact, if parents, teachers, and students across the country did what hundreds of thousands of brave Latino students did this week in temporarily escaping their chain gang schools for a breath of free air, NCLB's bubble would pop, too.

No, they can't force your children to take these stupidifying tests, but they believe they can make you keep your children out of school for two weeks, as Oak Park parent, Jim Gill found out last week. Here is a clip from from the Oak Leaves:

Upset at having to keep his children home for two weeks to avoid state testing, parent Jim Gill has accused District 97 of denying his children access to their education.

Gill told the district School Board last Wednesday he philosophically opposes standardized testing of students, and would keep his children home for two weeks to avoid the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.

In the past, he said, the district had allowed him to keep his kids out of school during testing periods. After that, they could return to class.

But now, he said, the district had informed him it would administer a make-up test to his kids if they returned anytime during the ISAT testing window, which lasted from March 13 through 24.

"The previous administration did not agree with this decision because it recognized keeping my children out of school was simply punitive," Gill told trustees.

Let Illinois State Board of Education Spokeswoman, Meta Minton (at 217-782-4321), know what you think about making parents keep their children out of school 2 weeks to avoid the abuses of testing mminton@isbe.net

Fear-Based Education on the Run

The Editor' Cut has a good commentary on the current bubble-bursting of the testing industry. Here' a clip to enjoy with coffee:

Looks like the $2.3 billion standardized testing industry forgot to devise a much needed self-examination.

Two weeks ago, after two students paid fees to have their SATs rescored by hand, it was discovered that 4,000 students had received scores that were incorrectly low. A week later, the College Board announced that another batch of 1,600 exams had to be rescanned. The Washington Post now reports that another 27,000 exams still need to be rechecked.

Also two weeks ago, CTB/McGraw-Hill acknowledged that questions from sample tests were mistakenly placed on the actual exam used by the NCLB regime to assess schools and students for 400,000 7th & 8th graders in New York.

And the banner month for the industry ended with the Educational Testing Service reaching an $11 million settlement with 27,000 people who were wrongly scored on their teacher certification exams, including 4,100 who were failed incorrectly.

As Robert Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Centerfor Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) puts it: "If you're waiting for the other shoe to drop – this is more like a centipede."

The rest, here.

And then there is this editorial from the red state, Indiana, in the Ft. Wayne Joural-Gazette this morning. Is that Spring in the air or the heat rising from Margaret Spelllings' compound :

Suellen Reed, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, supports efforts to consider development of an assessment system, rather than a one-time test. Rhode Island, for example, requires students to spend 15 hours working with an adult in the community. The goal is to ensure that the curriculum isn’t narrowed to focus on test-taking subjects at the expense of skills such as time management and real-world problem-solving.

It’s a goal Indiana should adopt as well. Combining standardized tests with performance assessments gives a fuller picture of an individual’s abilities and decreases dependence on error-prone tests. When lives and careers hang in the balance, students deserve no less.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Who's Failing?

As the DoE reports more than a quarter of U.S. schools are failing under terms of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, NPR in Boston zeroes in on the real story -- NCLB is what's failing. Buckle Down! It's an interview you don't want to miss.

Talking about Education and No Child Left Behind
From Teacher's College at Columbia University:

A report out this week says that thousands of American schools have found one way to try to raise reading and math scores: cut back on teaching everything else. President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program punishes schools that don't hit their marks on reading and math test scores. In an effort to meet the law, some schools are pushing all but reading, math -- and testing -- to sidelines.

Thomas Sobol, Professor of Outstanding Educational Practice at Teachers College and former New York State Education Commissioner (1987 to 1995), is a guest speaker on Boston's WBUR National Public Radio show.

The show, Education and No Child Left Behind, airs March 29th at 11 a.m. and will be available in the WBUR archives at: http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2006/03/20060329_b_main.asp

Standards are WONDERFUL! We Love the Concept!

Thanks to Marion Brady for these points that he posted earlier to Gerald Bracey's EDDRA listserv.

I, for one, am interested:
I wish I could interest you good people in a strategy for cutting down the pole that holds aloft the "Standards and accountability!" banner.

The perception that educators opposed to NCLB are simply unwilling to be held accountable is surely the engine driving the current "reform" movement. That perception must be countered.

I tried (again) to explain how to do this in my cover article for the May 2000 KAPPAN, ("The Standards Juggernaut")," but nobody paid attention.

So, now, consider the merit of a concerted effort to speak with one voice to this year's Congressional candidates, saying something like:

1. Standards are WONDERFUL! We love the concept!

2. Unfortunately, the subject-matter standards Congress has mandated are freezing in place a curriculum designed in 1893, the effectiveness of which peaked about 1950.

3. That curriculum:

- Has no overarching aim

- Fails to support the basic process by means of which knowledge expands

- Ignores the holistic, systemic nature of knowledge

- Disregards the brain's need for order and organization

- Fails to model the seamlessness of human perception

- Lacks criteria for determining the relative importance of specific knowledge

- Insufficiently relates to real-world experience

- Neglects vast and important fields of study

- Unduly emphasizes symbol-manipulation skills

- Fails to exploit the mutually supportive nature of knowledge

- Relies on short-term recall rather than logic for accessing memory

- Has no built-in self-renewing capability

- Assigns students an unnatural, passive role

- Does not address ethical and moral issues

- Encourages simplistic methods of performance evaluation

- Does not progress smoothly through ever-increasing levels of intellectual complexity

- Makes unreasonable demands on memory

- Lacks a vocabulary and conceptual framework facilitating educator communication

- Is overly dependent on extrinsic motivation

- Penalizes rather than capitalizes on student variability

4. NCLB isn't just reactionary, it doesn't just stifle curricular innovation, it ignores the most promising education-related ideas to emerge since WW II - General Systems Theory, conceptual modeling, and a new appreciation of the holistic nature of knowledge.

