after I turn it in I will post the two papers I wrote about No Child Left Behind…. A.K.A. the biggest disaster in education since the library of Alexandria was set on fire. They aren’t my best… in fact some of the worst reports I have written, informative none the less.

Well, all turned in, so time to post.

Standardizing Education a Texas Disaster

No child left behind has become the “Blackhawk Down,” of education reform. Rather than saving children from falling through the cracks of the education system, we have created a fault line big enough for all children to fall through. Texas education reforms are a sinking ship that we must abandon.

Texas started with textbook standardization, due to its size many textbook companies had to tailor their entire product to the Texas market. This created a nationwide disaster, as Texas would develop other failed reforms to sweep our nation. No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, is the flagship of the Texas takeover, of our nation’s educational system. “President George W. Bush signed NCLB into law in early 2002 (January 8th)” (Popham xi).

Texas has removed the separation of church and state, with its constant religious interferences in the school system. It has removed Darwin and placed intelligent design in our government-controlled public schools. This has been all over the news. It has very big implications for our nation’s future, and religious freedom.

A string of failed education reform boards would help Texas bring about such further disasters as unattainable education funding, testing accountability, teacher accountability, and the privatization, and closing of schools, all as threats to promote better education through negative reinforcements and unattainable positive reinforcements. This doesn’t create a proper learning environment. The average student is subjected to endless testing drills without any real teaching going on. The average teacher stuck awake at night wondering if they will be the scapegoat when their school fails its Annual Yearly Progress report, or AYP.

Teachers and schools have had to learn how to cheat the system to survive and this is cheating our children, our future, out of a proper education. We are leaving America defenseless in a global economy. This is also turning every teacher and member of education against each other so that they are not working together to better our children’s minds, they are instead fighting each other. Teachers toss out anything that is likely not on the state assessment tests, and “…there have been frequent reports of electronically miss-scored standardized tests. Mistakes clearly happen, even in well-established assessment firms…” (Popham 59). “Educators, just like all people, manipulate indicators used to judge their success…when their reputations, employment, or salary are related to those indicators.” (Berliner et al. 48). They are only human after all, and when you put their livelihood at stake, they do what they have to. We have created a cutthroat, everyone-for-themselves environment.

Furthermore, teachers are ignoring most of their students to concentrate on those that would cause them to fail the NCLB’s tests. This is not surprising considering that their jobs, future, and livelihood are on the line. When given a choice of pointing the finger and removing teachers, or shutting down, schools will be more than happy to point fingers.

Low performing students are not students in need of help under NCLB; they are liabilities for the teacher and school. “Dentists aren’t held accountable for their patients cavities and physicians aren’t held accountable for their patients diabetes” (Berliner et al. 49). What we are asking is illogical. 100% proficiency is required of schools receiving NCLB funds. That is a completely inhuman goal. Not everyone is the same, it’s ridiculous. Really where is the sense in that? The expectation that all children will improve at exactly the same rate and reach the same high level of education makes no sense.

Only basic reading skills and basic problem solving math, are given importance. “The Adequate Yearly Progress reports required by the NCLB act do not measure the same students over time, from one grade to the next, or even at the beginning and end of the year.” (American 30). How, can this be called an Adequate Yearly Progress report? It can’t be called this, as it is not adequate, and does not actually measure progress of particular students; it simply measures their end of year results and then skips to a different group. The AYPs of NCLB are a joke at best. Also, 100% percent proficiency goals and adequate are two very different things. Yet AYP uses adequate while holding a 100% goal.

The tests do not provide a realistic way of showing the efforts of teachers when it comes to teaching better, they simply show that they are teaching towards passing these tests. A teacher cannot get through to a child, because they have to ready the most children possible, or the ones on the cusp of failing, for the specific state assessment test; and any efforts to actually improve that child’s education are not going to show in the test. It is simply a cold, methodical, and inhuman measuring of outdated standards, with no concern for individuals.

Even the government is trying to cover itself from any blame. To make NCLB look like a success illusory improvements are being created, by a Federal Government that is relaxing its standards significantly for NCLB and allowing schools to take advantage of every legal loophole, this is to make NCLB look like a success and prevent us from realizing that the ship is sinking. (Popham xiv). This game of which cup is the ball under is currently distracting the public, but it won’t last forever. Eventually, as America falls behind in the global economy, questions will be raised.

All of this is having a very harsh effect on schools and students. Especially with the students of poor families, racial minorities, limited English proficient students, and special education, these problems are being-dumped on schools to fix. Many schools do not label special educations students properly, out of fear of how this subgroup will affect them, under NCLB. (Posnick-Goodwin 68). Closure of the education gaps concerning students from poor families and students of minority races has been minimal under NCLB, only in a few grade levels, and in certain academic areas, such as math. We are a nation that still struggles with racism after centuries and we expect schools to address and fix many of its issues in a short 12 years.

