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We Are Lying to Our Children


Dear Deborah,

The elephant in the room is No Child Left Behind. This, as you know, is the latest manifestation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was passed specifically to help educate disadvantaged children. NCLB was passed by Congress in the fall of 2001 and signed into law in January 2002. At the time, it had the overwhelming support of both parties.

Since the law was implemented, beginning (I would assume) in the fall of 2002 or the fall of 2003, it has been the subject of much debate. President George W. Bush claimed it as his proudest legacy, and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings defended it fiercely.

Four months ago, I wrote an article in Education Week saying that it was time to kill NCLB and to write a different, better law. I argued that the law had failed: "It is dumbing down our children by focusing solely on reading and mathematics. By ignoring everything but basic skills, it is not preparing students to compete with their peers in the high-performing nations of Asia and Europe, nor is it preparing them for citizenship in our complex society. It has usurped state and local control of education. Washington has neither the knowledge nor the capacity to micromanage the nation's schools."

I added, for good measure: "No amount of tinkering can repair this poorly designed law. The time has come for fresh thinking about the best way for Washington to help improve the nation's schools."

President Obama promised during his campaign to bring "change" to the nation's direction and policies. Secretary Arne Duncan has acknowledged in his speeches that NCLB is "toxic" (at least to parents), that teachers complain bitterly about its emphasis on testing, and that "few subjects divide educators so intensely."

Yet in his recent speech about reauthorization of NCLB, he praised the law for "exposing achievement gaps" (as though no one was aware of those gaps before 2002!) and encouraging us to "improve education by looking at outcomes, rather than inputs" (an idea whose provenance dates to the Coleman Report in 1966!). He also credits NCLB with expanding the standards and accountability movement (forgive me while I gag).

To add to his embarrassment, he has been traveling the nation on a listening tour accompanied by former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich (not known for his interest in education reform) and the Reverend Al Sharpton (ditto).

Memo to Secretary Duncan: NCLB is the quintessence of the test-based accountability movement. It has nothing to do with standards. It contains no standards whatsoever. It encourages states to lower their standards by mandating that all children must be "proficient" by 2014, a goal that is beyond the reach of every district and every state unless they dumb down their standards.

Many states have indeed lowered their standards. New York started testing grades 3-8 in 2006, and in every subsequent year it has lowered the bar to reach proficiency in almost every grade. Illinois also lowered the bar for the same reason.

For Secretary Duncan to associate NCLB with higher standards—or any standards at all—is a cruel joke. As he has often said (one of his favorite phrases), we have been "lying to our children" and their parents when we tell them they are proficient, but they are not.

Now Secretary Duncan wants to get moving to reauthorize NCLB. Presumably, since the brand is toxic, he will want a new name. But the nation needs something very different from NCLB and renaming it will not cure its defects.

As I wrote last June, we are dumbing down our children and calling it reform. We are indeed lying to our children.



Duncan seems confused--either that, or he's trying to appease everyone. He seems to realize that "proficiency" under NCLB is a sham, yet he defends NCLB for no good reason. And renaming it is just silly. That which we call "No Child..." by any other name would taste as foul.

The confusion is not only his. It's national confusion about what we are trying to do. If we want to improve the schools nationwide, we have to be willing to specify what children should learn--at least some portion of it--and we need to be clear about what a good education means. Otherwise everything is reduced to the test scores, which can be endlessly manipulated and spun.

NCLB essentially says, "Come on now everyone, achieve! It doesn't matter what you achieve, just... achieve! Oh, and make sure everyone's proficient, whatever that means. We don't know what that means, because we don't know what you're supposed to achieve in the first place. So go ahead and define 'proficient' for yourself. And make sure all your subgroups make progress towards proficiency, or you will be in big trouble. Of course we don't know what progress means any more than we know what you are trying to achieve or what it means to be proficient. But you had better show progress anyway."

Joel Klein just spoke to business leaders about the great progress the NYC schools have made. He presented a new DOE report that emphasized the fourth-grade math scores and the increased ranking of NYC schools. Fourth-grade math scores, the report argues, are the true measure of the reforms (conveniently, they have gone up, unlike other scores). The report itself shows that the overall scores (ELA and math combined, across the grades) have not gone up over time.

What have the fourth graders learned in math that they were not learning ten years ago? Can they perform basic calculations with ease? What else can they do? Will they be prepared for math in middle and high school? These questions are not even addressed in the report. And that is no surprise; under NCLB, test scores matter more than the learning they represent.

Diana Senechal

I have always thought that someday I might write a book, or at least compile a long list, of lies told to me by the school system. I'm wearing my special ed mom hat big time on this one. When I am of a charitable mind, I can suggest that, well, they didn't know any better. When school people told me that what was plainly spelled out in IDEA didn't apply because they had to follow district policy (written nowhere that they could point to), I will grant that at base they believed this to be true--although I would also hold that a professional has an obligation to be minimally conversant with the legal requirements affecting their field of endeavor.

Now--has everyone always known about the gaps in education? I would say that this can only be answered as yes and no. Yes--there has been for some time research to demonstrate that if you are poor, black and urban-living in America, your educational expectations are far lower than those of someone who is upper middle class, white and suburban. The lie that we told ourselves, following Coleman, is that this is manifest destiny--not the result of any policy choices on our part. What we did not know, with any specificity, is where there were pockets of success among poor, urban blacks, or mediocrity among middle class suburban whites--or how to account for them in ways that lead to change.

What we also did not know prior to the requirements of NCLB is how students with disabilities were faring anywhere, regardless of ethnicity or income. Even in states which required testing of many students with disabilities, their scores were typically held apart from the mainstream--provided to parents on an individual basis, but without any reporting that would allow a parent to have any sense of what might be typical or possible for their child.

This morning I had the opportunity to glance at a statewide study of schools selected based on their demonstration of improvement for students with disabilities--based on publicly reported state test scores. Such selection would have been absolutely impossible prior to NCLB. Districts each selected their own tests (yes--there were tests before NCLB), students with disabilities participated unevenly, and results were a carefully guarded secret. Many schools are still telling the lie that "those students" will never succeed--that they alone are responsible for "dragging down" school scores. Yet, a group could be identified for study that has taken a different path, and as a result a set of commonalities identified. Among the common strategies identified is a focus on study of the available data, using this to guide decision-making--not surprising, but still fought by many. Among the other non-surprises that students with disabilities need both attention to both content and pedagogy--that is a unified effort between general and special education. Not earth shattering, but without a common measuring stick--and some accountability measures, how long might we continue to hold to an attitude that good enough is good enough?

Back in those dark ages (before NCLB) I worked in a community agency. Our parents were confronted with some school funding and districting issues that I was trying to make sense of. For a paper that I was putting together, I was interested in looking at a comparison of per pupil funding inputs and test score outputs. The funding information was public. The test scores were not. And even if I could con a district into sharing their scores, each one used a different testing regimen.

Although our district offered "school choice" back then in the form of a multiplicity of lottery-enrolled magnet schools, a parent who wanted to know how any one compared to their assigned school was patted on the head and assured that they were all pretty good schools and what a student gets out relates to what they put in. This is a lie that we were telling our students.

Yes--it was shocking, and still is, to view those rounds of test scores annually and dig down through the layers of denial (performance indexes, growth estimates and safe harbors) to understand that there are far too many schools where fewer than half of students are deemed "proficient" by their test performance--regardless of any concern about the bar being set artificially low.

Yes, the brand has become toxic, as organized efforts by educators have put the blame for everything from reading deficiencies to global warming on this one piece of legislation. There are rampant mythologies that serve to keep educators stirred up (like the recurring internet stories of Barack Obama's place of birth, or allegiance to Islam) and sow doubt in our national ability to educate our children--all our children. I recall the nurse who put it to me bluntly with regard to safeguarding the health of campers and counselors one summer, "people do stupid things when they are angry or tired." Teachers are angry and tired. They have been doing stupid things--like drilling students on likely test questions, instead of teaching them the content to be covered on the test; like erasing answers and fixing them up; like pretending that creative teaching strategies don't produce testable results.