5. NCLB is beating a dead horse, and the rest of the world will quickly pass us by.

Marion Brady

Which Spellings Lie Do You Prefer?

Apparently, Maggie Spellings' comments about teaching to the test being "fine and dandy" did not play very well with the focus groups, so like her boss, she simply ditched the earlier remarks in favor of another lie, while pretending the first one didn't occur. Here is the audacious fabrication she used in New York on March 15 in support of grinding down the school curriculum to what is tested so that all teaching becomes teaching to the test:

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said tests are based on skills that kids need and teachers must teach.

"Teaching to the test is fine and dandy, keep on," she added in response to a question at the Association of American Publishers annual meeting in midtown.

Ten days later across the river in New Jersey, we get this lie, that echoes one told back to October 2005 when she talked about how testing goes all the way back to Socrates:

Spellings rejected the notion of critics who claim standardized testing has resulted in "teaching to the test" in many classrooms.

"There is no teaching to the test," Spellings said. "Testing has always been a part of the teaching enterprise since Socrates. At some point there has to be a measurement — a day of reckoning where you stand and deliver and prove what you know."

And no accountability. How ironic!

Looking for Crime in All the Wrong Places

The Philadelphis Inquirer and the more local Cherry Hill Courier Post have stories on a criminal investigation in Camden, NJ, the same Camden that was focal in Kozol's riveting and sorrowful account of New Jersey urban schools in Savage Inequalities. This is the same Camden that now continues to struggle, despite an influx of additional school funding that resulted from an protracted lawsuit that ended in a favorable court decision for the historically-ignored urban reservations of poverty in the state.

The crime being investigated? Allegations of cheating on tests. Not only has the local school board hired an investigator to the tune of $28,500, but get this:
The state Department of Education has already launched an investigation of Carruth's claims, as have the Camden County Prosecutor's Office and the U.S. Department of Education.

Reading Kozol's chapter on Camden, "Children of the City Invincible," it becomes obvious that not much has changed in Camden since 1991. The city is still racked by violence and poverty and an absence of opportunity. Schools are still segregated, and if there are changes that children would notice in the classrooms, now the year-round test preparation that was going on 15 years ago has a script that teachers follow like parrots.

Where are the real criminals responsible for the situation in Camden? Who is responsible for the fact that "impoverished Blacks are hemmed into jurisdictional wastelands that are . . . 'utterly cut off' from the outside world?" What public school options are available for Camden students to attend schools that aren't on the chopping block, as Camden inevitably falls under the sword of "adequate yearly progress?"

Is Cherry Hill, the rich neighbor, interested in taking any of the children looking for a safe school, a good school that meets AYP? Or does Cherry Hill have its own interests to protect? After all, the racism inherent in our apartheid-supporting national testing system provides Cherry Hill and other schools the justification they need to shun diversity. Remember: just one poor subgroup can make an entire school a failure. Which white community is willing to risk having their own schools being shut down for taking in poor children?

Who are the criminals responsible for coming up with an evaluation system that guarantees the failure of poor people? Who are the thugs in charge of devising this unceasing racist steamroller that makes sure that young minority children come to see themselves as failures before they even know what that means for their futures? Who is investigating these crimes against humanity?

Increased funding under the Abbot ruling has resulted in test score improvements, but how can funding any single instititution address the underlying economic shambles that shapes the lives of most of Camden's inhabitants. Can new books keep a child from getting shot on the way TO school? Can new computers address the hopelessness that exudes from homes where the American dream is just something that taunts from a TV screen? Here is a bit of the Kozol restrospective quoted above from The Black Commentator:

So-called public-private urban educational partnerships were coming into full bloom when Kozol published his book. He recognized the schemes as insidious sources of market justifications of inequality. "Investment strategies, according to [corporate] logic," said Kozol, "should be matched to the potential economic value of each person.

"Future service workers need a different and, presumably, a lower order of investment than the children destined to be corporate executives, physicians, lawyers, engineers. Future plumbers and future scientists require different schooling - maybe different schools. Segregated education is not necessarily so unattractive by this reasoning."

Kozol insists there be no compromise with justice. "Some of the help [corporations] give is certainly of use, although it is effectively the substitution of a form of charity, which can be withheld at any time, for the more permanent assurances of justice."

Kozol's 1991 answer to George Herbert Bush's tentative promotions of public treasury vouchers for private schools, applies equally to his far more aggressive son. "The White House, in advancing the agenda for a "choice" plan, rests its faith on market mechanisms. What reason have the black and very poor to lend their credence to a market system that has proved so obdurate and so resistant to their pleas at every turn."

Kozol's methodology allows us to view his student subjects' exterior worlds. That world tells the children and the reader everything that needs to be known about market forces in America.

It was the market that brought Blacks to East St. Louis in the industrial boom years, and later abandoned them there to be killed by toxic smoke, poisoned water and their own, desperate selves. The market, a captive of racism - or is it the reverse? - kept the cities on the Illinois bluffs above the Black town virtually all-white. The market, not Jim Crow, isolated East St. Louis, and cannot possibly save its children.

In New Jersey, the State Supreme Court, miraculously out of touch with prevailing corporate thought, has caused the distribution of billions of dollars to assure that historically victimized children in Black and brown school districts receive as a right an "efficient and thorough" education. Suburban claims to immunity from the consequences of the pain inflicted on the inner city were given no standing before the bench . . .

. . . . Jonathan Kozol's book is as critical a resource now as when first printed. Inequality has been elevated to a kind of religion by the corporate representatives at the national helm. The battle for democracy and human standards of worth will be truly savage.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Learning to Say, NO--and Learning to Stand Up for Children

Peter Campbell interviews Susan Ohanian. A Million Teacher March? Do have a listen!