Can we trust NCLB to adapt and change to address the issues fast enough, as its proponents say? The National Assessment of Educational Progress NAEP for eight grade has been analyzed and shown to be dominated by basic problem solving math on a third grade level. (Lewis 71). This makes it look like NCLB is not going to change much in education. As for NCLB changing itself, it does not look likely when the only ones surviving have done so by pointing fingers at others. No one is willing to admit a failure, when it comes to something as important as our nation’s children are.

Is it too late for NCLB, or can it be salvaged? Most proposed reforms to NCLB merely replicate or extend what is already present in it. (McClusky et al. 84). Therefore, it looks like more stall tactics and finger pointing. It may not be salvageable.

What has NCLB done exactly? “Fourth graders reading scores did not change at all between 2002 and 2005” (McClusky et al. 84). “Eight grade reading scores fell by two points after 2002.” (McClusky et al. 85). It appears to have wasted our time, money, and hurt our children’s educations. It has probably displaced many good teachers as well.

What should we really be concentrating on? “The fact is, real learning often can’t be quantified, and a corporate style preoccupation with “data” turns school into something shallow and lifeless.” (Kohn 7). We are losing the individuality that has allowed us to pull ahead in the idea game. We need to concentrate on broadening our subjects and knowledge base in education.

What are the countries ahead of us in the education game doing? “Hong Kong, Korea, Finland, and Japan each have a national curriculum with national tests. A deep education in a broad range of subjects is what they concentrate on. Not basic math and reading alone.” (Ravitch et al. 36). Other countries are diversifying, to adapt to the global economy. They are trying multiple methods of teaching to reach every child possible.

What value, what credibility, does a teacher have that does not focus on actually teaching, and instead focuses on test taking? They are fountains of knowledge and saints of patience. We are destroying this, their value and their credibility.

If we do not stop NCLB, we will regret it. NCLB has already had a very ill effect on our education system. I predict it will be a bleak and detrimental blow to our education system, and our once prized teachers if it continues.

Works Cited

American Federation of Teachers. “Adequate Yearly Progress Reports Are a Hindrance to Educational ….Success.” Has No Child Left Behind Been Good for Education? Ed. Elizabeth Des Chenes. MI: ….Greenhaven Press, 2008. 30-37.

Berliner, David C., et al. “High-Stakes Testing Has a Negative Impact on Learning” Has No Child Left ….Behind Been Good for Education? Ed. Elizabeth Des Chenes. MI: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 45-50.

Kohn, Alfie. “It’s Not What We Teach It’s What They Learn” The Education Digest 74.4 (2008): 4-7

Lewis, Anne C. “Washington news:NAEP in Need of Reform” The Education Digest 73.6 (2008): 70-71.

McCluskey, Neal, et al. “No Child Left Behind Is Not Salvageable” Has No Child Left Behind Been Good for ….Education? Ed. Elizabeth Des Chenes. MI: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 84-94.

Popham, W. James. America’s “Failing” Schools Boca Raton Florida: Routledge, 2005.

Posnick-Goodwin, Sherry “Special Education Students Do Not Thrive Under No Child Left Behind” Has No ….Child Left Behind Been Good for Education? Ed. Elizabeth Des Chenes. MI: Greenhaven Press, 2008. ….68-73.

Ravitch, Diane, et al. “WHY WE’RE BEHIND: What Top Nations Teach Their Students But We Don’t”  ED ….Digest September 2009: 35-38

 

American Education: A Texas Disaster

Because of our Texas education model, it is already too late; we have lost good teachers and made a disaster of America’s education system. We have children graduating without a proper education. Realizing the enormity of the disaster our politicians only wish to point fingers. States are beginning to jump off the NCLB ship, as the public watches it sink.

The Texas control over textbooks can be traced, back to the time immediately following the civil war. Texas, as many southern states, wanted to have tight control over what their schools taught about slavery. They quickly began making textbook review boards and closely monitoring what went into textbooks. As time went on, and the nation industrialized, many big textbook manufacturers quickly recognized that Texas was one of the two biggest textbook buyers. With time, it became synonymous with textbook success, to have your textbook published in Texas; Texas was now setting the textbook Standard for the nation.

The first day in history class the teacher, Mister Meredith, asked the class who decides what goes into textbooks, or where do our textbooks really come from. Of course, none of us really knew, or had ever even thought about it. He informed us it was Texas. Due to their size and the fact that their textbooks were standardized, textbook companies had to design their product to make Texas happy. This stuck with many students and eventually led to this report. Therefore, it is fitting that the third and final paper on the subject will include information from an interview with Mister Meredith.