Teachers have become the party of no with regard to NCLB. They have created their own versions of death panels and denial of choice and quality care. What they are not now doing is proposing anything that demonstrates an allegiance to the idea that all children can learn, and that we have a responsibility to see that all children learn.

Some fun from the Common Core Math Standards:

"Numbers can be added in any order with any grouping and multiplied in any order with any grouping." So far, good!


"Subtraction and division are defined in terms of addition and multiplication, so are also governed by these rules."

Andrei - ouch! I hadn't read the common core math standards, but I think I will now! Oops!

That might explain something I have read recently though, the test that is required for high schoolers to graduate in my state. I also read my state's middle school assessment and the SAT. If our teachers are indeed teaching to the test, then my state is preparing it's high school graduates for middle school.

"Teachers have become the party of no" says Margo/Mom.

Teachers are trying to save their jobs! Teachers didn't implement the impossible, policy makers did; they did it mostly without our input.

Go revue any study you want. Teaching is not rocket science, and the studies are usually erroneous, weak, or have a p value that's not up to snuff.

Poverty kills education, not teachers. NCLB is killing schools.

You want to do something for the kids that are failing? Give them universal health care, early childhood education, and teachers who aren't afraid for their lives and/or livelihoods.

More from the Common Core Standard:

"There are also irrational numbers, such as π or √2. Each point on the number line then corresponds to a real number that is either rational or irrational."

The latter sentence is the definition of irrational numbers, not a property they happen to enjoy.

But aside from this, I can't answer a simple question looking at the math standard. When should students learn to simplify (1 3/4)/ (1/2)?

Liping Ma wrote a wonderful book on teaching elementary mathematics, where she compares school math in China and in the States. The book is reviewed here. The US elementary school teachers she talked to had trouble with this particular question. The majority of them had master degrees in education.

Liping Ma's explanation is that teachers' knowledge is in substantive part a function of the school education they themselves received, as young students. Which brings me again to ask, looking at the Common Core Standard, in what grade are students going to deal with Liping Ma's (1 3/4)/ (1/2)?

Andrei, Great points. But even if your problem on fractional division were included in the Common Core Standards, what is to prevent schools/teachers/publishers from saying that standard could be satisfied using a calculator or by cutting and pasting a visual representation of a fraction strip? (Publishers are quite creative at "aligning" their quite ineffective programs with state standards.)

Also, if teachers don't know how to teach this type of problem well (which was the crux of Liping Ma's book), why would we even expect that including this in the Common Core will result in students ever learning fractional division?

I've snipped for your pleasure a fragment from the Common Core pamphlet. It is as good a diagnostic of our school pains as any:

"Research has revealed striking similarities among the math and science standards in top-performing nations, along with stark differences between those world class expectations and the standards adopted by most U.S. states. According to Bill Schmidt, a Michigan State University researcher and expert on international benchmarking, standards in the best-performing nations share the following three characteristics that are not commonly found in U.S. standards:

Focus. World-class content standards cover a smaller number of topics in greater depth at every grade level, enabling teachers to spend more time on each topic so that all students learn it well before they advance to more difficult content. In contrast, state content standards in the U.S. typically cover a large number of topics in each grade level—even first and second grade. U.S. schools therefore end up using curricula that are “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Rigor. By the eighth grade, students in top performing nations are studying algebra and geometry, while in the U.S., most eighth-grade math courses focus on arithmetic. In science, American eighth-graders are memorizing the parts of the eye, while students in top-performing nations are learning about how the eye actually works by capturing photons that are translated into images by the brain. In fact, the curriculum studied by the typical American eighth-grader is two full years behind the curriculum being studied by eighth-graders in high performing countries.

Coherence. Math and science standards in top performing countries lay out an orderly progression of topics that follow the logic of the discipline, allowing thorough and deep coverage of content. In contrast, standards in many U.S. states resemble an arbitrary “laundry list” of topics, resulting in too much repetition across grades. “In the United States the principle that seems to guide our curriculum development is that you teach everything everywhere,” says Michigan researcher Schmidt,“because then somehow somebody will learn something somewhere.”"


Yet, this is a list of precisely what the proposed standard lacks... Where is the orderly progression of topics, if no mention is made of a sequencing of topics? Where are the rigor, focus in statements like Core skill 2.3: "... Use mental strategies and technology to formulate, represent and solve problems"?

Bill Schmidt is, apparently, on their Validation Committee, and on their Math Feedback Group. It would be funny to see what he has to say about this.

Bill Schmidt has also been known to support the use of TERC, Connected Math and Core Plus as appropriate curricula for statisfying the standards in top-performing countries.

He is completely correct in identifying the elements of what high performing school systems do. But if he sees both Fuzzy math and Singapore math in the same light, it is unlikely that his guidance will ever help our schools to match the performance seen in the top countries.

Erin, your point is well taken on fractional division.

Thanks for the clarification re TERC, Connected Math and Core Plus. Leaving aside for a moment the fuzzy math aspect, and the use of calculators as 'digital crutches' - one additional concern is that the spiral nature of some of these curricula would not lend itself well to a standardized sequencing of topics. At least not if the spiral is used as an excuse to not master any topic in particular, since it is expected to come again in the future.

On the other hand, I don't want to completely pour water on spiral curricula either. E.D.Hirsch's curricula seem to be spiral, but do manage to include good content.

By the way, I would appreciate a reference on the history of spiral curricula. From what I've heard, they were first used in Max Beberman's UICSM curriculum in the 1950's, and were theorized by Jerome Bruner.


Your concerns with the existing legislation (NCLB) have been duly noted. It might be helpful if BD devoted some time to discussing amendments for reauthorizing the law rather than continuing to bash it. Funding, AYP, growth models, testing, etc., are all worthy of our attention.

I for one am optimistic about the possibility of re-authorization under the new administration. I know you don't agree but I have much more faith in the Obama team than I did in the Bush people. While his heart was in the right place, and it was a bipartisan Washington effort, he simply did not have the wherewithal to craft something so meaningful for the nation's schools and especially the nation's neediest children. Therein lies the difference. Obama can relate to urban poor/minority children much more readily than Bush ever was able to because of the later's privileged background.


As long as NCLB is the law of the land, and as long as it continues to wreak damage on American schools and children, I'll continue to bash it.

Duncan could begin by getting rid of the ridiculuous requirement that all children will be proficient by 2014. Will never happen. We made more real progress on the same measures pre-NCLB than post-NCLB. So just wiping it off the books would be a good start.

Let's hear your ideas.



Here in California, we are not leaving children behind by dumbing down the standards to keep everyone "proficient." Instead, we started with really high standards and have maintained them. That means that every year more and more schools are labeled "failed." By 2014 most of California's schools will be failures.

This discriminates against children of poverty because their schools are now focused solely on reading and math test drills to the exclusion of everything else. Not surprisingly, student behavior and teacher morale are NOT GOOD. In general, middle class schools still enjoy a well rounded curriculum and interesting lessons because parents help their kids master the material at home, allowing the schools to reach the magic 800 AYP number. Schools teaching children of poverty are focusing on more "interventions" for kids needing additional help, which is good, but mostly it's too little and too late. The money just isn't there.

On the other hand, the data do reveal districts that are doing an outstanding job of raising achievement as measured by test scores: Garden Grove and Long Beach. Other districts are trying to emulate them.