From Peter:
"All I know is if teachers remain silent, they are going to lose their profession. In many cases, the profession is dead: when you're reading a script, you are not a professional."


In my interview with her, Susan Ohanian calls on teachers, professional organizations, and unions to speak out against high-stakes testing. As she says, "You certainly can't be an activist if your mouth is shut."

If you are a fledgling activist or just need a kick in the pants to get organized or stay organized, this is what you are looking for! Susan is an inspiration to us all.

Stones in the River or Sticks in the Mud?

There is growing evidence that we are using school to create a generation of emotional and intellectual dependents. We may be, in fact, well on our way to creating a society that is emotionally unplugged and intellectually unable to assume a level of autonomy and active idealism necessary to sustain democratic living.

We can only wonder, too, how this generation will accept the adult lives they have sacrificed their youths to attain--or will they remain blissfully ignorant that there was something even lost in the heedless clawing to get on top? A clip from the WaPo story on junior year stress:
"They are not good at processing risks," said Denise Clark Pope, a lecturer at Stanford University's education school and the author of "Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students."

"Their brains do not process what could happen if they do x, y and z until after they have done x, y and z," she said. "They will say, 'I won't use a condom just this one time.' What is the risk? It doesn't hit them until later."

. . . . Goehring, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson last year and attends the College of William and Mary, said she survived the depression and difficult courses her junior year by deciding to "accept the things I couldn't change instead of internalizing them."

Facing stress, she said, she learned to follow a Taoist maxim: "Be like a stone in the river. The water flows all around you, but you are serene and unmovable." It is a philosophy that might come in handy, because she will be majoring in physics and East Asian studies.

A world pre-packaged and available to those with the highest score?

Developmental Tutoring?

The unadulterated idiocy of the testocrats is clearly without pretense or remorse. These score-keeping visionaries are nuts and proud of it.

In Indiana as elsewhere, there are plans for kindergarten and pre-K standardized tests, and now there is talk of remediation children who are "struggling" to develop:
Currently, Indiana students start taking yearly ISTEP tests -- which are given each fall -- in third grade. But [State Superintendent] Reed said there are benefits to testing children in kindergarten, first and second grade.

A kindergartner might not be able to use a No. 2 pencil to fill in bubbles marking multiple-choice answers -- or even read such a test -- but there are other ways to test young children.

One short test shows a set of pictures to kindergartners, who are asked which picture begins with a certain sound. The results can help teachers and parents work with struggling students to improve basic alphabet skills before moving on to more difficult material.

So let's see if I have this right--let's find an intervention strategy for developmental differences in cognition!! Is that the game? WHERE ARE THE MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS? Yes, to save the children, but more importantly, to lock away these insane officials before they can do more damage.

Ms. Reed--get thee to a nuttery!!

Mouths of Babes

In response to Sunday's NYT's front page story - Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math, one high school student has an idea:

To the Editor:

As a high school student, I'm completely opposed to "narrowing the curriculum." It is bad for the students.

What happens to these students after they have been deprived of government, history, science and so much more?

This is what I think will happen.

Those students will not learn the lessons of history and how to avoid the mistakes of those who came before them. Scientific innovation will no longer happen in the United States because children will not be exposed to it.

Hundreds of teachers will be out of work because their departments will be dropped from schools. Kids will be denied classes that might lead to a lifelong interest like music.

This practice is bad for everyone. If the new tests are what's forcing school districts to take this drastic step, why not just get rid of the tests?

Samantha PlotnerGreat Falls, Va., March 26, 2006

More NYT Letters to Editor on Reading, Rehashing, 'Rithmetic

Monday, March 27, 2006

Does Anyone Understand English?

One has to wonder if there's anyone left in Washington who understands English.

The writing is on the wall about the damage and destruction inflicted by NCLB on education. With immigration reform and mass demonstrations front and center this week, let's not forget the pain and humiliation being inflicted on the children of immigrants who are being targeted by the escalating xenophobia associated with their poor performance on those "tricky" standardized tests as the schools they attend are labeled failing.

It's time to start speaking the language Congress understands -- how do you say "It's time for them to go" in doublespeak?
Time to rethink No Child Left Behind
Other voices: Elaine Olund

The Enquirer - Cincinnati.com

Recently my fifth-grader was working on a practice math test. "I don't understand question 36," she said. It was not the first time that evening that she'd had difficulty figuring out the poorly worded questions. I didn't get it either. The syntax was so mangled it was hard to tell what they wanted.

My seventh-grader chimed in. "They're trying to fool you," she said. "See, the writing's all twisted." She shook her head, and sighed deeply. "We've spent a lot of time lately learning about these tricks they put in."

My fifth-grader looked worried. Kids feel the weight attached to this test. We received four phone messages before the test, including one from the superintendent, urging us to be sure our children are rested, fed and ready for the tests.

The tests hurt curriculum as well. Everything other than drilling for the tests seems to go by the wayside in the weeks leading up to them. Many teachers want to integrate the test topics into their lessons over the course of the year, but the review material arrives just a few weeks before the tests.

Even worse, such "zero-tolerance" policies leave no room for compassion and common sense. Because no child is to be "left behind," mentally handicapped children must be tested, even if it stresses them to the point of throwing up. There are even procedures for scoring these vomit-covered tests, which sounds more like federally mandated child abuse than federal child advocacy.

The advocates of NCLB should imagine being judged on one test, rather than on their performance over the whole year. Now imagine that you are an immigrant student, being tested in a language you learned just last year. Now, pick up your No. 2 pencil and begin rethinking this legislation.