He has been teaching for over 40 years. He has taught many different grades and places. Therefore, he has a special insider’s view of education. As a history teacher, he has paid special attention to the history of teaching, especially during his years as a teacher. His mother was a teacher and his great aunt before that, and now his daughter and son-in-law are teachers.

He brought up much about Texas attitudes after the civil war. They wanted segregated schools. The average Texan did not want to pay for a minority school. As segregation ended, Texans began sending their children to private schools. They then did not want to send their tax dollars to public schools. They then tried to get tax deductions for putting their children in private schools. (Meredith np). This cold racist business model would evolve many other strange standards that would lead to NCLB.

As Gary Meredith pointed out in the Interview, once a school starts using federal money they can’t live without it. NCLB took some of the money that schools had come to depend on and made it only available if they accepted the risks of NCLB. It may have been optional in appearance, but in-truth, NCLB was-forced, on our schools. Given This difficult choice, many states are now considering opting out.

It was during the interview when asked where he became aware of the Texas chokehold on textbook content. He has been teaching over 40 years and it has been that way as long as he can remember, “it was very early in his career that he became aware of it,” although he doesn’t remember exactly how. He began teaching around the end of the civil rights movement, and was aware of the situation, almost from the beginning of his career.

The textbook companies are down to three major competitors in our country, as mister Meredith had pointed out. They keep buying out companies and killing competition, as he also pointed out. This business that is used to pleasing Texas, and they have followed a cold business model to succeed. The cold business model of NCLB now permeates every layer of our education system. This lack of competition has allowed textbook companies to increase their costs to the point that as Mister Meredith said, “Prices of text books have gone up dramatically more than any other education costs that I can see.” So of course, anything that would tighten their hold on education is going to please the textbook companies, and NCLB standardizes education while demanding participation if a school wants federal money. This is a perfect situation for the growing textbook monopoly.

“It is commonly called cookie cutter approach. NCLB came from a former Texas governor. Across the nation, all schools and all children in all situations can lead to a similar outcome. That if this this and this, are done, then this will happen. If the outcome isn’t what is projected then you’re not doing the things needed. Methodology and standardized testing that are not really doing anything. You are comparing apples to oranges.” Was one thing he pointed out when asked about the strange assumption of NCLB that all teachers and students are the same.

NCLB and its AYP reports measure two completely different groups of students, and compare them as if they are the same, to measure its results. They, seemingly at random, select a class and grade and then the next time select a different class and grade. They do not follow the same group. They don’t factor in the differences in humanity. They don’t take into account the types of student the courses draw into them.

For example a foreign language class in a high school tends to attract better performing students where-as English class is required of all. As Mister Meredith, also points out that the effective disciplinarian teacher is going to get the problem students to try to straighten them out, and under NCLB, he will be let go for his students having a lower average. They just don’t take into account the differences in student, assuming each is exactly alike.

By being measured on improvement, the schools are being set up for failure. You can only improve so much, and as you improve the amount of improvement, each year will shrink. Yet NCLB expects increasing improvement from the schools. So how is Texas faring with its brainchild, NCLB? Well, let us first look at the increasing requirement rate they set and then see where it got them. Language arts went from a 73% required pass rate to an 80%, and math 67% to 75%. Now to be fair, the secretary of education warned that 82% of America’s are on their way to failure. 49.3% of Texas schools failed to meet their Annual Yearly Progress in the 2010-2011 school year. (Radcliffe np). Well the statistics speak for themselves.

As we have seen with big business, in recent years, if a cold business model is used and a group is held to standards and progress reports, with accountability being high, people in that group will cut corners, point fingers, and set up scape goats. Banks accepting bailouts used the money to pay bonuses to VIP members while firing lesser and closing many branches. Car companies did the same while blaming small franchisees and closing them, even though they were making money and not the real problem. Why would we accept a cold business model that mimics these things? As my appendix shows, it is just comical.

As Mister Meredith says “The Texas school system, which NCLB is modeled after, is not the leading school system in the country.” (np). Some Texas facts: 49th in verbal and 46th in math SAT scores, 36th in high-school graduation rates, and 50th in percentage of adult population with a high-school diploma. (Combs np). This is only a small sampling of the sad standards Texas achieves. Why would anyone model an education system off one of the lowest performing states? Well that president was from Texas.

“A recent study of the impact of Texas’ public-school accountability system, which served as a model for the federal No Child Left Behind Act, found that it directly contributed to lower graduation rates” (Schmidt np) This study was done by a Texas college. Couple this with the wonderful state standing of Texas on things such as SAT scores and we start to see that the Texas model ends poorly. NCLB has done irreparable damage and we will be counting its casualties in teacher losses and students failed by education for years to come.

