"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, January 19, 2007

No Child Left Big

By Fran Thomas

In response to the deepening crisis of obesity, federal education officials have just proposed a new system of accountability. It's called No Child Looks Big, or NCLB.

Under this system, schools are required to make every student run a mile under six minutes or face a range of sanctions. Progress toward this goal will be monitored through calculating Acceptable Youth Propulsion, or AYP. AYP will be calculated based on a single annual test, given in the spring, called the Multi-State Complicated Athletic Series, or MCAS. Today, I have a chance to talk to Mr. Pointy-Headed Bureaucrat, who explains the logic behind NCLB and MCAS.

"It's flawlessly simple. Schools haven't been held accountable, and because of that, too many students are too big. Too big! This will force change." What about the kids who don't want to run, aren't interesting in running and could care less how quickly they can cover a mile? Or parents who feel the same? And what about kids who have no place to run at home to practice, no good running shoes?

"All students will need these skills in the global marketplace, regardless."

But surely you realize all students don't enter school with the same running abilities, the same nutrition, the same family histories, the same opportunities to have run before. And some schools have more of those students than others. "Those students will be able to move to another school if it doesn't make AYP. And they'll want to, because one of the really neat, logical things we do is take money and resources away from such schools - you know, urban schools. Then we make them have longer gym classes. Two to four hours a day, if necessary."

Wait a minute! Did you say you take money away from schools that aren't doing well? Don't they need it more?

"Nonsense! Money doesn't buy happiness, or in this case, aerobic capacity."

But surely you realize some students have disabilities that prevent them from running as fast as their peers? That students come in all shapes and sizes?

"Look, there are disabled kids in China and India, too. Those are the kids our students will be competing against in the global marketplace. I bet they don't make excuses for kids in wheelchairs or on crutches in Singapore!" Since they beat you with a cane if you spit on the sidewalk there, I'd say that's probably a pretty safe bet. But why the mile? Aren't there other ways to develop fitness -that might actually be fun for students - like dance, aerobics, hip-hop, etc.? "That's part of the problem. Teachers and kids having too many choices. We'll have strict frameworks and curriculum guides that will do away with that nonsense." What about sprinting? Isn't that as legitimate a way to gauge speed as a long run - assuming you're correct in that this skill is truly essential? "Did I stutter? Look, the first year we look at your times and they aren't up to snuff, we label you Not Impressive. Three more years like that and then your times are Chronically Unimpressive. Then we come in and take over." And you've had success before? You've led schools that have gotten every student under six minutes in the mile? Urban schools?

"Well, no. But we'll be happy to come in and tell you what you're doing wrong." Thanks! Now, you said this was in response to a crisis. Does this mean schools will be funded the way, say, the military is when they are facing a crisis?

"No, there's no extra money. This is strictly an unfunded mandate. In fact, depending on your town or city's finances, your existing budget may very well get cut."

So, let me see if I've got this straight: you've decided upon a standard all kids must meet, regardless of their interest, motivation or the resources available to them. You admit some students have disabilities, which will virtually make it impossible for them to accomplish this. There's no extra money, yet you say it is a crisis. No matter what type of career a student plans on, you insist this skill will be essential in helping these same students compete in some vague, undefined global marketplace. And, when schools show they need help, you punish them by taking money away. Have I got that right? "Well, you sound like one of those obstructionist protectors of the status quo, but yes, in essence, you are fundamentally correct." Super! Can you answer just one more question for me? "If you make it quick - I've got schools to label and finishing times to examine." When's the last time you spent a day with a kid? "Gee, what a strange question! I don't spend too much time with kids - I look at data. I'm data driven. I don't really actually deal with flesh and blood kids - just data."

Somehow I'm not surprised. Thanks for your time.

— Fran Thomas
Leominster Champion (Massachussetts)
2007-01-19

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Eliminate, don't change, NCLB

Last April Jim Horn (http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/) came up with 20 reasons to eliminate NCLB. Every one of the reasons is still valid...and now, with the new congress it's even more important to find a way to dump this law while we have the votes. NEA says we should fix it instead (http://www.nea.org/esea/posagendaexecsum.html), but if you read their fixes they are good but don't go far enough.