Elaine E. Olund of Clifton is the mother of two students in Cincinnati Public Schools.
Here's a story about what education is supposed to look like for those who have forgotten the meaning of the word:

NCLB: No Culture Left Behind
By Quad-City Times

Much of the trouble with No Child Left Behind involves its obsession with test-driven reading, math and science instruction at the expense of skills that really matter in the real world: creativity, problem solving and expression. It’s not enough to know how to divide or conjugate verbs. Students need to know how and when to productively apply these and other hard academic skills.

This past summer, Lincoln Fundamental School received its charter to become the Lincoln Academy of Integrated Arts, an arts magnet school near downtown Davenport. At Lincoln, arts are used as a tool to teach every subject, opening up more engaging, creative ways of teaching and learning.

Principal Jeff Womack is among the staff and teachers who are learning how to integrate arts through Quad-City Arts and instruction from Dr. Sharon Shaffer of the Smithsonian Institute. It is important to “not leave our culture behind as we are not leaving children behind,” says Womack. “Our cultural opportunities
are the reflections of who we are as a people.

The question is: Who are we as a people?

The War on Recess

Recess is a thing of the past in 40% of America's elementary schools. At Alpha Elementary in Louisiana, recess disappeared in 2001 and was replaced by the scripted Open Cult, er, Open Court Reading Program.

Now Massachusetts suburban parents are starting to respond the war on childhood. Bankrolled by the Cartoon Network, a new campaign is underway called Rescuing Recess. Here is clip from today's Boston Herald story:
Nationwide, 40 percent of elementary schools have either eliminated recess or are considering shortening students’ free time on the playground, according to the National Parent Teacher Association, which is partnering with the Cartoon Network for the “Rescuing Recess” campaign.
“A lot of parents and the public are appalled there is no recess in school and they don’t know that it’s happening,” said Anna Weselak, National PTA president. The war on recess has already hit the Bay State in several communities.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Destroying the Republic

As I have pointed out elsewhere, Spellings has one saying that is being proven more true every day: What gets tested, gets taught.

Now the popular media has begun realizing what many educators have known for years: What does not get tested does not get taught. Sam Dillon's NY Times story today makes that point very clear, and it points to the need for more people like O'Connor and Romer to speak out in support of a school curriculum that addresses the economic, social, cultural, and political needs of a democratic republic.

What we have, though, is a stifling of political consiousness, particularly in the poorest communities during these early years of NCLB. Unless NCLB is altered or jettisoned altogether, the demise, however, of social studies, the arts, science, and extracurricular activities will spread as the impossible goal of 100% proficiency begins to catch up with even the wealthier suburban schools.

And as I've said, too, before, the poor are the canaries in this dark mine of NCLB, and they are being poisoned by the millions as childhood learning, itself, is being converted in a joyless and unending grind that is intended to politically and intellectually lobotomize large segments of the population that have remained out of reach of conservative political sloganeering.

Here is a clip from Dillon's piece:

SACRAMENTO — Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

Schools from Vermont to California are increasing — in some cases tripling — the class time that low-proficiency students spend on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002, requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that fall short of rising benchmarks. The changes appear to
principally affect schools and students who test below grade level.

The intense focus on the two basic skills is a sea change in American instructional practice, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and art. A nationwide survey by a nonpartisan group that is to be made public on March 28 indicates that the practice, known as narrowing the curriculum, has become standard procedure in many communities. . . .

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Saving the Republic

From today's Washington Post op-ed by Sandra Day O'Connor and Roy Romer:
A healthy democracy depends on the participation of citizens, and that participation is learned behavior; it doesn't just happen. As the 2003 report "The Civic Mission of Schools" noted: "Individuals do not automatically become free and responsible citizens, but must be educated for citizenship." That means civic learning -- educating students for democracy -- needs to be on par with other academic subjects.

This is not a new idea. Our first public schools saw education for citizenship as a core part of their mission. Eighty years ago, John Dewey said, "Democracy needs to be reborn in every generation and education is its midwife."

But in recent years, civic learning has been pushed aside. Until the 1960s, three courses in civics and government were common in American high schools, and two of them ("civics" and "problems of democracy") explored the role of citizens and encouraged students to discuss current issues. Today those courses are very rare.

What remains is a course on "American government" that usually spends little time on how people can -- and why they should -- participate. The effect of reduced civic learning on civic life is not theoretical. Research shows that the better people understand our history and system of government, the more likely they are to vote and participate in the civic life.

We need more and better classes to impart the knowledge of government, history, law and current events that students need to understand and participate in a democratic republic. And we also know that much effective civic learning takes place beyond the classroom -- in extracurricular activity, service work that is connected to class work, and other ways students experience civic life.

Preserving our democracy should be reason enough to promote civic learning. But there are other benefits. Understanding society and how we relate to each other fosters the attitudes essential for success in college, work and communities; it enhances student learning in other subjects. . . .

Dubai, Gramma Bush, and Having "The COW"

Barbara Bush' insistence that her Katrina aid donation go to son, Neil's company, Ignite! Learning, has lit a firestorm of resentment against the webs of corruption and arrogance of the Bush dynasty.

Josh Marshall has a list of contributors to Neil's venture, and it is becoming clear that a gift to Neily was an un-subtle attempt to curry favor from the Bush Administration. A quick Google search this morning turned up this story from WorldNetDaily that does nothing to reduce such suspicion:
Investors from the United Arab Emirates helped fund the $23 million Neil Bush raised for Ignite!, the learning systems company that holds lucrative No Child Left Behind Act contracts in Florida and Texas. The "Cow" is an Ignite! portable computer designed to work in a classroom, providing interactive instruction aimed at improving students' scores on standardized tests. If you loved Billy Carter and "Billy Beer," you're certain to love Neil Bush and the "Ignite! Cow."