One thing we all need to remember is that the reason kids go to school is to get prepared for success as adults. They are not there to get good grades per se, as parents seem to think. Nor are they there for good test scores, as administrators and politicians wish. And, frankly, neither are they there for much of the language and math curriculum, which is utterly useless and soon forgotten by adults in the real world.

One thing that needs to be added to the data to judge districts is honest graduation rates, measured by tracking individual students from when they first enter school, and validated by reasonably comprehensive and difficult high school exit exams.

Another thing: The US education system is a bit different from many other countries - easier in grades K - 12 but more demanding at the post-secondary level. No one has accused the US of having less well prepared university graduates! And there is one thing our system does really well that we don't give ourselves enough credit for: In the US there are always second chances, often quite inexpensive, for any adult to overcome past missteps and improve his or her educational achievement and credentials.

Andrei, The issue of spiral curricula is quite the canard. All learning builds upon previous knowledge and so to a large extent there has to be some level of coming back to a topic and hopefully looking at it in a deeper, more complex manner.

The problem our schools face is that the textbooks do not assume any level of mastery and so tend to repeat (not build upon as E.D. Hirsch's approach advocates) what children had been previously presented with. Not a strategy for developing proficient students.

Diane, Please continue to bash NCLB as it's approach will never improve schools and as you pointed out quite perversely goads schools into adopting educational curricula and practices diametrically opposed to a quality education.

But in that same vein, why do you continue to support national standards as a way to improve schools? Clearly, standards have failed on the state level and it seems unlikely that centralizing this failure will result in success.

Also, what would you have schools do? Bashing without a viable alternative tends to be ignored.

TFT writes that teachers are concerned about keeping their jobs. How on earth can they possibly lose their jobs? With 'permanent' status typically granted after two years, with administrators hamstrung with poor teachers until retirement, with incredible union resistance to using test scores (or seemingly any other objective tool)for teacher evaluation, I am dumbfounded as to how they could possibly be threatened. In most states, unless they are violent or sexual predators, they get their jobs for life.

What we have unfortunately 'dumbed-down' is the teaching profession. Of course there are thousands of fantastic, dedicated educators out there. But we have to agree that as with any other profession, some people are not cut-out to remain in that profession for the rest of their lives. Why is it that in what should be one of the most revered professions in our country, we allow this to occur in education? The proverbial 'elephant in the room' for me is the teachers' unions that have created an atmosphere in education that is far more concerned with teachers'job permenance and NO accountability, than with providing our nation's students with the exceptional public education they deserve.

I am far from a standards expert, and cannot argue soundly for or against NCLB, but I firmly believe that a high school diploma from the USA should mean something. Whether the student is from Alabama or North Dakota, there should be a basic set of standards that would tell any employer or university that an American high school graduate has the following skills under his/her belt and they are as follows: .... As an employer, I am unconvinced that this exists.

Let's pay teachers more, let's raise the standards for becoming a teacher, and let's hold teachers to high standards once they become teachers. Let's make sure that poor teachers are not allowed to continue in this prestigious profession. If we really want to reform, let's start here.


Um, I referenced the Everyday Math label at my blog where I have written about spiraling.

I am not sure how you got to me being worried about teachers losing their jobs, unless you are referencing some other post/s on my blog.

Unions do not exist to protect teachers at the expense of children. They exist so morons who have no idea what to do in a classroom won't be making rash decisions based on assumptions or erroneous data, and to protect teachers from their nasty, politically motivated supervisors who make shit up to get teachers fired.

Concerned, you have no idea what you are talking about, except the part about paying us more. But that's just common knowledge.

If we really want to produce better students, give them universal health care. Give their parents descent jobs. Give their young siblings early childhood education opportunities.

All this blaming of teachers is so much nonsense.



Yes, everyone proficient by 2014 is nothing but a pipe dream. So let's dump that one. But was there anyone who honestly believed this was going to be a reality? As well, the re-authorization should not simply postpone the date to 2014 or whenever. That too would be a joke.

Let's talk about the tests. Who should take them and how often? Every student in grades 3-8 annually nationwide is a bit much. How about test everyone in grade three with a national exam in ELA and mathematics to determine which kids need help? There should also be a corresponding national cutoff score for passing, not a different score determined by each state. From there, kids who score above a certain level only need be tested again in grades four and nine. Students who have trouble on the third grade tests can be identified for remediation and tested every other year thereafter until they score well enough to end their remediation. Yes, this will mean some kids will be tested every other year throughout their school careers. So, let's get them the help they need and get them the heck out of that failure mode. Let's also get the message out that no one will be penalized/punished for not doing well on these tests; that the tests will only be for the purpose of identifying youngsters having problems and then getting them the help they need.

Let's also administer a science and social studies test to all students in grades four and eight. These tests should be based on what kids should be expected to learn in grades 1-4 and 5-8 respectively. The same holds true for the results. Kids who score well enough on these tests should not be subject to additional testing while kids who have trouble should be identified for remediation and additional testing. Not the most desirable design but better than what's out there now.

Let's face reality. The real purpose of the tests should be for identifying youngsters who are experiencing problems and getting them the help they need. The tests should not be punitive in any form such as grade retention. The tests could, however, be traced to their respective teachers to identify the possibility of poor or omitted practice by the professionals. As I've stated before, these folks should be afforded every opportunity to improve their practice. Only after all efforts have failed should they be considered for termination. Another reality of our profession should be: schools are NOT an employment agency for adults. No one should be guaranteed a job for life. Schools should be a place where children go to learn and this can only be accomplished with an effective professional in every classroom.

What will all this show? Probably what we already know; there is a direct link between poverty and academic success. The big question from there will be; can we identify models that better address this problem than others? I believe we can.

Phew! I'm pooped. Let's hear some feedback on the testing ideas before I get into other areas. Please remember, these thoughts are not carved in stone and are definitely subject to suggestion/change/improvement. They're ballpark, but I believe an improvement over what's in the existing legislation.

Oops! Second paragraph should read, "From there, kids who score above a certain level only need be tested again in grades SIX and nine."

Sorry about that.

Aspirations are wonderful, but no one should be punished for not meeting a utopian goal. Right now, 35% of our public schools have been listed as not making AYP because they are not making progress towards that goal, and thousands are moving towards the date when they will be closed or turned into charter schools or privately managed because of not meeting that utopian goal.
So yes, we should dump it.
I am not opposed to testing. What I do oppose is harsh accountability, which NCLB mandates. Testing can be used intelligently to help students and schools, or misused. Under NCLB, it is misused and turned into a blunt instrument to ruin reputations and close schools that need help, not punishment.

Paul, Why do you want to use national tests to identify children in need of remediation? Certainly their teachers already know which students need help and which ones don't.

How will national tests help change that child's situation and do you really want to wait 3-4 years before getting a child the help that they need to learn?

Susan Morrison has made an excellent point in mentioning the fact that the United States educational system starts out slowly but ends with world-class colleges and universities This supports much of what we know from cognitive and developmental psychology. When we evaluate our system we need to look at the achievement of our adults, and not only our children. In this respect (adults) we compare quite favorably with any country in the world. The one exception is the education of our poor and minority groups. Because we don't give all our people the social and health supports enjoyed by citizens of European countries, we don't enjoy the same success with low-income people.

It's been over forty years since the Coleman Report and Maslow. Instead of talking about tests and other nonsense that will have little or no impact on education, we should try satisfying the basic needs of all our children.

TFT, thanks for the info on Everyday Math. I know very well your frustration with it. This is the program used by my school district, one of the top 5 in Massachusetts. My feeling is most suburb school districts around my town use it as well.

My daughter was handed out the 4th grade math textbook, and the weather lady has it right, 1/2 of the text consists of maps of the world and 'facts' about other countries. It is ironic, the text would be better suited for a class of Geography than of Math. As it is, it sits on the shelf at home. My daughter's teacher has the good sense to assign her own math practice problems, separate from the dreaded textbook.

