After No Child Left Behind, will shift to states help or hurt students?

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After No Child Left Behind, will shift to states help or hurt students?.

The Senate was preparing for a vote as early as Tuesday on a replacement to the widely criticized No Child Left Behind Act, replacing the Bush-era law with a sweeping bill that would give the states greater control over the nation’s public schools but still maintain annual testing to gauge student progress. — Education Secretary Arne Duncan will say in a speech today at the Learning Forward Annual Conference in National Harbor, Md., that “some people in Washington … want to make this bill about federal authority — or even about my own power as secretary. The federal government would see its influence in education policy substantially limited and would no longer be able to tell states and local districts how to judge the performance of schools and teachers. House of Representatives recently voted to approve the Every Student Succeeds Act, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that seems to reverse the federal education policies of the past decade and a half.

When federal lawmakers took up a draft proposal earlier this year, they seemed poised to weaken the law by watering down its protections for impoverished children. Under the legislation, which easily passed the House last week, states and districts would come up with their own goals for schools, design their own measures of achievement and progress, and decide how to turn around struggling schools. Low-income students, kids whose native language isn’t English, and kids with disabilities are meeting the higher expectations teachers have been setting for them.

That’s instead of Washington mandating what critics had dubbed a one-size-fits-all approach to governing the country’s 100,000 public schools. “It’s the biggest step toward local control of schools in 25 years,” Republican Sen. But it “builds on our administration’s vision for education, and the fact is, this new agreement actually embodies and codifies much of it.” That includes the law’s focus on college- and career-ready standards, focused support and attention for the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, expanding access to preschool and investing in what works, he’ll say. Alarmed that American students were falling behind their counterparts abroad, Congress in 2002 required states to give annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight (and once in high school) to make sure that students in all districts were making progress and that poor and minority students were being educated. Patty Murray of Washington. “Keeping higher standards and real accountability comes from communities and states and not from Washington,” said Alexander, a former education secretary. Use of federal funds for “Pay for Success” programs allow wealthy investors to make profits from education investments, an issue that has concerned some special education advocates.

For Washington to think it can manage schools across the country is “the height of arrogance,” he said. (Although, of course, critics accuse Duncan of exactly that.) — Part of the new bill is intended to help military kids. It did not distinguish between truly abysmal schools and otherwise strong schools that missed performance targets with certain groups of students, like special education students. In a recent press statement, the Department of Education offered an apology, of sorts, for the “unnecessary testing” that is “consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students.” Sen.

Murray also praised the bill for including a key priority for her — a focus on early childhood education. “For the first time ever, our federal education law will recognize the importance of early learning with the grants program that we have put in place. Provisions in the legislation for the establishment of teacher preparation academies are written to primarily support non-traditional, non-university programs such as those funded by venture philanthropists, and they lower standards for teacher education programs that prepare teachers for high-poverty schools. Patty Murray, D-Wash., includes “strong federal guardrails to ensure all students have access to a quality education.” As it turns out, these guardrails provide as much freedom to the states as a passenger has on a roller coaster. Military family advocates say the change will allow educators and policy leaders to see how well the students are doing and make changes, if needed, to better serve them. “We have an all-volunteer force that has endured more than 14 years of war with frequent and repeated military parent deployments.

School officials who were afraid of the failing label deployed constant waves of so-called diagnostic exams that were actually practice rounds for the real thing. It was praised for its main intent, which was to use annual standardized tests to identify achievement gaps in learning and identify failing schools in need of support. Some observers believe a key turning point in the case will be whether Kennedy will again be willing to consider evidence that race on campus continues to be a point of division.

But it was later criticized for a heavy-handed federal approach that imposed sanctions when schools came up short in annual testing progress — leading teachers, administrators and others to worry that the high stakes associated with the tests was leading to a culture of over-testing and hurting classroom learning. But a big question remains: Will this shift to empowering states help or hurt the equity agenda embedded in the original law from the 1960s civil rights era? Abigail Fisher brings her case back to the court at a time of more intense racial ferment following high-profile shootings of African-American men in Ferguson, Missouri, Charleston, South Carolina, and Chicago. It found that the typical student takes about eight standardized tests per year — only two of which are federally required — and an astonishing 112 standardized tests between prekindergarten and 12th grade.

No Child has been up for reauthorization since 2007, but previous attempts to renew the law have gotten caught in a broader debate over the federal role in public education. Historically, not all states have shown the political will to set high standards for all students, and some observers worry they’ll again feel somewhat off the hook. “There probably will be less attention now on the achievement gap: The [new] law doesn’t force that conversation the way it did under NCLB,” says Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at the nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners. STRAYER CHIEF SWORN IN: Brian Jones left his gig as Education Department general counsel in January 2012 to become the chief attorney at the for-profit Strayer University.