Above is a pic of the centerpiece of Neil's product line, "The COW." With built-in projector, curriculum content, and script for teachers, anyone who can fill out a Wal-Mart application can become a teacher overnight with this miracle contraption:
Ignite! Learning is thrilled to introduce you to The COW (Curriculum On Wheels), a program designed to let you deliver lessons in the same way professional presenters do. The COW (including computer, projector, and speakers) comes pre-loaded with all of Ignite!'s Science or Social Studies courses. You just plug it in and start teaching!

And here is a clip from the outline of the Social Studies Curriculum. Wonder what messages could be conveyed in some of these highlighted chapters?

Understanding Our Democracy -The Rights and Responsibilities of the
Citizen 1787-Present
Three Branches
States' Rights
The Influences of Factions
The Electoral Process
Constitutional Amendments
How a Bill Becomes a Law
The Individual vs the State
Limited Freedom of Speech
Sacrificing for the Greater Good

The Media
Protest and Civil Disobedience

Sale of the Century

NCLB may be getting an "F" from constituents of Congressman Tierney in Massachusetts who recognize it does nothing to improve education or close the achievement gap, but it's getting a big fat "A" from companies salivating over the prospect of capturing a bigger share of this $780 billion market.

In a public forum on NCLB this week Tierney's constituents aired their grievances:

Some parents said schools are addressing special education needs, but had to send gifted children to read books in the corner while preparing other students for MCAS exams. Other parents said schools did not have adequate funding for arts programs or even for textbooks.

"I feel the impact No Child Left Behind has had is that no child is moving forward," said Meryl Goldsmith, an Amesbury mother.

Paul Jancewicz, speaking as a parent and an Amesbury Middle School teacher, said "too many cooks" are setting education guidelines, but not allocating enough money for programs.

"It's a time of great stress," he said. "We wanted to have a debate club, but we couldn't fund it."
Paul Georges, a Newbury resident and head of Lowell's teaching union, stressed that Massachusetts schools are tops in the nation, but are being undermined in part because some people want to see them become privatized.
As more schools fail to make AYP and face sanctions including takeovers by private companies, people are beginning to see through the smoke and mirrors of this Machiavellian scheme to sell out public schools, teachers and employees to the highest bidder. If not repealed, NCLB is sure to generate a steady stream of new inventory.

According to the latest data from the NEA :

Of the 49 states and the District of Columbia (DC) reporting the number of schools not making AYP for at least one year in the 2005-06 school year, a total of 22,873 schools failed to make AYP, 25.8 percent of all public schools (see accompanying document "Data on Schools/Districts Not Making Adequate Yearly Progress" (PDF, 103kb, 8 pages). This compares to 21,175 schools in those 49 states and DC last school year, an increase of 1,699 schools. Of these 49 states and DC, 21 saw decreases in the number of schools not making AYP (more schools made AYP), while the other 29 saw increases (fewer schools made AYP). This reverses the trend between the 2003-04 school year and the 2004-05 school year when the number of schools making AYP increased.

In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Iris Salters, president of the Michigan Education Association, says public education is "not for sale."

Unfortunately, boards making decisions to privatize school employees don't place a high value on what's best for kids. They act hastily -- sometimes with little public comment -- to outsource work, usually under the guise of "saving money."

For-profit companies are out to make money and see great potential in the more than $780 billion spent annually on public education in this country. It's nonsensical to think a private company can do more for less; it does less for less -- and students suffer. The district loses money and other employees have to pick up the slack.

We are witnessing an attempted private-sector takeover of the entire system of public education. If left unopposed, we might eventually have a system of public education where nearly all activities would be controlled by private companies, reducing the role of elected school boards to glorified contract administrators.

There is no other public institution charged with the important dual purposes of preparing young people not only for further education and employment, but for citizenship.

Our American democracy depends on public education preparing young people for employment and more education as well as for citizenship -- and we shouldn't outsource those responsibilities to a for-profit company.

Public education is not for sale.

(Could have fooled me.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tell 'Em Betty

Is the NAACP listening? Or are they too busy buying into the hard bigotry of unrealistic expectations and the stupidification that NCLB guarantees will perpetuate this unbridled corporate greed and oppression.

Connecticut's education commissioner Betty Sternberg:
"This law does little to create an academically astute, responsible, caring, compassionate and wise citizenry."
That's the idea, now, isn't it Betty?

More Required Tests Won't Solve Education Problems
March 24, 2006

Full testing requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act have begun. Nationwide, approximately 26 million students in grades 3-8 and one high school grade will be tested this year. Roughly 1.3 billion test pages - 5.8 billion test items - will be graded by a handful of companies.In Connecticut this month, more than 300,000 students are wrestling with about 12.6 million test pages and roughly 63 million questions.

What will this massive testing tell us that we don't already know? Nothing. In general, wealthier students do better than poorer students, non-minority students do better than minority students, students without disabilities do better than students with disabilities, and there are significant gaps among urban, suburban and rural students.We need to reform our system to incorporate accountability and provide to all children programs that we know, based on research, will diminish these gaps.
Someone needs to tell that to the CT NAACP.

An Immodest Proposal

The Headline Award this week has to go to Chris Parker at the Bennington Banner with this one for a story about results from the New England Comprehensive Assessment Program: NECAP Hobbles County's Students. Here is a clip:

Cate said he was pleased with the statewide results overall but noted there were clear achievement gaps between boys and girls, and between students from low-income families and their peers. Girls and students not eligible for free and/or reduced lunch generally outperformed their counterparts.