To think that this program was developed by education experts under the tutelage of the National Science Foundation. What a travesty!

I just met Lily Eskelsen, the NEA vice president, here in Kaua'i. My wife made me meet her because of her energetic speech.
In about two sentences into our brief conversation, she uplifted me. She just came back from Finland where she learned that they haven't focused on test scores for about forty years now, yet they perform quite well when compared to the rest of the planet.
When she asked if we were locals, we said no, just twenty one year veterans of Detroit Public Schools, inner city that is.
I told her the story of Henry P. whose father had been shot and killed while breaking into a home. Henry was labeled all the terms we use to give us an out for a student that just didn't fit. He loved art. He drew the big Caddy SUV's and printed them on T shirts to sell to his uncles. He had a lot, so he and his friend would hang around after school for some art supplies like 4B and 6B pencils to draw cars. William, a parentless child was his best friend.
One day he and William, a first place winner in Michigan's highest paying art contest, the Ford Hispanic Heritage Art and Essay contest, were debating some obscure details about car features. Detroit is Motown, so the fellas love their cars and will defend their knowledge to the end. So I had to ask them how they knew and could prove their assertations. They said, "Mr. Perez, we like reading Car and Driver, Hot Rod, Lowrider, Motor Trend, and all those car magazines. They have the specs, so we look them up and remember because cars are our life."
So I told Henry that when he takes those little tests that are coming up, approach them like his interesting magazines, find the answers like that. That's comprehension!
Mr. Vasquez, principal of Earhart Middle School in Detroit made true his promise. Whoever gets the highest scores in the school can shave my head.
The winner is ...........Henry P.
Oh this took place in Ground Zero Mr. Duncan.
My point is that American children and any any children that are labeled or marginalized need INSPIRATION first.
I am reminded of this every time I see Einstein's poster which reads Imagination is greater than knowledge.
I will contact Ms. Eskelsen to see how I can better connect with public schools. I taught art bilingually for twenty one years. I sort of suck at marketing myself. However, I am hoping to bring your school some very inspirational stories from the 'hood. No I don't do hip hop or rap. Eminem is better than me at that, so I just watch his video, Beautiful, so I can see Corktown where I used to live and I remember the train station that is in the video. I passed it everyday on the way to Earhart from my home in Corktown.
Oh how do you get potential dope dealers from spoiling any educator's dreams and hard word that you have invested in since they were in kindergarten? Stop selling success as being a good consumer. Stop getting motivational speakers to come in and tell children that they are multimillionaires and kids that should be your goal also.
I changed that nonsense in my class by telling students that some of my relatives made some terrible decisions by focusing on cash and the spoils that it brings. I was permitted to tell them about my relatives that were incarcerated. Then I taught them a very interesting skill, screenprinting T shirts and other items. The profit margin is better than dope, and it is much more honorable to sell a well designed T shirt rather than a crack rock. I told them how I fell to heroin when I was young and impressionable. I emphasized that without personal change, I would have missed dream career teaching you all!
I told them my heroes were famous for being broke, yet very influential. I like Mother Theresa's work because she works with the poor. I like Dr. Ben Carson's story because I once taught at one of his middle schools in Detroit, so I learned that if I mentored, maybe in my wildest dreams as an inner city teacher, that
at least one would become successful. You might have seen Cuba Gooding Jr. playing his character in Gifted Hands, the Ben Carson story this past year.
They taught me a lesson for life. They are still graduating from college! Deyanira became a kindergarten teacher! I taught her English when she and her family came from Mexico. Little Rashida Elabed, my homeroom student in middle school became our nation's first woman Arab American state representative.
We became the only school in Michigan to have won Michigan's highest paying art contests. All of a sudden, professional film crews came into my ghetto classroom to film documentaries about the power of mentoring via the arts. They are on You Tube and my website.
I told them not to let it go to their head, just realize that through art, you found your passion in life. Now go be good in the 'hood.
So let us find our students' passion. Life is interesting and there are different strokes for different types of painting, so observe and determine your own strokes.
No I didn't follow the NCLB standards. They haven't caught up to creative minds like Henry and many other Henrys across our nation, and they may never will. We surpassed standards at Earhart, otherwise I would have lost the gifted and talented.
I stressed to my students that every child in the world should know the basics, but what is the point of education? Why are we learning these skills? We use words to write songs and stories. We use math to create the automobiles that Detroit produced back in the day. We make art and inspire future generations.
We are losing children to the drop out epidemic, and it will only get worse unless we find a way to make art education equally important as math and language. The arts are a very universal means of communication.
History will tell you that the arts were not encouraged by some parents because they are "frilly classes."
One happened to be Michaelangelo's father. Now that some time has passed, isn't the world happy that he followed his passion! Let us quit lying to our students and let us listen to what works. I am on Facebook for those of you who are dying for a different approach that was field tested for over twenty years in America's Ground Zero in education. I do salute the hard working teachers from rural areas to the inner cities. Let us find a creative solution. We are Americans, not Americants. As we say in the 'hood, You down for change? Are you ready and willing to contribute to changing the face of American education so that we can be a world example once again? Si se puede!
Aloha from Hawaii


CIC is spot on. It is you that is confusing unionism with teaching. CIC is not bashing teachers by bashing unions. Though you would like the two to seem inseparable. And your linking unionism with child welfare is tantamount to the hostage taker using a victim to shield police bullets.

That children come to aid unionism, i.e. protesting teacher layoffs, is out of ignorance, love of a particular teacher or an expression of Stockholm Syndrome. Unions exploit children for their own satisfaction.

Sure, okay, if a union was only aiming at providing career help, job search, health benefits and other collective advocacy, it would indeed be productive and peaceful. But that is not what motivates the NEA and AFT. First they are out to get protection for their members and the booty that flows from it. (Sometimes union leaders get protections $ for themselves at the expense of membership too, equalling exploitation on exploitation.)

The NEA and AFT combine to be the largest political party supporter of the last 20 years- by far. You don't get the power to extort for free. And almost all the money goes to the same party- and you know which one.


Morgan Reynolds, emeritus professor of economics at Texas A&M University and former chief economist at the US Department of Labor 2001–2002, has written:

"Perhaps the most astounding feature revealed by this history of American unionism is that US labor markets continue to work as well as they do. Despite all the union privileges and immunities granted and a never-ending stream of federal labor interventions, the famous flexibility of US labor markets remains — a truly remarkable fact. And the vast majority of American workers remain stubbornly nonunion despite the best efforts of labor unions, the federal government, its court intellectuals, and the mass media."

Ludwig von Mises, champion of the freedom of association, pulled no punches when he declared that unions hurt non-union labor and concluded:

"No one has ever succeeded in the effort to demonstrate that unionism could improve the conditions and raise the standard of living of all those eager to earn wages."

William H. Hutt, famous for studying unionism as a vehicle for apartheid in South Africa, imparted:

"The evidence establishes, indeed, that the wholly “unprotected” wage earner, with no union to offset his supposedly inferior “bargaining power,” gains proportionately as much from general economic progress as the wage earner in a “strong” labor union unless exclusions enforced through strike-threat pressures (or other causes) are currently pushing him further down the scale of relative wage earnings. That is, in the relatively low-productivity spheres to which the “unprotected” are often confined by the “protected,” earnings tend to increase as rapidly as they do in the privileged spheres. Empirical studies disclose no clear correlation between the degree of unionization existing and the speed of wage-rate increases.4 The facts suggest that the workers’ basic protection against exploitation is market forces; in other words, the alternatives that are open to any person possessing scarce and valuable attributes—skills, muscles, intelligence, or responsibility. And this protection guarantees nonunion workers the highest possible earnings consistent with the non-exploitation of others, that is, of potential competitors and the community in its consumer role."

