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

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

WaPo and the Sandy Kress Spin Room on NCLB

Before NCLB even comes close to exhaling it final fetid breath, the revisionists led by Sandy Kress and the dupes at the Washington Post are already engaged in their conservative revisionist version of NCLB's history and how NCLB will have died, when it does find a final place of prominence in the Educational Atrocities Hall of Shame.

This WaPo piece by Peter Baker is sourced, no doubt, by the forked-tongued Sandy Kress, and it attempts to paint NCLB as a reasonable and successful program disrupted by a misplaced attempt to get revenge against a hated president who has repeatedly failed to provide the education monies he promised. Yes, there is surely that motive in the resistance to NCLB reauthorization, but the millions of parents and teachers who are fed up with this school derailing stealth privatization plan would be ready for mass civil disobedience regardless of whom the White House occupant happened to be, or regardless of how much money is pumped out of the Treasury to the testing companies and the tutoring and test prep corporations. Cutting out Bush or his ed industry cronies does not treat the cancer.

There is also the pretense in this piece that the goal of "basic proficiency" appears in the NCLBA, which would somehow make it more reachable, I suppose, than the "by 2013-14, all students will reach high standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading/language arts and mathematics," which is the actual text that does appear in the Bill. Every testing expert and educator knows this expectation is impossible, and the ones who are not in denial know that it is the quickest way to paint the public schools as failures in order to turn them into for-profit and non-profit charter schools.

Then there are the claims in the Baker (Kress) piece that NCLB is responsible for NAEP gains and for closing the achievement gap--and that NCLB is supported by minority groups. Here are some facts.

The first clip here offers some analysis of the NAEP realities from Diane Ravitch, who has been, until recently, on the NCLB ship:

* Fourth grade reading scores were up by a modest 2 points from 2005 to 2007, from 219 to 221. Actually, scores for this grade on NAEP had been 219 in 2002. The biggest increase in reading scores occurred between 2000 and 2002, when the scores went up by six points. In other words, the gains since NCLB was enacted do not equal the gains recorded on NAEP in the years prior to NCLB.
* Eighth grade reading scores were up by only one point. The trend line for this grade in reading from 1998 to 2007 is a flat line. The score was 263 in 1998 and it is 263 in 2007.
* Fourth grade mathematics scores increased by two points, from 238 in 2005 to 240 in 2007. The trend line in this grade points steadily upward. The biggest gains occurred in the pre-NCLB period, when scores rose from 226 in 2000 to 235 in 2003.
* Eighth grade mathematics scores were up by two points, from 279 in 2005 to 281 in 2007. Again, the pre-NCLB gains were larger, when scores increased from 273 in 2000 to 278 in 2003.
And here's some more reality from FairTest:

The evidence from a look at NAEP scale scores shows that the rate of improvement on NAEP has slowed since NCLB was passed. Based on four years of evidence, NCLB, as a form of high-stakes-test based "school reform," is a failed strategy. Congress must pass a new education law, one that will actually help schools improve.

In general:

* NAEP gains have slowed or stalled since NCLB was passed.

* Score gaps by racial groups for the most part have not narrowed.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics:

"The average 8th-grade reading score . . . remains below the level of achievement shown in 2002."

“[Mathematics] gains made since 2003 are . . . not as large as those realized during some earlier periods.”

Below, find summary comments from each of the tables available in the attached short report. In each category, the comparisons are from the 2000-2003 pre-NCLB period (except grade 8 reading, which is from 1998) and the 2003-2007 NCLB period.

This material is on the web at http://www.fairtest.org/NAEP%20results%20show%20NCLB%20failing.pdf. Please review it there if the attachment did not come through.

And, finally, here's a list of the 140 organizations signing the joint organizational statement for the overhaul of NCLB:

Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act
October 21, 2004 (list of 140 signers updated September 14, 2007)

The undersigned education, civil rights, religious, children's, disability, civic and labor organizations are committed to the No Child Left Behind Act's objectives of strong academic achievement for all children and closing the achievement gap. We believe that the federal government has a critical role to play in attaining these goals. We endorse the use of an accountability system that helps ensure all children, including children of color, from low-income families, with disabilities, and of limited English proficiency, are prepared to be successful, participating members of our democracy.

While we all have different positions on various aspects of the law, based on concerns raised during the implementation of NCLB, we believe the following significant, constructive corrections are among those necessary to make the Act fair and effective. Among these concerns are: over-emphasizing standardized testing, narrowing curriculum and instruction to focus on test preparation rather than richer academic learning; over-identifying schools in need of improvement; using sanctions that do not help improve schools; inappropriately excluding low-scoring children in order to boost test results; and inadequate funding. Overall, the law's emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement.

Recommended Changes in NCLB

Progress Measurement

1. Replace the law's arbitrary proficiency targets with ambitious achievement targets based on rates of success actually achieved by the most effective public schools.
2. Allow states to measure progress by using students' growth in achievement as well as their performance in relation to pre-determined levels of academic proficiency.
3. Ensure that states and school districts regularly report to the government and the public their progress in implementing systemic changes to enhance educator, family, and community capacity to improve student learning.
4. Provide a comprehensive picture of students' and schools' performance by moving from an overwhelming reliance on standardized tests to using multiple indicators of student achievement in addition to these tests.
5. Fund research and development of more effective accountability systems that better meet the goal of high academic achievement for all children


6. Help states develop assessment systems that include district and school-based measures in order to provide better, more timely information about student learning.

