"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

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Neuman Comes Clean on No Child Left Behind

by Gerald Bracey in the Huffington Post
Posted June 25, 2008 | 03:14 PM (EST)

So now we know. All of us "paranoids" were right all along. From the beginning, some of us saw vouchers and privatization lurking behind No Child Left Behind. We were shouted down. If I had a dollar for every story I read complimenting the law on its intent and lamenting only its implementation, I'd have at least enough bucks for dinner and wine at a fine restaurant.

But now we know. Susan Neuman, an assistant secretary of education at the time of the crime, admitted in the June 8 issue of Time, that some in the administration saw NCLB as a 'Trojan horse" for the choice agenda, "'a way to expose the failure of public education' and 'blow it up a bit', she says. 'There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization.'"

Reporter Claudia Wallis also destroys the internal logic of the program. Too bad it took her, and virtually everyone else, six years:

"There was always something slightly insane about No Child Left Behind, the ambitious law often described as the Bush Administration's signature domestic achievement. For one thing, in the view of many educators (and, I would add, anyone with a grain of common sense--JB), the law's 2014 goal--which calls for all public school students in grades 3 through 8 to be achieving on grade level in reading and math--is something no educational system anywhere on earth has ever accomplished. Even more unrealistic: every kid (except for 3% with serious handicaps and other issues) is supposed to be achieving on grade level every year, climbing in lockstep up an ever more challenging ladder. This flies in the face of all sorts of research showing that children start off in different places academically and grow at different rates."

I'd want to get rid of that word "slightly" in the above paragraph but other than that it's pretty much dead on although it doesn't mention that NCLB is mostly stick, little carrot.

Actually, Claudia, the law doesn't mention "grade level" referring to skills. Everyone has got to be "proficient." The transmogrification of proficient (which makes people think of NAEP, where the ridiculously high achievement levels are basic, proficient and advanced) into grade level started towards the end of Rod Paige's tenure and has been promoted ad nauseam by both Bush and Spellings. Spellings has never defined it explicitly. She can't. Nor can anyone else. For Spellings, it apparently means scoring proficient on the test that a state uses to measure Annual Yearly Progress. We thus have 50+ definitions of grade level.

("Grade Level," by the way, has always been arbitrary, but in the days of norm-referenced tests, it had a common meaning: it was the score of the average child in a particular grade when the test was being normed. It was thus a floating standard as norm-referenced tests have to be re-normed every few years, but at least everyone understood what it meant. It did bother some who did not like the notion that, by definition, 50% of all children were always below grade level).

By the time Bush and Spellings leave, slinking out under cloak of night one would hope so as not to be tarred and feathered, NCLB will have provided seven years of educational Hell. As Joanne Yatvin said in her powerful presidential speech to the National Council of Teachers of English, the people who designed NCLB "do not understand learning, teaching or human behavior."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Elementary Schedules for 2008-2009

On Thursday, May 29, the Administration presented the teacher association's Discussion team with their ideas for placement of Art, Music, and PE teachers for the 2008-2009 school year.

History - Negotiations 2007

During negotiations for the current contract, our Association asked for full time Art, Music, and PE teachers in every building...as well as Art, Music a
nd PE classes for all students, including Kindergarten. That request was summarily rejected. The administration claimed that to expand the special areas to that level would be too expensive - despite the fact that the school system has a huge cash balance.

The Negotiations team tried to tweak the request to make it more palatable offering to accept graduated staffing...smaller buildings getting fewer special area teachers and larger buildings getting more...but that was also rejected. The administration responded with a plan for all elementary teachers to receive 75 minutes of guaranteed, protected preparation time per day with a maximum of 1650 minutes of student contact time during a regular school week. Our team asked if this was feasible and were told that it would be workable.

Fast forward to 2007-2008

In September of 2007 the Association reminded the administration that they were going to have to plan for the 2008-2009 school year...the changes in elementary prep time were going to require some study. The administration put us off and said that they were going to take care of it. We reminded them again in October...and every subsequent month after that. They finally began working on it and have come up with a plan...just days before the end of the school year.

They expect us to accept it as is...because they know that our teachers do not want to leave for summer break without knowing where they are going to be next year.

There are other issues wrapped up in all this...the inequity of the student school day in different elementary schools across the system...the effort to bring more balance to the class loads of the special area teachers. There are simple solutions, but the administration does not want to put their money where their mouths are. They let their negotiations team box them into a corner on elementary prep time and now their desperately trying to figure a way out and claiming that they are doing what is best for students.

There is so much about their proposal which is just plain ridiculous including one teacher going to 5 buildings in 4 days, schools with multiple teachers in the same area and teachers running back and forth between schools several times a week.

It's clear that consistency in educational programs was not part of this plan...