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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

NCLB and Staying the Course

Spellings and the testocratic press are going right along pretending that everything is on track for reauthorization next year of the NCLB political fraud--despite a storm that is building that could rival the one that is now swaying our foreign policy equivalent of NCLB in Iraq.

Spellings declares 99. 44% purity for this policy train wreck, despite overwhelming disapproval among parents and teachers who know anything more about NCLB than they are offered by the cheerleading, the omissions, and the half-truths pumped out by a complicit media.

Here are a few reminders from the Gallup/PDK poll earlier this year of how the public feels about NCLB, even before the unearthed corruption and law-breaking within the Education Department's Reading First program.
  • Two out of three respondents (69%) this year and a similar proportion in 2005 say that the use of a single state test as NCLB requires cannot provide a fair picture of whether or not a school needs improvement.
  • NCLB bases performance on testing in English/language arts and math only. Four out of five respondents (81%) say that this will not give a fair picture of a school and that other subjects should be included.
  • Nearly four out of five respondents (78%) say they are concerned that the focus on English/language arts and math will mean less emphasis on art, music, history, and other subjects. This is down 4% since 2005.
  • Four out of five respondents (80%) prefer offering help to students in schools in need of improvement. Only 17% prefer transferring those students to a different school.
  • NCLB requires that test scores be broken out by race and ethnicity, English-speaking ability, and poverty level. A majority of respondents (54%) oppose this strategy, up 6% from 2005.
  • The test scores of special education students are included in determining whether a school is in need of improvement. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) say the scores of special education students should not be included. This percentage is unchanged since 2005.
  • NCLB requires that nearly all special education students be tested against grade-level standards. Three-fourths of respondents (75%) believe these students should not be tested against the same standards as other students. This figure is up 7% since 2005.
  • Four-fifths of respondents (81%) say the proper measure of performance is the improvement made by students during the school year. This figure is down 4% from last year.
  • The half of the respondents who claim to know a great deal or fair amount about NCLB disagree with the strategies of the law with percentages slightly higher than those of the total group. . . . The responses of those who claim knowledge of the law bear out this poll’s 2003 conclusion that greater familiarity with NCLB was unlikely to increase public support.
Four out of five Americans believe that it makes more sense to measure academic growth than an arbitrary benchmark that all schools must meet, despite huge disparities in teacher quality, funding, family income, etc. Some, in fact, hold out hope that Spellings' purity remarks conceal a fall-back position that she plans to move to when push comes to shove, a position that includes growth models.

The kinds of growth models that the ed privatizers are interested in, however, do not waver from the impossible and failure-assuring 100% proficiency target that all schools are asked to achieve by 2014. To do otherwise would undercut ideological purpose of NCLB to begin with--the demonstrated manufactured failure of public education and the dismantling of public schools for preferred market models.

So growth model advocates, keep this under your pillow as you dream about a more flexible and compromising ED who is willing to entertain an alternative to "staying the course":

This summer [2005] my department convened a working group to explore how states could use growth models for state accountability plans under No Child Left Behind.

We met with experts, researchers and policymakers, including many of you who have used growth models as part of your state accountability systems for years. We discussed what's required to implement a growth model and how they can show how schools and students are improving from year to year.

At the same time, we're not just looking for any level of improvement. We're working to meet specific goals within the next decade, as laid out in the law. A successful growth model under No Child Left Behind must put all students on track to be on grade level by 2014. That means when a student is behind, one year of progress for every year of instruction is not enough to close the gap. We will expect more. We must not—and I will not—back away from this important goal.

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