Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Top NCLB Advocate Reverses Position: Hot News and More to Follow

Yes, it has hit the press that Diane Ravitch, one of the chief engineers of the NCLB, has changed her mind after all these years. I will be posting more information, but in case you missed this big news story, click on the title of this post to get to the NPR coverage. Since the story will be all over the news, post links in your comments to other helpful media you find. Here is a quick ink to the story from the New York Times.
Photo, courtesy of Basic Books as taken from the NPR cover story.


Christina said...

It was so interesting that you posted this article on the blog. Yesterday, I happened to go into Barns and Noble and one of the men working there started a brief conversation with me about this issue! I can see that it is going to be a hot topic for awhile!

Being a future Social Studies teacher, I am often concerned that the pressue that NCLP has brought on teachers will eliminate time that is givn to this particular subject. Some schools are already showing a decline in the amount of time devoted to Social Studies and the Arts. I was glad that Dr. Ravitch recgonized this as a problem with NCLB.

Kate said...

I agree with Christina in that it is finally being recognized that there are many problems with NCLB. As far as I'm concerned, she and and all the other educational scholars who have been at the forefront of NCLB should be ashamed of themselves. I wish they could read a blog from parents of children who have developed anxiety about continuous assessment or how they go home and tell their parents that they feel stupid. One of the students in my class, after taking district assessments and receiving the results will say to me, "I know I'm not smart." This is not the only time this has happened with one of my students. My heart breaks when this happens. It is unfair and inequitable. What are we teaching these students who are unable to perform well on these assessments? The bottom line is NCLB has decided to hold teachers accountable for children's INABILITY to perform well on assessments.

I think it's interesting that Dr. Ravitch says very little about her poor choice in supporting NCLB for years putting children, families, and teachers through an emotional and professional nightmare. The stories from parents of students with special needs and parents of students who are struggling learners could fill a book. All she says is that things should go back to the way they used to be in public education. She should be apologizing in this article for all the heartache that she and her colleagues have put children, parents, and teachers though.

NCLB is absolutely ludicrous. It lacks the simple understanding that not everybody is going to be able to succeed with "the standards" by choice or by genetics. Where is her accountability now? Where are these scholars' accountability? Maybe we should dock her pay just like it has been suggested to dock teachers' pay based on students' assessment results. Too many of these scholars lose sight of reality and are dealing too much with theory. They have no idea what teachers are dealing with on a day to day basis. Maybe this should be a reality check for these scholars to be required to spend a certain amount of time in classrooms.

Judy said...

Kate, this is a very powerful response. I hope you can encourage others to add to your comments or respond to them. Of course in a blog, it is not always easy to get others to know what others have posted unless the readers take the time to open the blog and find the specific blog posting. However, the topic of this particular blog posting affects all of us in education, and so I hope others will read it and respond. In addition, did you hear that President Obama supported the firing of the teachers in RI in the school system where students were not doing well on standardized tests? The two main national teachers unions have already lodged complaints about Obama's support for the decision. The whole issue of NCLB and standardized testing has finally come to a major public head, as the issue becomes hotter and more controversial. When one of the leading proponents of NCLB now turns her back on it, we need to wonder about the state of education policymaking in this country. We also need to get others involved. Encourage not just students in Computers in the Classroom to respond, but any educators you know. I welcome comments from others, as well.

Lori said...

As a teacher in a private school, I am not professionally affected by NCLB but as a human being, I find it to be a misguided effort to correct public schools. Any teacher can tell you giving students a test has never been a good motivator of performance. How to motivate students has been the unsolved mystery of teaching for years and the teachers that find ways to do this should be studied before another wide sweeping policy is undertaken.

It must have taken lots of courage for Dr. Ravitch to change her mind after being such a strong supporter of one of the most influential education policies of our time. However, we know the old system was not working before and I do not believe would work should we go back to it again as is being proposed by Dr. Ravitch. We would only be asking for history to repeat itself. I have to think we can learn more from watching successful teachers and schools.

This brings me to a suggested reading for you to examine. A friend of mine sent me this link about a man named Doug Lemov who has suggestions on how to improve schools and it is not NLCB. I have not finished reading the article but the first page seems to be a perfect match for this conversation.

I look forward to reading the book once it is available. Do you think it would be worth our time to read the book?

Kate said...

Judy, I was able to read more about what exactly happened in Rhode Island at Central Falls High School. Evidently, all teachers will finish out the school year, but termination will not be in effect until next year. The teachers were told by administration what they needed to do to keep their jobs, which included:
-Tutoring students for one hour each week after school.
- Spending lunchtime with students.
- Meeting with students for 90 minutes a week to discuss their education.
-Having a longer school day-7 hours.
-Setting aside 2 weeks during the summer for paid professional development.

Evidently, teachers wanted monetary compensation for these proposals made by the Superintendent. This is where the the Union and Administration could not come to an agreement. Most of the teachers at that school were getting paid between $72,000 and $78,000 so I believe that they should be able to fulfill these proposed requests without receiving additional pay. While I do not agree that they should all have been fired because that is a drastic measure, I also do not think they are entitled to additional pay. Some kind of compromise should have been agreed upon. I stay after school all the time to tutor students in my class who are struggling without additional pay. That is part of my job.