The tests are required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Here's my proposal:

Since the IRS obviously needs cash (and plans to get it by hiring mercenaries to collect back taxes), let's pay the IRS to provide the testing companies with current income information on every child-rearing family in America. The testing companies can then issue an EON (Education Opportunity Number) based on the reported family incomes, and each year the EONs can be adjusted as incomes go up or down. We can continue to pay the testing companies incredible amounts of tax receipts for reporting these numbers to us, and these EONs will serve the same traditional punish-the-poor and reward-the-rich functions of high-stakes tests. Any economically-challenged student who disagrees with his designated CRAPP (Comprehensive Rewards and Punishment Program) score has the right to appeal by taking one of our current tests that is scaled to assure that she has little chance of passing.

Besides the obvious political advantages associated with continued support for the testing industry, the great advantage of such a system would be realized in maintaining our world-class standards for social engineering Caucasian economic and social dominance. A side benefit that may accrue would be realized, perhaps, as teachers return to teaching and students to learning.

This proposed reform does not address the continuing need to privatize K-12 education, which the current NCLB system of blaming the schools for EONs has worked to accomplish so effectively thus far. I would suggest that the fellows of Cato, Heritage, Manhattan, and Fordham (Foundation) give this top priority before writing any checks for op-eds in support of CRAPP.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Countering the Ed Trust and Heritage Foundation Blame Game

The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice has released a new research study by Florida State U. professor, Douglas Harris, that takes to task the intentionally-misleading propaganda used by Ed Trust and the Heritage Foundation to ignore poverty as the primary contributing factor for the achievement gap. Here is the executive summary:

Ending the Blame Game on Educational Inequity: A Study of “High Flying” Schools and NCLB
Douglas N. Harris
Florida State University

Executive Summary
One of the central purposes of public education is to provide opportunities for all children to learn and excel. Unfortunately, while gaps in educational outcomes have indeed improved substantially over the past half-century, poor and minority students are still well behind their more advantaged counterparts. There is also evidence that the positive trend has reversed course—that educational outcomes are now becoming even more inequitable.

Recent policy studies by the Education Trust and Heritage Foundation have tried to identify “high-flying” schools—schools that help students reach very high levels of achievement, despite significant disadvantages. This policy brief demonstrates three major problems with the findings of these reports. (1) Due to questionable methodological assumptions, the number high-flying schools is significantly smaller than the number reported in those studies; (2) The numbers in these reports are being misused in a way that that understates the significance of, and need to address, socioeconomic disadvantages; and (3) these reports fail to directly address the vast amount of evidence that inequity in educational outcomes is primarily due to students’ social and economic disadvantages.

It is therefore recommended that:
1. Policy makers continue the recent focus on measurable student outcomes, such as test scores, but redesign policies to hold educators accountable only for those factors within their control;
2. Policy makers take a comprehensive approach to school improvement that starts in schools but extends into homes and communities, and addresses basic disadvantages caused by poverty; and
3. All educational stakeholders acknowledge that educational inequity is caused by problems in both schools and communities—and avoid trying to blame the problem on schools alone.
Click here for a pdf of the complete Policy Brief.

All in the (Bush) Family

Does nepotism, cronyism, and corruption get any closer to home? From the Houton Chronicle (hat tip to G. Bracey):
Former first lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with specific instructions that the money be spent with an educational software company owned by her son Neil.

Since then, the Ignite Learning program has been given to eight area schools that took in substantial numbers of Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

"Mrs. Bush wanted to do something specifically for education and specifically for the thousands of students flooding into the Houston schools," said Jean Becker, former President Bush's chief of staff.
And something specifically for Neil.

Gold-plated Incompetency

A few years ago before the current orgy of tabulation reached the current level of hysteria, someone told me that ETS had gold-plated fixtures in their lavatories in Princeton. I wonder if this is true, or if they have since shifted to platinum.

With yet another SAT misadventure reported in today's Times, it is hard to keep track of the screw-ups at ETS and their "non-profit" overseer, the College Board, an organization that, according to Bob Laird, "oscillates constantly between the magnetic poles of wanting to do good and wanting to do well." Looking at their 2004 Form 990 (pdf) in comparison to their incredible foul-ups with the high-stakes SAT, we may conclude that they are doing more well than good. $412, 000,000 in revenue--not bad.

With more and more AP tests promised by Bush education policy, could the College Board be more focused on capturing those markets, rather than being focused on the tests that students have already paid for? From Bob Laird on a little history of College Board involvement in California AP testing:
In addition, the university's [UC's] decision in the mid-1980s to grant an extra grade point for honors-level high school courses in the calculation of student grade point averages for UC helped trigger a huge expansion in the AP program in California. From 1985 to 2001, the number of AP exams taken by California students increased from 42,950 to 259,901-a growth rate of more than 600 percent. At $78 a pop in 2002 (subtracting the $7 per test that goes to the administering high school), the AP testing program in California alone generated about $20 million in revenue for the College Board. For the 2002-03 academic year, California accounted for 11.4 percent of all SAT I tests taken, 34.4 percent of all SAT II tests taken, and 18.3 percent of AP exams taken worldwide.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

NCLB as Wrecking Ball

In 2003, Jamie McKenzie was writing this:
Looming behind the veneer and rhetoric of the Bush education plan is a set of destructive actions that are designed to destroy public education by enabling a huge exodus into risky experimental alternatives.

Misrepresented as a reform effort, NCLB is actually a cynical effort to shift public school funding to a host of private schools, religious schools and free-market diploma mills or corporate experiments in education.

The plan is simple.

  1. Place unrealistic demands on public schools.
  2. Provide too little capacity building support and too little time to meet new demands.
  3. Label schools as failures.
  4. Permit wholesale transfers to a broad range of alternatives.
  5. Mandate transfer of public funding to charters and alternatives.
  6. Fund education of many previously private school children with public monies.
  7. Privatize.
  8. Privatize.
  9. Privatize.
Only a handful of people took him seriously then, but now that number is growing as the NCLB watchlist edges further toward the suburbs each year. USA Today now has this piece on new pressures emerging in California to use public funds for private schools:
Advocacy groups that support taxpayer-financed vouchers are taking a new tack: using requirements of President Bush's No Child Left Behind school reform law to force the government to pay private school tuitions.

