Friday, June 09, 2006

NCLB ACT - UPDATED 6/8/06 - "report from the second hearing on testing"


Americans are so impatient, we want everything now and we can’t wait for a solution to be developed let alone implemented before we are on to another subject or crisis.

Our Educational System continues taking a beating because of this type of thinking. Quickly come up with some solution like No Child Left Behind (NCLB), implement it and then force it to fit in a round hole when it can only fit into a square.

You then add in all the requirements for state testing (i.e., MEAP) and the ever changing school solutions as political parties change hands after each election and you have the recipe for “Tampering” and ultimately “Big Butt Wide Variation” that leads to failure.

Like in most failures it’s the little people who lose, as in this case our children.

Teachers have no choice but to teach to federal requirements and state tests (even when they conflict) that are bound by test dates. If a teacher is not a certain point in the lesson book then the children will not have had a chance to learn all the criteria for a passing grade. Unfortunately with this type of strategy the gap that is getting bigger between those minority students who will understand the learning’s regardless of requirements, and the majority students (average and below) who are falling further behind.

The average students are most likely to learn if given the “normal” time to learn a lesson plan. The so-called below average students need additional help and time that comes from a dedicated teacher and peers who help each other out. This type of learning does not take place in many many school districts.

So NCLB results are going to end up like unemployment figures. Once you have used up your weeks you are no longer counted as unemployed. In other words you don’t matter because policy and lawmakers use bogus statistics like these for creating budgets and dollars to be spent.

It’s not that parents don’t care; it’s just low on their priority list (until it’s to late) with all of the other things going on in each family. We address problems when they become disasters and then want speedy and basically “stupid” solutions spouted by equally “stupid” policy and lawmakers who are more concerned about getting elected.

Teachers are equally under the gun to try and save their jobs vs. making sure all the students are getting the attention they need to be successful.

NCLB guidelines published in December 2002 by the Education Department,
insist that parents of students in poorly performing schools be allowed to
transfer them even if it causes overcrowding elsewhere in the school district.

This assumes that moving poorly performing children about from one school to
another will improve the learning of those children and the performance of the schools themselves. Student performance improves when instruction improves, and
when instruction is given the proper time limits for the level of student’s knowledge in each class. However, this is not necessarily going to happen just because a student hip hops to a different school trying to find the best teacher. What about the next year, do you move your child again? What if there are only
a few good teachers in each school? The overall results will still be failure
for the school.

Systems Thinking (qualityg always insists on systems thinking) cautions us about unforeseen changes rising up whenever pressures are applied like the ones coming from NCLB and State Tests. If we measure only math and reading performance, for example, those scores may improve while other types of learning may decline (can anyone spell geography or name the three branches of government).

Studies show that NCLB's focus on just math and reading scores could have a profoundly unfair effect upon a generation of students in poorly performing schools, as schools may strip away much of the broad education that is their birthright in order to elevate scores on just two indicators. See what I mean, the gap is getting wider each day.

In Michigan, the Governor and her appointed educational staff want Math and Science to be the dominant two areas of study because they feel these are the main ingredients for job security for the future (wrong, state surveys prove parents do not feel this way).

Students in school districts that can pour as much many and additional resources
as needed in to their programs have a better chance of getting good scores will
be able to a learn much more diverse subjects like art, social studies and band, while disadvantaged students are condemned to a second-rate education. The goal
of elevating the performance of all students is laudable, but the change in performance must be across the board on all subject areas.

qualityg says… Our educators are getting more confused and frustrated as No Child Left Behind and State Test (i.e., MEAP) are leaving too many students, parents, teachers and administrators behind in a fog. “Systems Thinking” requires that all principal parts must come together before a total (whole) solution will be found.

In the meantime will you lawmakers responsible for the NCLB ACT please do an analysis and keep what is good and disregard what is bad. Let’s face it, not many large-scale project implementations go in error free.

It's time to get unleashed by politics and self-actualization and do what is right for everyone.

Go to No Child Left Behind for additional post by qualityg on NCLB.

Updated 2/27/06
qualityg has been asking for a review of this program for a long time. The study will be conducted by the Aspen Institute a nonprofit Washington think tank (oxymoron ??).

Updated 6/08/06
Testing: Making It Work for Children and Schools

The above title is the latest from the NCLB review as reported by the Aspen Institute. The title intrigued me because it reads like"MAKING SOMETHING HAPPEN," whether it is good or bad.
The testimonies provided by the panel of experts state that data proves a number of successes in many schools and states. For example,
The Center on Education Policy (CEP) also found that 78 percent of school districts surveyed for its study (From the Capital to the Classroom: Year 4 of the No Child Left Behind Act, released March 2006) reported that student achievement improved from 2003-2005 on the state tests used for NCLB. CEP also found statewide gains: 35 states said achievement had improved in reading during this time, and 36 states said it had improved in math. SAID??
The report states the data has a number of inaccuracies and missing elements that defines success.
"According to the Data Quality Campaign, no state data system currently includes every one of the 10 essential elements the Campaign defines as critical to longitudinal (or long-term) data systems. The question then becomes one of quality and utility: Are we able to effectively use the information gained from these annual assessments? Governor Roy Barnes, Co-Chairman of the Commission, raised this concern in his opening remarks, stating, “It makes little sense to assess our children if we can’t accurately and effectively manage the data which is produced from these assessments. Effective data systems can and should be one of the most important priorities for a state.”

So, what does all this mean? It means they have no idea if NCLB is working or not. One of the panel experts even used the aged old quality quote "we are data rich,
but information poor."
qualityg says ... "you are date poor and information poorer."

One highlight that I found was
"Tracking a student’s academic progress as he or she moves from grade to grade is gaining wide support as a more effective way of gauging student achievement and informing educational decision making." I have been asking and writing about this for some time, ther is no other way to accurately use trend data to really know if a student is progressing. It will also tell you how a group of students trending data can tell you if a school is progressing.

This does not mean using only state tests and repoirt cards as your input, itrequires teachers to do timely reviews and evaluations from all of their work, including behaviors.

My main concern is the lack of any mention of an improvement plan (which is good if data is bad, but I don't think that is why).

All I can say is wait until November of 2008 after the general elections for a new program roll-out telling us how the new method will correct the past mistakes - OUCH!
To read the complete report (there is also one on Children with Disabilities) go to


Karen Wilhelm said...

"Teach to the test" ignores the whole child. One is going to learn more math by keeping baseball box scores and stats, while another will want to track investments in his/her trust fund. Kids will learn to read what I call "the right book." My son loved everything about kids who were always getting into trouble (like him) and worked up to reading Huckleberry Finn long before any curriculum would have given it to him. Other kids are fascinated by maps. Kids need to learn problem solving. Also "emotional intelligence" things from defusing conflict to sharing toys.

qualityg says said...


Excellent response! My son also learned stats from baseball cards and it continues today with Fantasy Football.

Hopefully my visitors from the Michigan Department of Education will take this information as another parent who is not impressed with "Teaching to the tests."

Thanks for stopping by the blog.


Anonymous said...

There has been a long standing feud going on between Special Education and General Education.

NCLB has only added fuel to the flames.

You are correct it is time for a study to be done on this program.

Thanks for keeping us informed.