In other words, unions that have the monopoly privilege of strike-threats and use it to gain protection are just bad entities- bad morally and economically.

Who are you kidding, TFT? The more offensive your stance becomes, the more you reveal not just an ignorance- but a selfish greed.


"The tests could, however, be traced to their respective teachers to identify the possibility of poor or omitted practice by the professionals."

How can you trace anything to anyone if you test them once in 4 years?

And, as Erin already said, if not for accountability, why bother? After all, the teachers mostly know who is ahead and who is behind. They just tend to hide it from parents and their supervisors.


OK, you are opposed to "harsh accountability." For the record, that harsh accountability has mostly no impact on individual teachers (which may finally change under Duncan), takes 5 years or more until any serious sanctions *may* happen to *schools* (not teachers), and failing to make AYP typically means more money and more support for the failing schools. And zero sanctions for the kids. Can you please elaborate what kind of not-harsh impacts you will be willing to associate with test results?


I think the earlier discussion about common standards was anchored in misunderstanding. They are supposed to be the minimum "exit" standards from high school, and do not include yet the back-mapping that is supposed to chart the grade-by-grade standards. That is supposed to come in the next 2--3 months.

Having said that, I do not defend these standards -- they are much lower than Achieve's diploma project and high school graduates meeting them will still need remediation when they hit college.


"Why do you want to use national tests to identify children in need of remediation? Certainly their teachers already know which students need help and which ones don't." I believe education reform was developed primarily to help poor/minority inner-city students, a good thing. The disastrous record of an abundance of poor/minority schools called into question their graduation and promotion rates as well as the report cards these students received. As an example, here in Massachusetts we have a program called METCO which allows a number of inner-city youngsters to attend suburban schools. Without fail, the majority of these kids would show up on our doorstep with glowing report cards only to be found two to three years below grade level in reading and math. Talk about a disaster, a sham, a lie. This farce goes a long way toward explaining why teachers have been excluded from the reform dialogue. How could they be trusted?

So ed reform went to state tests and we've seen the duplicity in these results from a number of states. Again, kids and their parents are being lied to about how they're actually performing.

I'm probably naive but I believe a national test with a common determination of results could end all the shenanigans. Will there be problems? Of course there will but I believe we could finally get a glimpse at how our students/schools are actually performing under national scrutiny. Who'd a thunk it, that we'd have to resort to such a level of scrutiny?

Yes, I believe from this program, we could finally get kids that need help the necessary remediation. Again, I'm placing a great deal of trust in the new administration's ability to get this done correctly. Hey, it looks like they just got something meaningful done on health care (at least a start), so who knows? I trust Obama to do likewise in public education. He wants the nonsense to end.


"After all, the teachers mostly know who is ahead and who is behind. They just tend to hide it from parents and their supervisors." HELLO! Therein lies the problem. Apparently, you see nothing wrong with this practice?

I just want to say, i agree with President Obama. The no child left behind law, did bring national attention to the achievment gap. People knew of the Gap, but did nothing about it. We all took standardize testing, but it was used to place the child, but today the scores are used to place everybody, teacher, schools, districts. I beleive it should be re-written, but the exposure needed to take place, like slavery
Parris Rice-Sanders
Euclid, Ohio

Since NCLB was implemented I find that my students are less capable of thinking. Yes, they can do the test, but when asked to do anything outside the box they are not able. At the same time, the wealthy are able to send their children to private schools where they are given the opportunity to do so much more than the basics that are tested. Will be have a middle class in the future, or are we just producing worker drones?

I think you are mistaken Diane. In Michigan the Math for 7th and 8th grade has not been dumb down. If anything the standards are higher. The 8th grade math curriculim is now Algebra 1. When I started teaching 22 years ago 8th grade math was far from that. I do not beleive that all students should be doing Algebra 1 in the 8th grade and 1/3 don't have the brain development to be able to do this type of math. Dumb down is a poor choice of words for the math in Michigan.

Ze'ev, you're saying the sequencing of the Common Core Standards comes later. Not all hope is lost then. The standard flies or dies by its sequencing, and by attention to various tracks.

I've looked again on their web page, to see what I missed. The only hint that these are exit standards is found in the title - 'Mathematics Standards.
College and Career Readiness'. Still, it is my bad.

For 'coherence', I should be looking instead at how the various strands fit together. And they do fit well. The charge of focus and rigor, however, stands.

For example, Core Skill 5.2: "Solve equations in one variable using manipulations guided by the rules of arithmetic and the properties of equality."

Does this include degree 2 polynomial equations in one variable ax^2 + bx + c = 0 with a != 0? The standard should be precise on points like this.

Jeanne--I am interested in your statement regarding the brain development of 8th graders in relationship to Algebra I. I ask for several reasons. One, I was a part of a Cleveland cohort (growing up) that was exposed to algebraic concepts as early as second grade as a part of a pilot of "new math." It was regarded by our district as incredibly exciting and we all felt very important learning things that everyone previously had thought were beyond our poor little brains.

The other reasons is because I hear this reiterated so frequently of late--often in relationship to 8th grade algebra--but in relationship to other content as well. It seems to me that this may be a part of the manifest destiny trap. 8th graders cannot learn algebra, not because their foundational experience in mathematics is lacking, but because the are not "ready" yet in some mystical and undefined developmentally determined way.

While this train of thought is an appealing justification for kids at 8th (or any other) grade not "getting" whatever it is we are teaching--and neatly bypasses any adult responsibility for doing anything different--I have to wonder--how exactly has anyone arrived at this understanding?

If you compare our students to those in the best countries around the world our top students do not compare favorably. It is not just the impoverished students that are not being encouraged to learn well. The international data shows that high quality school systems both narrow the acheivement gap while raising the educational learning of their top students. Shouldn't we be trying reforms that will get us both?

From a marketing standpoint it would be great if the Common Core Standards included real math.

But because standards alone won't improve teaching, curricula or assessments to the extent seen in top-performing countries, actual learning from the student's perspective will at best be status quo.

I realize that their is tremendous anecdotal evidence suggesting that the curriculum is being narrowed under NCLB. Do you have evidence/studies available that have measured this?

Our best universities do enjoy a great reputation around the world. But if you look at the faculties and students, there are significant numbers of people from other countries/school systems. Should we claim success for our K-12 school system when we are populating our universities with top reseachers from other countries?

Diane Ravitch, quoted in the New York Times, July 29, 2005:

New York University education professor Diane Ravitch, assistant education secretary under the first President Bush, credited the 2002 legislation [NCLB] with inculcating "expectations that all students meet the same standards".

Diane Ravitch, writing a pro-NCLB op-ed in 2005 titled "Why We'll Mend it, Not End It":


NCLB will not come up for renewal until 2007. Until then, there will be griping by those who don't like the new federal role in education and those who don't want to see children tested every year. But it seems safe to predict that the next renewal will strengthen the law rather than weaken it. After all, annual testing is hardly a new idea in American education. Not just reading, math and science, but history too is likely to become part of the NCLB mandate for testing.

What is valuable about the law is its insistence that districts measure their progress in helping the children who can't meet state standards. Raising achievement across the board will be hard -- but it is not mission impossible.

Let's move on to Sept. 13, 2006 -- a mere three years ago -- with a press release from the University of North Carolina:

Education reformer Dr. Diane Ravitch will discuss "The Past and Future of No Child Left Behind" at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in Memorial Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. . . . An admirer of Graham, Ravitch has worked to improve American education for more than 30 years. She is considered an architect of the move towards national standardized testing, which has become a cornerstone of the federal No Child Left Behind law, enacted in 2002.

So Ravitch is being pretty dismissive of her own handiwork here (NCLB)!

"No one has accused the US of having less well prepared university graduates!"