7. Strengthen enforcement of NCLB provisions requiring that assessments must:
· Be aligned with state content and achievement standards;
· Be used for purposes for which they are valid and reliable;
· Be consistent with nationally recognized professional and technical standards;
· Be of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under the Act;
· Provide multiple, up-to-date measures of student performance including measures that assess higher order thinking skills and understanding; and
· Provide useful diagnostic information to improve teaching and learning.

8. Decrease the testing burden on states, schools and districts by allowing states to assess students annually in selected grades in elementary, middle schools, and high schools.

Building Capacity

9. Ensure changes in teacher and administrator preparation and continuing professional development that research evidence and experience indicate improve educational quality and student achievement.

10. Enhance state and local capacity to effectively implement the comprehensive changes required to increase the knowledge and skills of administrators, teachers, families, and communities to support high student achievement.


11. Ensure that improvement plans are allowed sufficient time to take hold before applying sanctions; sanctions should not be applied if they undermine existing effective reform efforts.

12. Replace sanctions that do not have a consistent record of success with interventions that enable schools to make changes that result in improved student achievement.


13. Raise authorized levels of NCLB funding to cover a substantial percentage of the costs that states and districts will incur to carry out these recommendations, and fully fund the law at those levels without reducing expenditures for other education programs.

14. Fully fund Title I to ensure that 100 percent of eligible children are served.

We, the undersigned, will work for the adoption of these recommendations as central structural changes needed to NCLB at the same time that we advance our individual organization's proposals.

Advancement Project
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)
American Association of School Administrators
American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA)
American Association of School Personnel Administrators
American Association of University Women
American Baptist Women's Ministries
American Civil Liberties Union
American Counseling Association
American Dance Therapy Association
American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA)
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers
American Friends Service Committee
American Humanist Association
American Music Therapy Association
American Occupational Therapy Association
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
American School Counselor Association
Americans for the Arts
Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)
Association of Education Publishers
Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)
Assocation of Teacher Educators
Big Picture Company
Business and Professional Women/USA
Center for Community Change
Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking
Center for Parent Leadership
The Center for Policy Alternatives
Change to Win
Children's Aid Society
Children's Defense Fund
Church Women United
Citizens for Effective Schools
Coalition for Community Schools
Coalition of Essential Schools
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Communities for Quality Education
COSN (Consortium for School Networking)
Council of Administrators of Special Education, Inc.
Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders
Council for Exceptional Children
Council for Hispanic Ministries of the United Church of Christ
Council for Learning Disabilities
Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform
Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)
Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children (DLD/CEC)
Education Action!
Education Not Incarceration
Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Every Child Matters
FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing
Forum for Education and Democracy
Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GPAC)
The Holmes Partnership
Hmong National Development Indigenous Women's Network
Institute for Language and Education Policy
International Reading Association
ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education)
International Technology Education Association
Japanese American Citizens League
Jobs with Justice
Learning Disabilities Association of America
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Mental Health America
Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic justice of the United Church or Christ
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) National Alliance of Black School Educators
National Association for Asian and Pacific American Education (NAAPAE)
National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)
National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA)
National Association for the Education of African American Children with Learning Disabilities (NAEAACLD)
National Association of Federally Impacted Schools
National Association of Pupil Service Administrators
National Association of School Nurses
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)
National Association of Social Workers
National Baptist Convention, USA (NBCUSA)
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents
National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE)
National Conference of Black Mayors
National Council for the Social Studies
National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP)
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Teachers of English
National Education Association
National Education Taskforce
National Federation of Filipino American Associations
National Indian Education Association National Indian School Board Association
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA
National Pacific Islander Educator Network
National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
National Reading Conference
National Rural Education Association
National School Boards Association
National School Supply and Equipment Association
National Science Teachers Association
National Superintendents Roundtable
National Urban League
Native Hawaiian Education Association
The Network of Spiritual Progressives
Organization of Chinese Americans
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG National)
Public Education Network (PEN)
People for the American Way
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Protestants for the Common Good
Rural School and Community Trust
Service Employees International Union
School Social Work Association of America
Social Action Committee of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Stand for Children
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL)
United Black Christians of the United Church of Christ
United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Concerns, The
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
Women of Reform Judaism

(List of 139 signers updated September 14, 2007)

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see an analysis of the test scores that were so glibly reported in the article.

    When I first looked at the NAEP scores, I was struck by the flat line of results at the middle and high school levels(which would be the children who have lived with NCLB in their schools for six years.)

    Yet many seem to have bought the company line that the scores have gone up and that NCLB is helping.

    In fact, scores went up more in the 90's and early 2000, as you point out, than they have now.

    It's not that we shouldn't measure--it's that we should be honest, and we should measure differently, compare apples to apples.

    And we shouldn't call "testing" reform. We do need to transform many things in schools, but it means thinking completely outside of the box, not just doing it harder and faster and testing it.

    21st century learners need to be collaborative, globally educated, wired in, good communicators, information savvy--not capable of drilling skills like 19th century factory workers.

    Our students are capable of such richness. Do we need to give them a chance? yes, we do, obviously.

    Do we have many appallling schools? yes, we do.

    But I believe there are richer and more complex approaches to those goals.

    (for one thing, we should dedicate ourselves to providing facilities that any of us would want to be in--rich and beautiful learning spaces that would be a haven for troubled children.)

    This isn't just a political game--it's these children's lives, for the rest of their lives. We have to reach them differently.

    Thanks for elaborating on the statistics....