Monday, July 26, 2004

Education and the DNC

Sounds horrible that my expectations are so low but I don't expect much on education at the DNC.

For those who are similarly disheartened, here's news from Susan Ohanian about the ad placed in the Boston Globe by teachers and parents. I'm glad this group is speaking up. Take a look.
Teachers need your support to save our schools from the punitive law misleadingly labeled "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) and preserve access to education for all young Americans.

In less than three years, NCLB has moved forward the Bush administration plan to privatize America's public schools. Already more than 6,000 public schools are threatened with closure, and more than a million parents will soon be receiving letters notifying them that their neighborhood schools have joined Washington's failing schools lists.

Passed by a bipartisan vote, NCLB will close the majority of American elementary schools, or will allow them to be taken over by the state or profit-making businesses.

NCLB. . .

Shifts control of most aspects of education from states to Washington ideologues

Drives students and teachers out of schools and encourages lying about the facts

Limits and proscribes educational research

Bases all decision-making on test scores

Labels effective schools as failing and effective teachers as unqualified

Controls who may teach and how they teach

Mandates archaic methods and materials

Uses blacklists to banish professionals, institutions, methods, and books

Punishes diversity in schools

Is unconstitutional
Placed by

Beyond the issue of (not enough) funding, which is a major distraction, the law itself needs drastic change. More on what's wrong.
1. The long- and short-term effects of NCLB will be devastating for American education.

NCLB is a law that is both negative and punitive: It is designed to force conformity and achievement of impossible goals through a system of punishments of local and state authorities, administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

During a period that extends from the present until 2014, NCLB will close or drastically change most neighborhood schools.

Schools labeled as failing (needing improvement) would be closed, taken over by the state, or turned over to private, profitmaking interests. Could the state take over the schools? That’s already happened in several big cities—Detroit, Philadelphia, and Newark among them—and no problems have been solved. The ultimate goal is to privatize American education. Will American parents let their neighborhood schools be taken over?

2. NCLB is the climax of a long-term campaign to privatize American education.

Within a neoconservative movement to privatize all aspects of American society, a heavily funded and well-organized campaign has created NCLB to discredit and destroy public eduation. There is no other explanation for the impossible, destructive conditions it imposes on the nation’s schools. Its enactment and implementation will wipe out a century and a half of progress in which American public education has evolved, with all its deficiencies, into the most successful and inclusive system the world had yet known.

3. NCLB is driving both students and teachers out of education.

There is already a dramatic increase in dropouts and pushouts from high schools due to increased high-stakes testing, the narrowing of curriculum, and controls on how and what teachers may teach. Many students are being driven out of high schools because they can’t pass the tests, get promoted from ninth to tenth grade, or earn a diploma. And many schools and school systems are hiding the data on the dropouts. This dropout rate will increase as NCLB reaches more punitive phases. In fact, the law sets up conditions in which it is to the advantage of schools to drive out low achievers. NCLB requirements lead to massive numbers of failing learners. Research shows that children who fail a grade are very likely to drop out of school before finishing high school.
Many highly professional teachers are leaving teaching or taking early retirement to escape being required to conform to aspects of the law that they believe make it impossible to teach in the best interests of their pupils. In addition, the requirements of academic majors in each subject they teach is causing certified secondary teachers to lose their certification and be labeled as unqualified. This is a particular problem in middle schools and in smaller rural secondary schools where teachers often are needed to teach multiple subjects.

4. NCLB centralizes control of every aspect of American education, including policy, methodology, curriculum, choice of text books, evaluation, and staffing, shifting power from local districts and states to a Washington bureaucracy.

NCLB establishes a national curriculum and methodology in reading and mathematics and other fields. Faceless bureaucrats in Washington are telling local schools which commercial programs and tests they may and may not use. The teaching of reading and math has been turned upside down with tired discredited methods and curricula being anointed as scientific, while the most effective methods and materials based on the years of research in and out of classrooms are marginalized and forbidden. This has produced an opposition to NCLB composed of states rights conservatives and academic freedom liberals.

5. NCLB defines what is and isn’t science.
Through a series of panels, laws, and mandates, the federal government has defined what is science so narrowly, that 95 percent of scientific study in education has been swept aside as unscientific and decades of research has been wiped off federal websites such as ERIC. NCLB and the antecedent Reading Excellence Act contain literally hundreds of redundant references in the law requiring conformity to that definition of scientific research as a condition of participation. Text materials, teacher certification, tutors, staff development, and curriculum must all be based on the same narrowly defined “science.”

6. NCLB makes scores on mandatory tests the basis of all major decision-making in the schools, including which schools are failing.

The fight for civil rights of the 1960s made it illegal to segregate pupils by race, color, sex, or creed. Testing remains the only legal way to discriminate in American schools. NCLB mandates testing of all pupils for all schools in all states from 3rd to 8th grade and at least once in high school.
NCLB requires schools to be labeled as “needing improvement” (that is, failing) on the basis of “adequate yearly progress” on test scores by each subgroup, including handicapped and second-language learners. If one subgroup falls short in any one area, the school fails. Furthermore, the bar is raised until in a dozen years all pupils in all subgroups must beat the “proficient level,” a term now used to describe the score achieved by less than 20 percent of all pupils. The National School Boards Association says that within a dozen years the vast majority of all schools in all states will be labeled as failing to improve.
Parents are denied their rights to withhold their children from testing; 95 percent of each subgroup must be tested or the whole school is labeled failing.
Costs to states and LEAs are far more than they receive. Several states, districts, and schools have opted not to participate. Every subgroup must achieve Adequate Yearly Progress. All states are also mandated to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Test companies and test-scoring companies are making huge profits while providing bad tests and errorridden scoring. Many states are desperately trying to massage the testing and their passing criteria to produce a higher success rate. But the feds have already put states on notice that they won’t let them ease the passing criteria and the law will eventually require achievements no state can finesse.

7. The law requires busing of pupils, at district expense, from non-improved schools to other schools.

Receiving schools must accept “NCLBs” regardless of space. In New York, a middle school has been forced to add more than 200 “NCLB” kids to their already full classrooms. Where is there a nearby school in Alaska or rural Arizona to send kids to? Even Mayor Daley in Chicago is complaining about moving hundreds of kids from failing school to failing school.

8. NCLB controls who may teach and not teach and how they
will be certified.

Federal standards are established which take control away from states in the name of assuring qualified teachers in every class. Requirements for teacher aides effectively close down heritage language programs. In Florida and certain other states, the state has called in teaching certificates and refused to reissue them. On the other hand, the federal government has funded a national board, which will certify people who can pass tests without having any professional education.

9. Enforcement of NCLB employs blacklists.

A list of who and what conforms and does not conform to NCLB criteria is being used to blacklist people, institutions, methods, and materials. Mostly this is accomplished without direct confrontation through using “scientific criteria” in funding reviews, but it is widely known whose names disqualify a proposal and which terms and programs are to be avoided. Conflicts of interest are the rule rather than the exception. For example, to be a literacy trainer in Arizona, one must pass a test that includes newly-banned terms such as miscue analysis and print awareness as wrong answers.

10. NCLB, the federal law, is unconstitutional, as it violates the Constitution, which leaves education to the states.

NCLB affects every child and teacher in every school in the United States. It establishes a national curriculum and methodology in reading and math.
For those who bash BushCo for this legislation, know that the so-called centrist Dems also support NCLB, which is probably why there is radio silence on the subject.