"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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stop the Coercion: The Waivers are Simply Necessary

I just posted a communication from the Indiana State Teachers Association on my local association's web site.

The communication applauds the move by President Obama to allow waivers for No Child Left Behind restrictions and asks the State of Indiana Department of Education to accept the waivers for the good of Indiana's schools.

One sentence in the article is very important, though. It reads:
It's important to know that this package, while an important interim step for relief, cannot address all of the problems that remain with NCLB.
It turns out that Obama's "interim" relief effort may cause more problems than it solves proving once again that Education Secretary Duncan and President Obama are no friends of public education.

The waivers for No Child Left Behind require states to agree to some of the more onerous aspects of Race to the Top.

Kevin Welner, professor of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says that the Obama administration is right to provide the waivers because...
The ratcheting up of AYP proficiency thresholds and accompanying sanctions had gotten to the ridiculous stage, as anyone paying attention in 2001 could have predicted. The administration is right in offering waivers from those sanctions.
On the other hand, Welner says that the administration is wrong to use the coercion of Race to the Top conditions for the waivers.
The coercion should be removed and the waivers should be granted simply because they’re necessary.
He reminds us that the provisions of the policy being offered in exchange for waivers are not research based.
The administration has repeated stated the importance of research-based policies. But there is little or no high-quality research to support the policies that states must now adopt because the administration has apparently decided that those policies are the most indispensible changes that can be made for America’s schools.
Monty Neill, the deputy director of FairTest goes even further. he calls on states to flat out reject the administration's "bad deal."
The waivers require states to adopt “student growth” measures and make them a “significant factor” in teacher and principal evaluation. This will push states to adopt statistical techniques that evidence shows are grossly inaccurate for distinguishing strong teachers from weaker ones. It will put even more focus on boosting test scores instead of ensuring the all-around education of the whole child.
He also says
  • States will be required to implement tougher tests which will probably be more multiple choice and short answer. This he says, will further narrow the curriculum.
  • Districts will be required to produce assessments for subjects not currently tested by their states adding even more tests.
  • Growth measures will have to be implemented possibly requiring testing twice a year.
Lest anyone claim that this is just complaining without positive suggestions, Neill says that, instead, what needs to be done is the following:
What Congress should do is pass a new law, in line with the recommendations of the Forum on Educational Accountability, that:
  • significantly reduces the amount of mandated testing;
  • helps states design fundamentally different assessment systems;
  • focuses on evidence-based school improvement efforts; and
  • provides the resources needed so that every child has a strong and equitable opportunity to acquire knowledge, skills and dispositions to be an effective, engaged citizen.
The waivers being offered by the administration are just another way to implement Race to the Top. It requires increased testing, which has not been shown to improve instruction, and in fact have hurt schools and students by narrowing the curriculum and pushing out other subjects like the arts and physical education. It will increase the pressure to evaluate schools, administrators and teachers using test scores, another unproven plan which will demonize teachers, blame schools for the social conditions of their students and do nothing to increase higher level thinking and learning.

NEA, and by extension ISTA shouldn't buy into this...not even as an interim step to getting rid of NCLB. It's bad for teachers. It's bad for students. It's bad for public education.

For more, read http://fairtest.org/administration-offers-bad-“waiver”-plan-congress-f

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