In a move that could preview future battles, a pair of advocacy groups plan to file complaints today in two urban Southern California school districts, arguing that vouchers are needed to force districts to meet requirements for quality education.

Should this new tactic expect to make headway? If one looks at the position of Sec. Spellings, one would expect that many of the roadblocks to privatization are being cleared by her own US Dept. of Education:

Spellings said last month that four years after Bush signed the law, vouchers are "an idea whose time has come." It was the first time she closely linked the law with vouchers. "There are still intractable educational situations where parents need options," she said Feb. 6, when she unveiled the Education Department's proposed 2007 budget. It includes $100 million for tutoring and "school choice" programs, including vouchers.
These are the people we employ and entrust with the oversight and improvement of our public schools. Disgusting.

What Will God's Crackpot Say Next?

While interviewing secular crackpot, David Horowitz, Robertson goes off on college professors, those "academic termites." From Crooks and Liars:

ROBERTSON: Ladies and gentleman this is a fascinating book. If you want to, you'd better take your blood pressure medicine before you read it, but it's "The Professors: The 101 most dangerous academics in America" and that's just a short list of the 30-40,000 of them, they're like termites that have worked into the woodwork of our academic society and it's appalling. This is available at CBN.com and book stores everywhere, and you really ought to read it and be informed.

TERRI: It’s interesting that so many conservatives haven't seen this because decades ago we were told that infiltrating education was the way to take over the country, we should have been on alert.

ROBERTSON: They gamed it, these guys are out and out communists, they are radicals, you know some of them killers, and they are propagandists of the first order and they don't want anybody else except them. That's why Regent University for example is so terrifically important and why we're setting up an undergraduate program that hopefully will see shortly 10,000 students, and then from there 250,000 because you don't want your child to be brainwashed by these radicals, you just don't want it to happen. Not only brainwashed but beat up, they beat these people up, cower them into submission. Ahhh! "The Professors", read it.

They beat them up!

April Second

April Second

This morning the sun
reclaims the window ledge
and the black wet hickories
hang heavy with lime spiders.
Last year’s towhee is back
shuffling for grubs
beneath the wild rosebush.
I let the window up a gash,
and a sunny chill squeezes in--
I turn, and you have felt it, too.
We smile, coffee steam
licking our face.

Sally Stroup, Maggie Spellings, and Bird Flu

Sally Stroup offers a nice case study in how a for-profit higher education lobbyist ( the Apollo Group/U. of Phoenix) gets hired to be the top regulator overseeing higher education (Asst. Secretary of Education) and then moves on to work for the Congressional committee (House Committee on Education and the Workforce) that has just successfully pushed through a bill that allows online diploma mills to profit from federal tuition assistance.

Thus Sally arrives at her destination just in time for us to realize that it must have been her beginning point. She surely had to run into herself a couple of times going in the other direction!

Any comments from Mom Spellings? No, she has been down in North Carolina having some 'cue and talking up pandemic preparations--no, not the Novemeber elections or even the anti-testing bug--the Bird Flu. Remember the bird flu?

Orgies of Tabulation

Michael Winerip reminds us that during this current orgy of tabulation (we had another one during the first eugenics craze of the 1920s), we now impose 45,000,000 standardized tests every year. And that doesn't count the SAT, ACT, GRE, and other tests used by professional credentialing.

Oh yes, we have come a long way since the first IQ tests were used to determine which GIs in WWI would get desk jobs and which ones would end up in the trenches of France. Now we use them to to justify the creation of urban work camps for the poor that begin in kindergarten (click here for some video clips of "direct instruction" if you think your stomach can take it).

The focus of Winerip's piece is on how NCLB pressures have undercut the "world-class standards" the testing hysteria was supposed to solidify. He quotes Thomas Toch, who is the author of a new study, Margins of Error: The Testing Industry in the No Child Left Behind Era (305K) [description] [download]:
"The scale of N.C.L.B. testing requirements, competitive pressures in the testing industry, a shortage of testing experts, insufficient state resources, tight regulatory deadlines and a lack of meaningful oversight of the sprawling N.C.L.B. testing enterprise are undermining N.C.L.B.'s pursuit of higher academic standards," he writes. And that is from a man who supports the federal law.
And here is another from Jim Popham, who points out that states spending the funds to develop valid and reliable tests are being underfunded, thus pressuring them to use the same off-the-shelf junk that is sold by companies like Bush family friends, McGraw-Hill:
"Connecticut's reputation is to produce tests that are the best in the country," says James Popham, a national testing expert who is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The Feds' position is so shortsighted. N.C.L.B. is supposed to be increasing the caliber of education and this is lowering it. It's eroding the power of the test to explain what kids can and cannot do."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Robbing the Environment to Pay for Schools

How do the Bushies propose to pay for the federal programs for rural schools? No, no, the tax cuts to the rich are safe.

The answer is to sell off federal forests in states from North Carolina to California--that will do it:
A recent U.S. Forest Service study predicted that more than 44 million acres of private forest land, an area twice the size of Maine, will be sold over the next 25 years. The consulting firm U.S. Forest Capital estimates that half of all U.S. timberland has changed hands in the past decade. The Bush administration also wants to sell off forest land, by auctioning more than 300,000 acres of national forest to fund a rural school program.
Are the states upset? You bet they are.

What are they going to do? They are going to buy up the forests to keep them out of the hands of loggers.

For the Administration, it is win either way. If the loggers end up with the forests, their lobbyists are happy. If the states end up with the forests, then the cost of national civic commitment will have been further choked down the throats of the states.

A Rove/Norquist solution of the first order.

