Too Late the Truth?

From “The Impact of the Adequate Yearly Progress Requirement of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act on the Great Lakes Region,” a study released by the Great Lakes Center for Educational Research and the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University.

From “The Impact of the Adequate Yearly Progress Requirement of. the Federal “No Child Left Behind” Act on Schools in the Great Lakes Region,” a study released by the Great Lakes Center for Educational Research and the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University.  See also “Many States Have Taken a “Backloaded” Approach to No Child Left Behind Goal of All Students Scoring ‘Proficient'” from the Center on Education Policy.

On June 24, The Department of Public Instruction will release the preliminary Adequate Yearly Progress Reports on schools and districts in Wisconsin, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act. My guess is that MMSD will have a higher number of “failing schools” this year. Think of Madison as being “ahead of the curve.”

AYP is not the best gauge of the work our district is doing; NCLB isn’t a good law and AYP is ridiculous yardstick.

If the flaws in and political manipulation behind NCLB weren’t obvious already, an interview with former Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Susan Neuman in the new Time magazine confirms what we already knew. Excerpts below.

There was always something slightly insane about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the ambitious education law often described as the Bush Administration’s signature domestic achievement. For one thing, in the view of many educators, the law’s 2014 goal — which calls for all public school students in grades 4 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 or 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.

Add to the mix the fact that much of the promised funding failed to materialize and many early critics insisted that No Child Left Behind was nothing more than a cynical plan to destroy American faith in public education and open the way to vouchers and school choice.

Now a former official in Bush’s Education department is giving at least some support to that notion…

[T]here were others in the department, according to Neuman, who 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.”

Neuman also regrets the Administration’s use of humiliation and shame as a lever for school reform. Failure to meet NCLB’s inflexible goals meant schools would be publicly labeled as failures. Neuman now sees this as a mistake: “Vilifying teachers and saying we are going to shame them was not the right approach.”

The combination of inflexibility and public humiliation for those not meeting federal goals ignited so much frustration among educators that NCLB now appears to be an irreparably damaged brand. “The problems lingered long enough and there’s so much anger that it may not be fixable,” says Neuman. While the American Federation of Teachers was once on board with the NCLB goals, she notes, the union has turned against it. “Teachers hate NCLB because they feel like they’ve been picked on.”

Is there a way out of the mess? Neuman still supports school accountability and the much-maligned annual tests mandated by the law. But she now believes that the nation has to look beyond the schoolroom, if it wishes to leave no child behind. Along with 59 other top educators, policymakers and health officials, she’s put her name to a nonpartisan document to be released on Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. Titled “A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education,” it lays out an expansive vision for leveling the playing field for low-income kids, one that looks toward new policies on child health and support for parents and communities. Neuman says that money she’s seen wasted on current programs should be reallocated accordingly. “Pinning all our hopes on schools will never change the odds for kids.”

The right wing attack machine turned on Scott McClellan when he belatedly told the truth. We can expect the same treatment for Neuman.

Thomas J. Mertz

1 Comment

Filed under Accountability, AMPS, Best Practices, education, finance, Gimme Some Truth, Local News, National News, nclb, No Child Left Behind, Uncategorized

One response to “Too Late the Truth?

  1. Gary L. Stout

    The failings of NCLB are too numerous to mention. It is hard to believe that this disastrous, racist, elitest, piece of legislation is the most prized accomplishment of the Bush Administration. This might explain in part why the US is in shambles.

    I have been addressing the Madison School Board every month since January 2008 concerning NCLB. In January I presented them with my say “No To No Child Left Behind” manifesto.

    I have posted one section of it below. If you would like to read it in it’s entirety my web site is

    What Can We Do?

    It is easy to be critical of NCLB. The challenging part is addressing the question of what can we do to change things?

    1. We need to unite and get politically active locally and nationally to eliminate NCLB. We must go back in time and start over again when the Bush Kingdom took over the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and changed it to NCLB. The problem is that political change is slow. We as a nation have been taking steps backward in the education of our children for five years now. We will continue going backwards on a daily basis as long as NCLB exists as it is today.

    2. It is critical for Wisconsin to change the way our public schools are funded. The elimination of revenue caps and the use of property taxes as a major way to fund public schools has got to change.

    3. Third, we need to educate many of our co-workers, parents, and the voting public as to the truth about how our schools are being deliberately set up for failure and how our schools are presently failing on a daily basis to meet even the basic needs of all our children.

    There are also at least three things we can do immediately as a progressive and accountable school district.

    1. Stop the one dimensional focus on academic learning and teach to the whole child. We need to teach and give every child the opportunity to grow socially, emotionally, physically, and creatively as well as academically.

    In March 2003 I addressed a Madison school board committee suggesting that our school districts emphasis on testing and academic learning at the expense of social, emotional, physical and creative learning was developmentally inappropriate. Since then our approach to teaching to the whole child has become even more one dimensional with the developmentally inappropriate mandates of NCLB.

    2. Change the focus of the Madison summer school program. Instead of using behavioral issues as a deterrent to getting into the program, children with behavioral issues should be the first to be enrolled. The public needs to know that when a classroom has just one socially inappropriate child, that child takes educational opportunities away from every child in the classroom. Social development is similar to reading and math development. They need to be taught every day, in every classroom, at every grade level.

    3. We need to remember Rosa Parks and say no to NCLB. Our school district should be commended for having the courage to say no to the Reading First program. Lets have the courage to say no to NCLB. As a community lets find ways to fund our schools without having the George Orwell effect tied to federal dollars.

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