The Democrats need to be taught that this law is oppressive to schools and students.

It's not just that it is underfunded...

It's not just that punishments don't work because most of the problems are caused by societal issues and schools can't create jobs, increase the minimum wage and put food in the bellies of the ever increasing number of poor children...

It's not just that the goal of 100% "proficiency" by 2014 is statistically impossible...

It's not just that the law has led to the increase in the achievement gap it was supposed to reduce...

It's that the law is punitive, mean-spirited, and threatens to dismantle a public school system that it took 200 years to build.

The Democrats need to take the lead in dismantling this disaster, but they are, instead, supporting this law. Led by George Miller, the Dems are focusing on the underfunded aspect of the law. A bad law, fully funded, is still a bad law.

Now is the time for us, the teachers, the parents, the patrons of schools, to touch base with our representatives and let them know that there is no excuse for supporting a law that threatens the very future of the public schools in the us. We have to teach them.

http://capwiz.com/nea/in/state/main/?state=IN

20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB

An education policy built on impossible performance demands that assure the failure of the majority of American public schools should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that has the same impossible demands for most English-language learners and special education students should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that traumatizes children, destroys the desire to learn, and corrupts the purposes for learning should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses fear, intimidation, and retribution as motivation should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses a single assessment once a year to make life-altering decisions should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that ignores poverty as a chief determinant in academic performance should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that creates two different school curriculums, one for the children of the poor and one for well-funded successes, should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses skewed and manipulated research from the National Reading Panel to devise a national reading strategy should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses the strain of test score competition to undercut public cohesion and civic commitment to democratic goals should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that shrinks the American school curriculum to two or three subjects that are tested should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that discourages diversity and encourages homogeneity in schools should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that supports the use of tax dollars to fund private schools rather than public school improvement should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that advocates the use of public money to pay private contractors to run public schools should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that is built on unfunded and under-funded mandates should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that reduces or eliminates local and state decision making by citizens should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that mandates that military recruiters have access to student information should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that inflames a teacher shortage in order to replace professional teachers with individuals who have passed a teaching test should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that is used to reward tax dollars to insiders and cronies for their political support should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses paid propaganda to advance its agenda should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that puts test scores in the place of the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of America’s children should eliminated, not reformed.

10 Action Strategies for Eliminating NCLB

Hold a public forum in your community to explore and explain these points.

Organize community and neighborhood potluck dinners with teachers and parents to talk together about how NCLB is affecting children and school.

Persuade your organizations to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of NCLB based on these points.

Collect signatures on a Petition to Eliminate NCLB based on these 20 points. Publicize your results in the local media and send copies of resolutions and petitions to your local and federal elected officials.

Write letters-to-the-editor and op-ed pieces for your local and regional newspapers, making these points.

Get your local school board to pass a resolution or hold a community forum about eliminating NCLB.

Contact your U.S. senators and representatives about eliminating NCLB: Call them, write or email them (send these points and other information), and set up meetings with them in your district (bring a group of children).

Contact your state legislators to enlist them in the effort to eliminate NCLB; get state legislatures to pass resolutions.

Parents: Join the NCLB-mandated Parents Advisory Board at your child’s school. Bring the 20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB to begin a dialogue.

Organize a public protest or march on test days or days given over to test preparation.

No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the side.
More than 23,000 signatures so far...

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Who will teach the children?

Signature #22019, April Eason, speaks for many teachers. Hers is not the first comment talking about how the joy of teaching has been lost...but it is a clear indication that those people who are intent on destroying public education - President Bush and his friends - are succeeding.

Good teachers get discouraged and leave.
Young teachers find that they have to do things that are not good for their students and become frustrated.

April's comments are scary, because she's right. Her comments are sad, because she's right. Who is going to be left to teach our children?

"I'm a teacher -- or was when I started. Now I'm just a paper-pushing, harried, scared, implementer of mandates trying daily to "prove" I DID do my job, and student failures or deficiencies are not entirely my fault. I do not see myself sticking with this profession, as the opportunities for the personal rewards that keep most teachers in the classroom are being stolen by the crunch of curriculum cramming and teaching to tests. The joy and freedom of teaching simply no longer exist."

No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the side.
More than 22,000 signatures so far...