Tuesday, March 3, 2015

NCLB the Emperor of all Maladies

NCLB- the education legislation that was going to save the country.   Thirty years later the USA is no further ahead of other first world nations than it was when the bill was signed into law!  We still rank around 23rd.

No Child Left Behind was to ensure that all children were at grade level by 2014.   Even the Congressional Department of Legislative Services has stated that wasn't going to happen and there have been enough waivers given that no one is even asking anymore.

One of the major requirements of NCLB is that students would be tested every year in grades 3-8 and then one time in math, English and science during high school.   The high school tests would be high stakes, so if a student did not pass, he or she would not graduate.  NCLB expired a few years ago but it has stayed in effect pending renewal.   The Republican House was going to take up the issue this term.   And with the Obama administration's Race to the Top, student test scores are also being used to evaluate teachers

So where are we now.  Teachers' unions in several states are going to court to fight the tie-in of test scores to teacher evaluations.   In New Mexico, Tennessee, Florida, Texas and New York cases are already in the courts.  This movement is spreading all over the country not just in one segment.

Resistance to the testing consortia that have developed to create testing for the Common Core State Standards is also growing.   The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) started with 27 states and the District of Columbia is now down to 11 states and DC.  New York, New Jersey and Colorado are the latest states to opt out of Common Core testing.   Parents are protesting the amount of time spent on test preparation and testing itself.  The PARCC tests consume DAYS of school to get the testing done.   Many teachers are thinking that computer skills necessary to take the test, as well as the technology itself, will interfere with any true evaluation of knowledge on the part of kids.

Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, has been all over the map on his department's approach to testing.   In the current political world of "if you are for it, I am against it", Secretary Duncan has criticized the Republican draft of NCLB because it does not cut back on testing requirements.   This view must be a new enlightenment for the Secretary.  This past month both the President and the Secretary have advocated cutting testing down to the bare minimum.   Yet if we go back prior to June 2014, there is very strong support for testing and the spending of 360 minion dollars to craft those tests.

Bottom line: We cannot test our way into good education for our children.   Kids' learning starts with good teaching.  We need to spend our money on teacher training, high quality school staffing, and developing ways to rid our schools of incompetent professionals.  And while we are getting rid of stuff that is counterproductive, lets just dump No Child Left Behind, it never did have any clothes worth wearing.

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