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

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bush as Decider, AP's Feller as Divider

When parents and teachers come to realize that the source of their children's misery is not one another, but the divisive and alienating intrusion called NCLB, that is when a coalition will be formed to bring an end to this backdoor privatization plan and modern day eugenics experiment. The Deciders and Dividers at ED know this, and that is why their go-to guy at the AP, Ben Feller, is double-timing it to the front lines of this failing war on public schools and public everything, hoping to keep the wedge in place between parents and teachers, between parents and schools. If they can peel off a significant number of parents who don't know enough about NCLB to choose sides, then the ED war on public schools will have tilted in favor of the privatizers.

Feller's latest efforts reports survey results showing an "expectation gap" between parents and teachers regarding the NCLB's impossible requirementof of 100 % proficiency by 2014. I should say "efforts" because there are actually two versions of the same story circulating in newspapers.

The beginning of Version 1:

WASHINGTON --Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act. That's left a huge expectations gap between the two main sets of adults in children's lives.

An AP-AOL Learning Services Poll found nearly eight in 10 parents are confident their local schools will have students up to state standards by the 2013-14 school year target. Yet only half of teachers are confident the kids in their schools will meet that deadline.

The finding underscores a theme in the poll. Parents and teachers often disagree on daily aspects of education, from the state of discipline to the quality of high schools.

Now try the beginning of Version 2:

Setting high expectations for students has become such a priority that Congress passed a law about it. Now schools must make sure all children succeed in math and reading, no matter what their language barrier or level of poverty or support at home.

Realistic? Many parents seem to think so. But plenty of teachers do not.

Almost eight in 10 parents are confident their local school will get all students up to state standards in reading and math by 2013-14, an AP-AOL Learning Services poll finds.

Yet only half of teachers are confident that all students in their school will meet that deadline, which was set by the No Child Left Behind Act that Congress passed in 2001.

That means the two major groups of adults in kids' lives have a huge expectations gap.

The second one has more Maggie Spellings about it, don't you think? Whichever version you prefer, the wedge is the prominent theme in both. Just as the Deciders and Dividers have cynically used a "high expectations" for all to recruit minority support for their own subjugation in chain gang schools, Feller's Williams-esque pumping of this "expectations gap" is intended to recruit parents in the continued support of the dismantling of their own public schools. Predictably, Feller would rather castigate with the "bigotry of low expectations" charge than to admit to an implacable racism that exudes from a policy based on impossible demands that is intended to undercut support for public schools.

If Feller had bothered to look at a real survey, rather than one conducted online by AOL, he would have found that the expectations gap begins to narrow quickly as parents know more about NCLB. The more parents know about NCLB, the less they like it. (What is surprising to me in the AOL survey is the number of teachers who still believe that the impossible demands can be met). And, course, that is why blaming the states or blaming teachers remains the critical strategy in keeping parents ignorant of what the Law's intent and effects.

Here are some clips from the Executive Summary of the 37th Annual Gallup Survey, published September 2005 in Phi Delta Kappan, which show that the American public has not lost its senses, but, rather, needs more good information to help them make informed decisions. Ben Feller and his band at the AP are working to block that. Note the links to the data tables:

12. The fact that so much of the public still considers itself uninformed regarding No Child Left Behind (NCLB) can be taken as reason to regard current opinions as preliminary. The public’s final judgment of NCLB is presumably yet to be made. While the number saying they know a great deal or fair amount about NCLB has grown from 24% in 2003 to 40% in this year’s survey, 59% say they know very little or nothing at all. (See Table 23.)

13. We drew the conclusion in 2003 that the public’s dissatisfaction with the strategies used in NCLB gave reason to believe that greater familiarity with the act was unlikely to bring approval. Based on the findings in this year’s poll, that conclusion is even more valid today. Forty-five percent in the current poll still say that they do not know enough about NCLB to express an opinion. Twenty-eight percent of respondents say that their view is either very favorable or somewhat favorable, while 27% say that it is somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable. More significant is the fact that among those professing a “great deal” of knowledge about NCLB, 57% view it unfavorably, while 36% view it favorably. (See Table 24.)

14. The NCLB strategies are frequently out of step with approaches favored by the public.

  • NCLB uses a single test to determine if a school is in need of improvement. Sixty-eight percent say that a single test cannot give a fair picture. (See Table 25.)
  • NCLB tests only English and math to determine if a school is in need of improvement. Eighty percent say testing English and math only will not give a fair picture. This rises to 87% within the "great deal" of knowledge group. (See Table 26.)
  • NCLB gives parents of a child attending a school found to be in need of improvement the chance to transfer their child to a school making "adequate yearly progress" (AYP). Seventy-nine percent say they would prefer to have additional help given to their child in his or her own school. (See Table 28.)
  • NCLB requires that test scores be broken out into eight groups based on ethnicity, English-speaking ability, poverty level, and disability status and reported separately by each group. A plurality of 48% opposes this requirement, with most of that group saying that they do so because they believe all students are equal -- and presumably should be treated in the same way. Support for reporting scores separately, however, is strong among those claiming knowledge of NCLB. (See Tables 29 and 30.)
  • With limited exceptions, NCLB requires students enrolled in special education to meet the same standards as other students. Sixty-eight percent say these students should not be held to the same standards. (See Table 31.)
  • NCLB includes the scores of special education students in determining whether a school is or is not in need of improvement. Sixty-two percent say these scores should not be included. (See Table 32.)
  • NCLB designates a school in need of improvement if one group fails to make AYP for two consecutive years. The public is evenly split on whether this should happen if the special education group is the only one failing. However, a majority of the “great deal” of knowledge group says that scores of the special education group alone should not determine the designation. (See Table 33.)
  • NCLB determines whether a school has made AYP based on the percentage of students meeting fixed goals in passing English and math. Eighty-five percent believe that it would be better to base AYP on improvement shown during the year. (See Table 35.)
  • NCLB requires that all of the groups meet the same fixed goals regardless of how far a given group starts from the goals. Sixty-three percent say the goals should vary according to where the school starts. (See Table 36.)

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