The bill also has provisions that would increase the pressure on states to administer tests and use English-language learners’ and minorities’ test scores for accountability purposes. Minnesota’s current accountability system uses a range of measures for school achievement, including how well individual student and subgroup test scores improve from year to year. The bill would technically allow states to create their own provisions for students who opt out of tests, but it would also require states to measure at least 95 percent of all students annually. For example, one of the early proposals circulating in the Senate would have allowed states to end annual testing altogether, which would leave the country no way of knowing whether students were learning anything or not. Many Obama supporters thought he would de-emphasize test scores, but instead his administration made them even more important for “accountability” purposes, and teachers found themselves in the crosshairs of unreasonable evaluation systems, sometimes being assessed by the scores of students they didn’t have and/or subjects they didn’t teach. (Really.) Obama’s Education Department used its federal power to coerce states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, expand charter schools and use student test scores to evaluate teachers, an assessment method that experts warned against.

And a particularly disastrous proposal would have permitted states to move Title I poverty funds out of the low-income districts where they are desperately needed. On Common Core, reviled by many conservatives, the bill says the Education Department may not mandate or give states incentives to adopt or maintain any particular set of academic standards.

At TrekNorth, a charter middle and high school in rural Bemidje, the state goals align with a mission to prepare as many students as possible for college through participation in Advanced Placement courses. The school has been recognized five times in the state’s annual list of Reward Schools, recently scoring an 81 out of 100 on the Multiple Measurements Rating, which takes gap reduction into account. But it takes some emphasis away from testing by requiring states to rate schools on other measures of student progress, including graduation rates, advance courses and so on. Since 2012, the administration has offered grants through its Race to the Top program for states that adopted strong academic standards for its students. The more sophisticated accountability system has contributed to a healthy “pressure to hone the subtleties of the craft of teaching,” says the charter school’s executive director Dan McKeon.

States are still required to take steps to improve the lowest performing schools and to make clear when subgroups are performing poorly in any school. Indeed, some people involved in the negotiations said that a key reason the compromise legislation wasn’t made public until shortly before the House voted was to appease conservatives in the House who might have staged a revolt over continued federal involvement and persuaded some moderates to go along with them in a bid to torpedo the new law.

Absent from the bill is so-called portability — allowing money to follow low-income students to public schools of their choice, an idea embraced by Republicans. He helps teachers develop the ability to stop mid-lesson to do a “formative assessment” – checking to see that everyone’s getting the main points. An earlier version of a House bill that very narrowly passed the chamber in July included portability but that was ditched in the compromise measure with the Senate. So, yes, states could invest hundreds of millions of dollars to write new academic standards and make aligned tests, but there is no guarantee that the secretary of education would approve standards or tests that implicitly chastise the administration’s education policies. Their progress has to be accounted for by all schools, whereas previously that happened only in schools with high percentages of such students. “States have been asking for a while now for more flexibility to own their state accountability plans, so we’ll be monitoring how this plays out, and calling out states that aren’t doing better by English learners” says Brenda Calderon, an education policy analyst at the National Council of La Raza.

Until that changes, parents of all backgrounds and means will still clamor for the same kind of education that wealthy, connected people demand for their children. We still have so many kids in underfunded, underresourced schools,” says Pedro Noguera, an education professor at the University of California in Los Angeles. Special education activist Beverely Holden Johns says this could be disastrous for the special education community given the track record of Pay for Success programs.

The global investment banking makes a profit for every student who goes through an early childhood program who is not — repeat not — referred for special education. According to the New York Times: “Goldman said its investment had helped almost 99 percent of the Utah children it was tracking avoid special education in kindergarten. As for rising graduation rates, school reform supporters, of course, credit NCLB and Obama’s initiatives, though an NRP investigation this year revealed that the current high school graduation rate of 81 percent — a historic high — “should be taken with a big grain of salt.” Why? “Some are mislabeling students or finding ways of moving them off the books,” and in some places, such as in Detroit and Camden, N.J., districts are making it easier to get a diploma at the very same time officials talk about making school more rigorous. True educational equity comes from comprehensive school reform, which incorporates academic improvements along with health care, housing policy, funding changes, family support and other policies that allow students to go to class safely and actually focus on their work, and that provides teachers with a work environment and enough support to operate creatively, not like infantilized robots.

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