Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Duncan To Begin NCLB Tour

Yesterday the Washington Post, the only national newspaper kept afloat by the testing industry, offered the testing industry's new leading stooge, Margaret Spellings, (move aside Rod Paige), a chance to paste her well-worn and practiced lies about NCLB into the editorial pages of the Post. And yesterday, Aaron Pallas at Gotham Schools wasted no time in making a liar of the liar in an understated and studious post. Here's a teaser:

The first figure below shows reading scores in grades 4 and 8 on the main NAEP from 1998 to 2007. (Keep in mind that the NAEP scale goes from 0 to 500, so this figure may exaggerate the size of the trends over time.) In the fourth grade, the average score increased by six points between 2000 and 2002, then stabilized, and finally increased by two points from 2005 to 2007. The 2007 average score is significantly higher than the scores in 2005, 2003, 2002 and 2000. In the eighth grade, the average score held steady between 1998 and 2002, and really hasn’t budged much since then. The 2007 average of 263 is significantly higher than the 2005 average of 262, but is identical to the 2003 average of 263, and is actually a point lower than the 2002 average of 264. The best summary here is that the scores have been essentially flat since 1998. [click chart below for better view]

naep-reading2

Today the Post has Libby Quaid's news piece on Call-me-Arne's announced NCLB "listening" tour, which offers the Dunc a chance to sell national testing, teacher pay-per-score plans, endless data gathering, and corporate welfare charters--all in the name of hearing the people speak. A couple of clips:

Duncan gives the law credit for shining a spotlight on kids who need the most help. No Child Left Behind pushes schools to boost the performance of low-achieving students, a group that typically includes minority kids, English-language learners and kids with disabilities.

"Forevermore in our country, we can't sweep those huge disparities with outcomes between white children and Latino children and African-American children, we can't sweep those under the rug ever again," Duncan said.

That spotlight has been shining brightly, Arne, even for white folks like me and you, since Brown v Board of Education. For a while we paid attention to them, but when St. Reagan alighted in Washington, we began to look, instead, at how Civil Rights and school integration screwed up our schools. Since then, we have been working hard to shine the spotlight elsewhere, away from the poverty and racism that created the disparities, preferring to focus the interrogation lamp, rather, on the victims and on the only American public institution remaining that was created with the vision of educating children of all classes together.

So sure, Arne, we can sweep it under the rug, just as long as the goal of ending poverty is pushed aside by efforts to blame children, teachers, and schools for the effects of poverty that your Administration continues to have plenty of empty "empathy" for. No problem.

Yet Duncan has many criticisms of No Child Left Behind, and he has plenty of company. Opponents insist the law's annual reading and math tests have squeezed subjects like music and art out of the classroom and that schools were promised billions of dollars they never received.

Critics also say the law is too punitive: More than a third of schools failed to meet yearly progress goals last year, according to the Education Week newspaper.

That means millions of children are a long way from reaching the law's ambitious goals. The law pushes schools to improve test scores each year, so that every student can read and do math on grade level by the year 2014.

"What No Child Left Behind did is, they were absolutely loose on the goals," Duncan told the Education Writers Association, meeting in Washington. "But they were very tight, very prescriptive on how you get there.

"I think that was fundamentally backwards," he said.

Duncan said the federal government should be "tight" on the goals, insisting on more rigorous academic standards that are uniform across the states. And he said it should be "much looser" in terms of how states meet the goals.

The education community is watching closely to see just what Duncan means by "tight" and "loose." So far, the administration has offered few clues.

Is there some kind of thought disorder going on here? Is the impossible goal of 100% proficiency by 2014 not impossiblie enough?? And excuse me, Arne, but this business of "looser" in terms of how states get to your "more rigorous" standards is the same philosophy W. sold in 2001. A quote from Bush's original NCLB proposal available here:

If schools are to be held to high standards, they must have the freedom to meet those standards (p. 7).

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