Only because the US has less well prepared university APPLICANTS. Visit a university engineering classroom, then visit a university remedial (not for college credit) math classroom. Where are the American students?

Does anyone know what Fallon is talking about above?

TFT, much to my surprise, yes. I seem to know what Fallon is saying here, and he may have an abrasive tone, but he's right.

And, he's probably said it better than I have in many an attempt. Here, for example, is what I came up with yesterday, left unposted til u asked:

As we look to other solutions, how about getting government out of the way and creating useful accreditation organizations?
Can we not do this? Can we not do for education what other professions do for themselves?

The negative answer is, no, it won't occur. TFT here offers evidence that it can't.

TFT says, "Give them...teachers who aren't afraid for their livlihoods" Well, accredidation would imply that the school/department/staff could lose its right to continue. In such a scenario, TFT would have to be afraid. Oh, my.

Of course, its exactly that sort of whining that created the whole NCLB mess to begin with. Ask any principle or superintendent who tried to make substantial change. Watch the interviews. Read the news. Listen to John Morrow's podcasts.

Here's some more news re fear and professionalism: Every week, I look at my non-backload of business and am afraid (yesterday terrified) of my livelihood. That gives me no right to deliver substandard performance.

Moreover, compared to most entrepreneurs, I have it really, really easy: I don't have to worry about the livelihood of other people's families. Put yourself in the shoes of those who do!

Do the TFT's of the nation know how much that is the American way? How little we would have today (the world would have) were it not for those who face such fear and proceed anyway?

Have TFT and ilk no idea how great their $50K a year looks to most of us? And how little we care if occasionally one of them gets the boot? Are they truly that insensitive to the realities of life?

Finally, we then see that TFT et al spread this attitude to a new generation--especially in impoverished areas--perpetuating the cycle.

Why in the world would someone tell a kid that a person with a comfy government nearly-guaranteed job earning $50K plus a year has to "fear for their livlihood?"

What would Daniel Boone say?!!

Diane, first, so great to have Margo back!! I was just wondering if we would see her again. Cheers, Margo, for your friendly voice of reason!!

Second, I was wondering lately where we get our health care standards. Issues of insurance aside, when you make your way into a facility, the quality is usually great and markedly improving year by year.

One source of this, it seems, is the accreditation board, The Joint Commission, a non-government group of various professionals and professional organizations.

Competition also keeps most hospitals improving. If Aultman here drops the ball, the workers there may be surprised to find all the patient's money going to Timken Mercy Medical instead!

As we look to other solutions, how about getting government out of the way and creating useful accreditation organizations?

Can we not do this? Can we not do for education what other professions do for themselves?

Ed, you're assuming teachers suck and are the cause of the achievement gap. I disagree with your premise.

And you are just as abrasive as Fallon.

When teachers fear for their jobs, like a gay soldier, it's not because we suck. It's because we fear the dishonesty inherent in the system. Principals get to make up whatever they want on evaluations, making the process political, not formative. Gay soldiers get fired not for telling, but for being told on.

When we give those among us the basic services they need--universal health care, free early childhood education and decent jobs--they will be more able, and dare I say willing, to rise to the occasion. It is the impoverished that struggle, and it is the poverty that feeds the struggle.

Poverty, not a lack of accreditation agencies, is our problem.

And 50k in the Bay Area ain't so much.

Ed Jones,

I own up to being abrasive. Not a good salesman! I should borrow some of your genial approach. But what fun would that be?

Government regulation is central to the quality of our health care. New therapies must be approved by the FDA before they are used by doctors/hospitals. Also, accredidation agencies are already in place for schools. How would your envisioned accedidation agency differ from those already in place?

Ultimately, quality teaching is what enables students to learn. Great school systems that have minimized the acheivement gap (none have completely eliminated it) do so by providing enormous guidance and support in the pursuit of a enriching student learning environment. That means that teachers do not have the freedom to completely develop their own curricula, but it also means that the responsibility for student learning is not completely on their shoulders.

Blaming teachers is counterproductive to improving education. But the whole premise of using state/fed standards to improve schools is: if some extenal agency sets a bar then the teachers are obligated to meet that bar whichever way they see best. So failure (which is almost guarenteed because teachers are trying) and blame for that failure rests on the shoulders of the teachers.

Top-performing school systems do not use this method for improving student learning.


Two wrongs do not make a right. Sure, the public school administrative apparatus is also parasitical and certainly needs dealing with. But why throw parasite on parasite? Besides, the admins and unions have a joint interest in sucking in as much tax money from the public as possible. Sometimes they kind of work together anyway- like the Dems and Repubs- to create a situation where the synergy leads to more fleecing on net.

Maybe it is time to organize the students into a union to combat both the organized teachers and administrations. Then one would have to consider organizing the parents to counteract the kids' likely move to end homework. But then who would counter the parents? But of course:

The grandparents!


Some "Race to the Top" outcomes:

The school where I teach missed AYP by 1 student in 1 subgroup. OUCH !

The result... we are in week 7 of this school year and my 1st and 2nd period classes have missed the equivalent of 7 days of AP Human Geography because we have been required to administer practice tests. Since we are on 4x4 Block scheduling, each student has lost 630 minutes of instructional time so far.

We have doubled our enrollment in AP courses, and now include students who have yet to pass the 8th grade version of our state's standardized test. The extra AP students, pass or fail, increase our points toward meeting AYP.

I have 38 students in one AP class and 42 in the other. Our school of 1600 students had to layoff 12 teachers over the summer.

We now must document, DAILY, each intervention we have attempted within our lesson plans AND then TEST the students two days later to measure if the intervention worked. ("worked" in my school now means 90% proficiency by ALL students in a given class).

If the intervention we attempt (which is a hybrid of content area information and standardized testing information) does NOT "work," then the reading and writing specialists come to the classroom and deliver a strictly test-taking lesson plan. AP Human Geography takes the back seat until we are 90% proficient on a particular skill (say... Reference and Research).

Once a week, the school pays for a substitute who does not speak English (even though, due to district budget woes again, we have already depleted our ANNUAL supply of paper) to cover my 3rd and 4th period classes so that I can join in group discussions about identfying "At Risk" students (any student who passed the standardized test last year with a "C" is considered "At Risk"). Fortunately, my kids are mature enough to "take over" the teaching and learning activities during my absence.

While these discussions are helpful in realizing that Johnny has the same behavioral issues regardless of who the adult is in the room, I would much rather spend the time ENGAGING him, or TRYING to engage him, instead of talking about him behind his back.

Not all of this is bad news. It's nice to see the kids STEPPING UP as best they can. We are hopefully targeting some students who need special care. But the paperwork is about to bury us before the end of the 1st quarter.


"We encourage lively debate, but please, no profanity..."

I am disappointed that Ed Week has tolerated some of the language posted above. It is inappropriate.

I wasn't aware that unions take tax money. I thought they got it from their members.

A few of the many lies of NCLB, in no particular order:

We lie when we speak of proficiency as if it were an objective standard when really it is just a number guessed at by a dozen teachers at a meeting one weekend. And half of the teachers thought the number was far too low and half thought it was far too high.

We lie when we say that a high score on a minimum-skills NCLB test means a student is "Advanced" when really it only indicates that the child has mastered mediocrity. A perfectionist, perhaps. But well-educated? Not even close.

We lie when we say we need more data and expensive software to understand that a child who has not passed the third grade test will not pass the fourth grade test and a child who has not passed either will never catch up and will not graduate. We don't need more data to know what we already know. Giving the child the fifth grade test the next year doesn't count as an intervention.

We lie when we say that a "year's growth" is equal to moving from 50th percentile to 50th percentile when we know that the number of scaled score points between the two tests will change from year to year to year.

We lie when we restructure our for-profit education company as a not-for-profit company knowing that Arne Duncan will hand out innovation grants to districts who partner with not-for-profit companies.