The Other Hidden Purpose of NCLB: Privatization

Craig Cunningham posted at The Wall a nice piece that addresses the tragic and ongoing stupidification of urban poor children who are purportedly being helped by an unceasing regimen of test prep in chain gang schools where teachers learn their scripted lines and students mouth them back (see Kozol's "Confections of Apartheid" in the December Kappan. That is the greatest human tragedy now unfolding before our eyes, an intellectual and emotional genocide of epic proportions in the making.

The other tragedy is, perhaps, more abstract, but goes to the heart of the civic purpose of schools to help sustain the Republic. It is the agenda to privatize American schools, and to use NCLB with its impossible demands to manufacture a widespread failure that a Massachusetts study has shown, for instance, will label as failures over three-quarters of their schools by 2014--unless NCLB is ditched or modified next year when re-authorization comes up.

The requirement that all school children be at grade level in reading and math by 2014 is simply ridiculous. Those who point this out are, nonetheless, accused daily of "the soft bigotry of low expectations." It seems to me that to craft a national policy on the manufactured failure of most American public schools demonstrates clearly the implacable racism bound up in impossible demands of a hidebound ideology. If I had to choose, and I don't (there are more options), I know where I would stand.

If NCLB is not rolled back next year and the probable scenario develops (psychometricians say certain), and a large majority of American schools are clear failures or on the “Federal watch-list” by 2014, then the road to school privatization will be clear sailing. By then, American parents will be shell-shocked and willing to try anything to avoid another one of those Federally-mandated letters telling them that their children are failing because their schools are failing. And state legislatures, broken financially and in spirit by then from the under-funded burdens of NCLB implementation, will be desperate enough to turn the whole effort over to the voucher advocates and the EMOs of an education industry that will be ramped up, ready, and waiting to pounce.

Here is a piece just out in the Monthly Review by Michael Perelman that puts many of the issues in perspective. It is called "Privatizing Education." Read it and ACT.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Time to Leave Behind No Child Left Behind

Thank you, James Battaglia for this thoughtful stance on the mental and emotional genocide against America's children. A clip:
For example, employers know that an employee is more than a single score on a single test-- that's why the job interview exists. In addition to test scores, job recruiters are interested in other intangibles such as problem-solving skills, organizational ability and willingness to work as part of a team. The idea of alternate forms of assessment seems to be lost on politicians supporting this law.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Voucher Lies

With this lameduck neo-con agenda soon moving to life support and all of its indicted and un-indicted quackers either "scooting" off to court or to their lawyers' offices, we, nonetheless, can expect the horror show to continue long past the point when viewers would expect the final awful scene to have been perpetrated. And no doubt it will take decades to repair the damage that has been done domestically and internationally by this group of arrogant fools.

Showing evidence that the neocons propaganda team is demonstrating a further breakdown of verisimilitude during this uncommonly disgraceful denouement, John Tierney recently let fly in the Times with one of his most disgusting Bush League education oops-ed yet. The message: vouchers are working, and they are good for public education.

Lie # 1: Vouchers are working.
Tierney's go-to guy for research on vouchers is Joseph Viteritti, who never saw a voucher program he could complain about. Viteritti, sticking to the neocon strategy, simply refutes the truth and sticks with it:
"All the good research, including the voucher opponents' work, shows that kids who accept vouchers are doing at least as well as their public school peers," says Joseph Viteritti of Hunter College. "That's remarkable, considering how much less money is being spent on the voucher students."
One must guess that "good research" meets the essential criteria of substantiating the pre-conceived conclusions of voucher proponents, much like the bogus manipulations of Harvard's Paul Petersen's "research" showing big gains by voucher students was, indeed. With Petersen claim for superior results debunked, Viteritti and Tierney are left the claim that voucher student test results are at least as good, then, which may be a less dramatic lie--but still a lie.

There are, indeed, rigorous research studies showing that voucher school students and other private school students score lower on standardized tests than public school students. Here are a few assembled by NSBA:

NSBA reviews a 2003 evaluation of the Cleveland voucher program
NSBA looks at the findings of a 2003 study on Florida's McKay Voucher Program.

New study on Cleveland voucher program from CUNY (January 2006)
Researcher Clive Belfield examines the Cleveland voucher program in this 31-page study.
. . . voucher programs show very modest gains in achievement for recipients; and studies highlight the many potential biases when identifying the treatment impacts of vouchers. Turning to the Cleveland program, we find a number of practical similarities between the CSTP and other voucher programs in terms of demand and supply. Overall, we find no academic advantages for voucher users; in fact, users appear to perform slightly worse in math. These results do not vary according to: adjustments for prior ability; intention-to-treat versus treatment effects; and dosage differences. Contrary to claims for other voucher programs, the CSTP is not differentially effective for African American students.
New study reveals public schools outperform private schools on national math exam (January 2006)
University of Illinois researchers find that after controlling for socio-economic differences, public schools outperform private schools. The researchers examined results from the 2003 NAEP Math for the study.
Survey: No advantage in voucher schools (Plain Dealer, 11-19-05)
New study mirrors findings of previous evaluation.
Study: No Academic Gains From Vouchers for Black Students (Education Week, April 9)
A new study of a privately funded voucher program in New York City counters the claims by another researcher about large academic gains for voucher students. The original study did not include scores for a substantial number of students in the program, according to the new review. This article also contains links to each study.

Bottom line: We know that voucher schools are doing no better, and in some cases, they are doing worse. Is this not reason enough to work to fix the publicly-controlled system we have? Does it make sense to remove the control of our children's education from the public sphere, and to use public dollars to support the religious indoctrination of our children? Would you support the offering of tax dollars to support a school run by witches or skinheads?

Lie # 2: Vouchers are good for public education. Response Coming Soon . . stand by