SInce more students in that school were dropping out than graduating, something needed to be done. I think the Superintendent proposed legitimate requests for improvement. This however, does not mean that I support NCLB. I believe that some type of agreement should have been made. I do not believe it is in the best interest of the children to fire all the teachers.

Meggan said...

All of your comments are wonderful and fascintating. I think what happened to teachers in the school in RI was drastic, but something had to be done. I do agree with Kate...I think more teachers need to put in the time and effort to tutor kids before and after schools. I sometimes lose my prep period because kids who have study halls come in my room for extra help. Am I begging for extra compensation, absolutely not. Let's not forget that we're here to do and job and that's to educate children to our best capacity. I think often times in the political world that is forgotten. More of us need to revisit this from time to time.

To defend what Kate said, no of these people in power have the slightest clue as to what teachers deal with on a daily basis. This whole educational bureaucracy is what needs to be evaluated. I am so sick and tired of these administrators or whatever you want to call them evaluating schools, students and teachers. Maybe if we got rid of "Director of this" and "Director of that" and hire more teachers or help existing programs something might get done around here.

bryan said...

NCLB and the push for standardized testing has put teachers, students, and families in a very precarious situation that often leads to conflict between the groups. What I find most interesting about this push for standardized testing as a way to measure student achievement is that as teachers we are mandated to differentiate our instructional materials and assessments to accuarately gauge student achievement in the classroom. However when the state or the federal government want to asses student learning, they use a one size fits all approach. How can teachers be asked to spend countless hours varying thier content, process, and assessments to reach and assess students of various learning abilities, language profientcies, etc... while the state and the federal government get to administer a single test that will not only "asses" student achievement but also measure teacher effectivness?

The test itself is unlike any test that students take in thier day to day schooling. As an educator if I treated each student as if they shared a collective mind I would be doing a great disservice to the educational community, yet CMT's and CAPT tests assume that every student is on par with one another regardless of many important factors. NCLB has aspects that deserve merit; however, its execution and design layout leave little to any kind of imagination.

Kate said...

Bryan, I think you make an excellent point when stating that teachers are expected to differentiate based on student need, whereas the state and federal government use the one size fits all approach. How hypocritical this approach is. Teachers have resorted to "teaching to the test" in order that students achieve their maximum potential. While I understand that their needs to be some assessment given to measure student achievement, I feel that it should be differentiated. How fair is it for a student who is low in reading and receives differentiated instruction take a reading test that is too difficult for him? This is not fair. While this creates the issue of the need to create many "tests" so as to accommodate to the needs of all learners, it should be done. It is only then, when students are given a test that is "differentiated" and accommodates their learning styles and needs will they be able to demonstrate their true potential.

Another issue you brought up Bryan was the notion that NCLB has essentially stripped away the creativity in classrooms. Students instead are expected to operate like robots and become a statistic regarding their test scores. How could the hierarchy in education have allowed for this to happen? We are educating CHILDREN, not robots. They are human beings who need the stimulation of thinking outside the box. Students need to be given the opportunity to use their imagination to solve problems. This component is missing in the classroom. Giving students the opportunity to think outside the box is just as important in teaching them how to add fractions. We need strong leaders at the helm who advocate for the children. We need these leaders to fight for change in the world of education.

Bill C said...

Sounds like this young lady has a hard time making up her mind and sticking to it. It is a very difficult situation to be in but one needs to make those hard decisions for better or worst. I applaud the efforts to support the public schools but being a flip flop is no way to go about it.

Nancy D said...

Obviously Dr. Ravitch bring one of the main architects of NCLB and then reversing her position will cause a great deal of discussion. Education reform starts with dialogue so hopefully this will lead us to talk and then to act. As a 6th grade math teacher we are always being held accountable for teaching curriculum so students will preform on the test. The creativity has been taken out of teaching and it is always a struggle to want to explore a topic in depth when we need to get through so much by our March testing dates.
Should teachers be held accountable for delivering the content so that are students can be academically successful? Absolutely!! But should our job security be dependent on students performance on the test? Absolutely not!!
In last week's Sunday Hartford Courant there was an editorial written by a retired teacher who brought up a point that I had never thought about. If teachers are going to be held accountable for student performance on standardized testing where is the student accountability for themselves? There is no connection with standardized testing and student promotion to the next grade. Why should students care about the test if there is no "consequence" if they don't "pass"? If all of a sudden the test became one of the benchmarks as to whether students would be promoted to the next grade maybe students would be more invested and this would in turn produce better results. An interesting idea......
The idea behind NCLB is admirable: that every child should receive a quality education regardless of where they attend school, but educators need to rethink how to achieve this goal.

ColinM said...

I was out of the country when this story came out and still unsure of my future career choices. Now that I am getting involved in education, it seems like the more I hear about NCLB, the more I do not really like it. By focusing on test scores this legislation fails to address the real issues for lack of achievement. There are many ways to make results appear positive when they may actually be negative. Also with all the focus on NCLB subjects, other important subjects are left out of the mix and nearly forgotten altogether (for example social studies).

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