We lie when we say that too many children are unprepared for college-level work and then tell schools to spend more time focusing on NCLB tests when we know that prepping for NCLB tests in no way prepares students for college-level work.

We lie when we tell parents we have a guaranteed intervention that will save a child's future, but we do not lie to investors when our education company files legal papers for a public offering and we say that our methods are not guaranteed to work.

We lie when we pretend that the No Child Left Behind accountability system measures all children. As the Associated Press revealed long ago, NCLB has so many exclusions that millions of children are never counted.

We lie when we report NCLB test scores separated by race knowing it would be illegal to assign students to schools or programs using race.

We lie when NCLB data use race as a proxy for poverty.

We lie when we say that NCLB raised academic standards knowing that every comparison of state NCLB tests to external measures shows a decline.

We lie when we say that a test for which you can guess your way to a passing score is a valid test because it is built using complicated statistics that defy common sense.

We lie when we say a school is doing well when it failed to reach simple proficiency and failed to make AYP and only became a success when it had a third chance with a growth model which showed that it might be doing well at some point in the future. We lie when we say that an entire school district is a failure because some of its many schools are struggling. We are lying when we say that NCLB can accurately identify schools as a successful or failing.

We lie when we take a picture of a mentally challenged child pointing to the nickel and not the dime on a Friday afternoon because we need evidence of "applied number sense" for her NCLB portfolio, even though we know that by Monday morning she will have forgotten which is which.

We lie when we tell parents of mentally challenged children that we want them to get the best education so we will give them a small financial voucher to leave the public schools without telling them that removing their child from our rolls will help us to make AYP.

We lie when we keep very-high-functioning children in special education programs because they are the ones we intend to use when we decide whose test will be included in the 2% we are allowed to count under NCLB for our special education reporting.

We lie when we keep students who have learned to speak English in language learner programs because if they didn't take the language learner version of our NCLB test our scores might drop.

We lie when we report teacher value-added scores although we know we could not accurately identify the "teacher of record" for too many students. We lie and tell ourselves that it is okay because the scores cannot be used to hire or fire teachers. We lie when we say that an inaccurate negative report will not be used against a teacher because every lawyer knows that you cannot un-ring the bell.

We lie when we say releasing test items just like the ones on the next test doesn't hurt the validity of the next test. We lie when we say that statistics can adjust for institutionalized cheating.

We lie when we say we have a system that can use test scores to identify highly-skilled teachers, but the same teachers don't show up as highly-skilled from one year to the next even when they are teaching the same level of students in the same school.

We lie when we say that we are measuring whether a student is on grade level (using proficiency), determine that some students are not on grade level, but then advance those students to the next grade when we have just said that they were not ready for the next grade -- grade after grade until the 8th grade student is still stuck at a 5th grade level. Even the proponents of NCLB testing aren't confident enough in the tests to use the data to make a decision that might have some real impact.

We lie when we say that we have a system of rating teachers that is more rigorous than the old principal evaluations, but somehow a far majority of teachers are always better than average and almost every teacher willing to participate gets a bonus check of some size.

We lie when we say that we have a way of analyzing test scores that is not biased by race and hide the data showing that race is still an overwhelming predictor of the final results.

We lie when we claim that tests are designed by large groups of educators when only one or two people will make the decision about which test items will be on an actual test.

We lie when we speak of impossible theoreticals as if they were facts. If the worst students had the best teachers for three years in a row, then those would not be the best teachers any longer. And two of three teachers would have left the school after the first year of the program.

We lie when we don't report that the statisticians asked about the validity of growth models were just given a multi-year million dollar grant to study their use, so they probably won't have a definitive answer until that money runs out.

We lie when we say that there are no bad teachers and no bad students and no bad parents. Some bad parents have bad students who even graduate and somehow become bad teachers and go on to sire bad students of their own. We should stop hiring bad teachers, right after we stop hiring racist cops and firefighters who turn out to be arsonists and computer programmers who just sit there in their cubicle surfing for porn. We should find out who claims to have the perfect system for hiring teachers and fire that liar.

We lie when we say that what was learned from NCLB was never known before NCLB, but that is understandable. Every generation believes that it invented sex. No wonder these young ed reformers and the recently converted think they are the first to use "data" or the first to document differences between groups. Please, read a book published before you were born. Talk to someone who doesn't own an iPhone. If you're not careful, you might just learn something.

We lie when we report studies in which researchers have massaged data, edited samples, and applied statistical controls over and over again until they can say that charter schools are sometimes slightly better in some way than regular public schools.

We lie when we say that what gets measured gets done and then say that what doesn't get measured (history, science, the arts) is still getting done. Some people aren't very good at lying.

We lie when we say that the teachers' union IS NOT the problem. The teachers' unions have been selling out their younger members' futures by "working with" education "reformers" -- all to fund the coffers of the old guard in a ponzi scheme that will never pay off for today's starting teachers. Compromise decisions reached by the teachers' unions today will hurt teachers and students for decades to come.

We lie when we say that the teachers' union IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM in education because you know who pays you to say that, day after day, year after year, no matter what the issue. And cigarettes don't cause cancer.

We lie when we say that we need to pursue what is in the best interests of the children and not the adults because the real goal of education has always been to create a healthy, productive, creative, civilized society and that has always been in the best interests of adults. Adults, the far majority of society, benefit more from having well-educated children than the children do. We lie when we criticize some adults for being motivated by self-interest while suggesting that we, ourselves, are above that. The best lies are the ones we tell ourselves, aren't they?

We lie when we say that test-based accountability using these deeply flawed measures is the best system we have because it implies that the system is good enough and we know that getting and using so much misleading or wrong information cannot improve education. Having more misleading data and powerful computers to allow us to get to the inaccurate information faster will not help. It can't, it hasn't, and it won't.

And that's the truth.

We should find out who claims to have the perfect system for hiring teachers and fire that liar.

Good stuff!


Really? Is that the best you can do?

All government money comes from taxing, borrowing or inflating. So where would union dues originate? Well, where does the school system get the money to pay teachers? From the government with said taxing, borrowing and inflating authority.

Unions have the legal privilege of extorting on the government's original extortion.

'Aristocrats of Labor' is a well-deserved moniker.

We saw this coming when e.g. Checker Finn and Diane Ravitch touted "excellence" in the 1980s. If you think about it, a pupil can "excell" only in relation to a lot of other pupils left behind. So in the 1990s we got "No Child Left Behind", a self-cancelling concept in which only the right children, the obvious candidates, could excell over against the others. Today we've made this contest even more explicit, as now we are called to a "Race to the Top". Which race would that be? After all, we are talking about vulnerable young children who need not be pitted against one another. The whole concept was, and still is, essentially sick-headed.

So, Fallon, now my paycheck is not really mine, but the taxpayers?

I think you twisted the concept a bit.

In your description, anything ever paid for by a government worker has negatively impacted you.

Since your logic is to extremely tortured, yes, that's all I got. The truth as opposed to your nonsense. That's all I got.

Fallon, have you ever been a teacher in a public school? Do you have kids? Have you ever been in a public school? Have you ever been impoverished? Do you have any real world experience of any kind? Your anger is so misplaced!

Be angry, but get informed.

Diane, the discussion has returned to economics, and well it should, as your title and summary point drive toward. We are lying to our children.

Lying if we tell them there is hope without serious reform of the economic model by which they are educated. Lying if we do not address the systemic deficiencies--not of the labor itself, but of how it is utilized. In the jargon, "Productivity".

But how do we get permission to change how labor is used?

As TFT repeatedly demonstrates here, the realities of human-to-human interaction are unknown and ignored within the walls of the schoolhouse.