At one point in the interview with mister Meredith he said, “If you have to test to make sure teachers are doing their job and you set a minimum competency level to test for then that becomes the new maximum effort because once a teacher is done teaching a student to that level then the teacher has to move on to the other students.” It says a lot about the strain we place on teachers and what NCLB’s standards are doing. If all students are assumed the same then that teacher is really going to have to hurry to make sure they get the problem students caught up. At another point, he made the statement that “we always say we want to give a student the best education we can, but what we really want to do is give the best education we can for the least amount of money.” “Good teachers who have been around awhile are going to be up in the pay scale, so we will want to offer them early retirement, so that we can hire new teachers at less pay. You’re removing some of your best teachers and the very people who should be mentoring new teachers.” (np).

With standardized testing, you almost have to do multiple choice, because essays allow for too many different answers and different interpretations by instructors. This fact has led to many funny political cartoons about multiple choice testing. Not teaching students to think, but instead teaching them to recognize.  Some schools are allowing students to take the tests as many times as needed to pass. This is being done without changing the questions. Some schools are even requiring a minimum percent or amount of point for each assignment no matter how correct it is. (np).

Leading nations are broadening subjects taught and using essays. We are cutting down to problem solving math and basic reading skills with multiple-choice questions. Essays encourage thought, writing, and explanation. Multiple-choice is comparable to a child’s game of Memory, or trying to spot the familiar at best.

“The department of education might be an infringement on state control; NCLB is a definite infringement on state control of education.” (Meredith np). This is already being challenged though. One of the states best known for education is stepping up to the plate.

It has been all over the news recently; Iowa is trying to escape NCLB. Tired of it and calling it a complete failure, Iowa is now starting the process of opting out. Why is this, a big deal? For a long time Iowa had been one of the leading states in education and many other states used Iowa’s Test of Basic Skills to measure their own progress. That is not all, Iowa’s Governor Terry Branstad is fighting it tooth and nail, but he is not fighting the way you think.

As Iowa prepares to jump ship, Branstad is trying to emphasize NCLB. He is calling for more tests, including a college entrance exam for eleventh grade students, and too toughen standards for teachers, even further. Not all children want to go to college, so many are screaming this is another needless expensive test. He plans to increase testing across the board, and has no support from either party. (“Education”A1,A3).

Why would Branstad do this? You have to prove that you have something better, to get out of NCLB, so Iowa has prepared a NCLB waiver, set up more testing, toughened standards and requirements for teachers, especially with respect to English language learners and disabled students, and set up a very expensive college entrance exam. It seems that NCLB doesn’t want to remove its claws and plans to leave all deserters with mortal wounds. Iowa is even planning a better assessment. NCLB has students graduating high school because they have to and not preparing them for college. Iowa plans to change this and prove they can do much better than NCLB. (Newman B5).

So even getting out of NCLB is tough, maybe even impossible. You have to beat it’s impossible standards to exit it. Therefore, it even damages us when we try to get away, by putting measures that are more disastrous in place, to haunt us after our escape. Maybe, this is how the people behind NCLB make it look like they did their best, and no one can do any better. If you see past that and look, at what has become of Texas, we see our future though and it is bleak.

Works Cited

Black, Dallas. “No Child Left Behind Texas Model” Cartoon. DallasBlackBlog. Web. 2nd  …..February 2012. NP.

http://dallasblackblog.wordpress.com/category/texas-education-agency/

Combs, Susan. Window on State Government. Major Challenges Facing Texas Education Today. ….Web. 5th February 2012.

http://www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/wwstand/wws0512ed/

“Education: Branstad plan hits a wall: Iowa lawmakers see little consensus over governor’s ….education overhaul” Editorial. Ottumwa Courier 2nd February 2012: A1, A3.

Meredith, Gary. Personal Interview. 25th January 2012. NP.

Newman, Mark. “Input strong on No Child Left Behind waiver” Ottumwa Courier 3rd February ….2012: B5.

Radcliffe, Jeniffer. Chron.com. Texas Schools Struggle To Catch Up To No Child Left Behind: ….Texas schools struggle to catch up to No Child rules. 7th February 2012. Web. 7th February ….2012.

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Texas-schools-struggle-to-catch-up-to-No-Child-2080643.php

Schmidt, Peter. The Chronicle of Higher Education: Texas Study Suggests ‘No Child Left Behind’ ….Could Hurt High-School Graduation Rate. 7th February 2012. Web. 7Th February 2012.  http://chronicle.com/article/Texas-Study-Suggests-No/40460

 

 

 

 

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