Example: "I wasn't aware that Unions take tax money." Where else would that money come from? It was never in a members pocketbook. They never reached in and said, "Nope, this year I'm not buying a TV, I'm giving to the Union!" Of course not. Its an expense of being a teacher, and its the very first thing that they demand back from their employer.

Perfect example: today a teacher friend says her laptop is jumk. She really needs it to do her job. Now, for me, thats a no-brainer. The laptop comes absolutely first. No dinners out, no cable, a clunker car, whatever, the laptop comes after basic food and heat. For my teacher friend, its something she "can't afford".

Dues, on the other hand, are something she will pay no matter what. Thus dues are built in to a teachers' compensation; they increase the cost of labor to the taxpayers.

To style: For my part, explaining these basic concepts does not come easy. I'm an engineer, not a teacher. If things get a bit rushed as we try to explain human econ 101, I really am sorry.

Still, a bit of honesty is required of the reader as well. In the words of Ted Kennedy, I can make enough of my own verbal mistakes, you need not put words in my mouth. "Teachers suck" has never been any serious commenter's message, certainly not mine.

The system (cover your ears Paul) is what "sucks". We just disagree vehemently on which end of that system is broken.

Now, the insecure reader may well take offense when we say that the labor side of things is part of what is broken. They may and do take it to be a personal attack. Couldn't be farther from the reform message.

The reform message, Diane, says exactly what you write in the 15 Sept. Boston Globe: Critical thinking? You need knowledge. CIC above says that "We have 'dumbed down' the teaching profession. Not far from your own "For over a century we have numbed the brains of teachers with endless blather about process and abstract thinking skills."

Reform also says that one part of the solution is to identify classrooms where the teaching is all process, with no knowledge to show.

That the current mechanism does identify some classrooms is offensive enough to some, one imagines, like TFT. Is the teacher too tired and beat to do a good job? No matter. Are they just to young of mind and not ready to deal with the tremendous challenge of a high poverty-low performance class? Leave them there anyway. Are they merely counting the days til summer and retirement? Let them stay!

That the current mechanism gets the classrooms wrong sometimes? Well, fix the mechanism.

I have here suggested independent accreditation boards, out of the hands of politicians. That's the sort of solution I believe teachers would find more palatable.

Core Knowledge is a sort-of accreditation board:
"Official Core Knowledge Schools implement at least 80% of the Core Knowledge Sequence, with the goal of reaching 100% implementation. These schools have submitted the required documentation (listed on the application) and have fully participated in the professional development offered by the Core Knowledge Foundation. In addition, each school has been visited by our staff or consultants and deemed certified."

Alas, I also believe that the State Education Associations would fight any such effort.

What would you have the accreditation board do? How would an accreditation board know how to improve schools any more than the feds or states do? Isn't this doing what the state boards of education are already supposed to be doing?

"Solutions" to our schools' problems abound without a solid definition of what the problem is.

What do you think the problem(s) with our schools is(are)?

As far as NCLB is concerned I have only this to say:

What can't be cured, must be endured.

Also I take solace in knowing that Troy bit the dust, the Penal Laws bit the dust and of course NCLB will bit the dust too. The only quesiton is whether the extinction of NCLB will be BEFORE the total decline and fall of USA


Come now. You resort to such childishness by questioning my experiences. Would the particulars alter economic truth?

Of course 'your' paycheck is not yours. All taxation is theft. If I held a gun to your head and demanded that you hand over your wallet I would be considered a criminal. Why should the group of bandits calling themselves 'government' get a pass and be subject to a different set of rules?

Busting unions is not going to educate kids any better than not busting them. That your whole complaint is with my union dues and the thievery I should abhor speaks volumes about who we need deciding which reforms are worthwhile and which aren't.

Do you think poverty has anything to do with school success? Or is everything about the unions?

And how would busting the union help junior? By somehow getting better teachers? I don't get it.

Go volunteer in a public school, Fallon. Do someone some good.

Erin, Thanks for asking, and I don't know!

What I do know is that the FDA also hurts people by holding back treatments and slow-tracking potential cures.

On the other hand, manufacturing plants are ISO-certified; that's one of the big ways we went from low quality, low speed in the '80's to much higher quality and volume later on.
Some schools were also ISO certified.

The IEEE and similar engineering organizations provide hundreds of detailed standards on how to do almost everything in the trade; from connector pinouts to cellular radio waveforms.

The IETF sets the standards for every program that connects both your school laptop and an iPhone in Japan with the MSNBC webservers. The W3C sets the international standards for presenting all that information in a form you can read.

None of these are government mandated solutions.

Today, I was merely pointing The Joint Commission as a way of setting standards for a people-focused institution, a hospital. Could we learn from them?

The "problems" with schools I've summarized in a "cheat sheet", Barack Obama's (Education) Rebellion. At the top,
-in cities such as Detroit, only one in three black males earns a high school diploma.
-It is not the case that most of these kids were academic failures.
- Half of all Black American students leave high school without a diploma.
-Two fifths of all students in cities like Cleveland, Columbus, and Philadelphia don’t graduate.

Now, by no means is this all caused by schools. Yet much of the solution can come therefrom.

If you're really interested, two books I'd recommend are "No Excuses - Closing the Racial Gap in Learning", and "Winning the Race - Beyond the Crisis in Black America." (Mike's Hope and Despair in the American City is good so far, but I'm just in chapter one). BillCosby.com has some audio on his thoughts.

These aren't the easiest of reading, but they are accessible.

The videos on the cheatsheet are also great. Particularly "New Orleans School Reforms Target Young Readers" and the other New Orleans films.

And, especially for TFT, I loved episode 128 of John Merrow's podcast (iTunes), "An interview with veteran middle school principle Darin Slade".

Rory--I think you must live in California. At least your long list of idiocies and ills seems to be typical of that state. California is one place where I think that resources really do appear to be the first and worst problem driving all others.

But, other than that, I have a hard time tracing a direct line from NCLB (or RttT, as you suggest) to most of the things that you bemoan. I have to point out that nothing in NCLB prescribes extra local testing for schools who miss AYP (even by one student in one group). In fact the first consequence of missing AYP is another chance to do better next year, and the ability to average over several years. In fact, by cleverly teetering, one might stay in the same place nearly indefinitely. Well--not quite.

But, all of the truly idiotic things that you mention are not included anywhere in the language of NCLB. It does say that after failing to make AYP for a sufficient length of time (and recall that everyone here has been suggesting that the bar has not been set too high, but too low), a school, or a district, has to make a plan to improve, and implement the plan, and evaluate the progress. NCLB really puts the onus for all this improvement planning and evaluation at a very close to the student and teacher level.

So--if your school has decided that extra tests are the way to improvement, whose fault is that? Just exactly how did you get to the point of daily logging of interventions with tests two days later? It seems as though you have some timing and dosage problems. Why did you select this particular schedule?

The one bright spot is that those enormous AP classes seem (miraculously) to have brought about some improvement for previously overlooked and underachieving kids. Why you have 40 kids per class, I am guessing is economic, rather than NCLB. But, I know it makes people cranky when they have to give up what they are used to (AP classes for the elite only).

I have been down this road before. As I pointed out earlier--every ill that has ever befallen man can be traced back to NCLB if you listen in certain quarters. I frankly don't know what to do when people do stupid things. Some days it's about all I can do to hold up a mirror and keep pointing it out. You have a choice.


Yes, only busting the unions would not complete a reform because it would leave intact the administrative monster to acquire even more power since it would not have to share the spoils with unions. That is why I advocate the complete separation of school and state- just like how religious freedom works. But of course, you would be, like your great great great great (and so on) Prussian uncle, Frederick (ha ha), very unhappy about this freedom. After all, education should serve the state, right?

Hi Margo:

I'm happy to see you back as I enjoy reading your posts. I'm from CA too so maybe that's why I see things the way I do.


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