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Too Many Loopholes?

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Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools are required to show that all subgroups of students are making adequate yearly progress or risk being deemed "in need of improvement." But determining whether a school should be labeled as such may not be as simple as looking at its academic performance reports, "NewsHour" correspondent John Merrow argues in a recent Education Week Commentary.

The law allows schools and states to blatantly skew their data in several ways, Mr. Merrow writes. For example, schools can use confidence intervals to calculate "hypothetical" test scores, and states can set the definition of academic proficiency as low as they'd like. The result, he says, is reporting that is "virtually useless."

What do you think? Does the NCLB law have too many loopholes? If so, can they be closed without sacrificing fairness?

11 Comments

The question is almost moot because the "No Child Leind Left Behind" Law has too many llopholes to be enforced in any effective manner. The ultimate objective of the law, 100% proficiency is in and of itself virtually impossible, making it necessary to create a statistical "reality" that does place all students in this "Lake Wobegone" world. The "standards" are state initiated, making 53 different standards when including two territories and the District of Columbia. test requirements also vary by state and districts are able to retest and even to offer alternative tests to make the proficiency level. The purpose is accountability and that purpose is not being served. NCLB is similar to making a federal law requiring all police forces in the US to diminish crime to zero by some random date and to prove that they are "on track" towards this goal by steadily decreasing crime each year, and each state must determine what and what is not a crime thta counts. Add on a punishment for not reducing crime that involves disbanding the "failing" police force and creating a new one that is somehow supposed to be more effective. The "law" cannot be made fair. Throw it out and leave the job of creating learning environments to the learning experts, the teachers.

The article does a good job of outlining the issue of gaming the system. It may also demonstrate that the current set-up, which requires NAEP participation, does in fact expose those states who engage in a "race to the bottom" in order to avoid looking bad, or dealing with the political realities of conflicting interests. Round one has gone to those with clout--organized teachers and school boards who kept the "highly qualified" requirement virtually meaningless; property rich suburban districts who balk at any redistribution of resources to those who have greater need; and institutions of higher ed who utilize teacher prep programs as "cash cows," allowing entry to any and all and turning out hordes of less than optimally prepared teachers.

But, there is nowhere left to hide. What NAEP fails to reveal, TIMSS and PISA will. What we have is a hybrid between national accountability and local control. As we were all doubtless told somewhere in elementary school, even when we can get away with it, cheating on a test hurts us. There is no way around it--there are lots of ways to come up with the illusion of education. But in the end it is only the reality of education that will serve us well.

Why do we keep trying to use paper and pencil standardized tests to determine is a student is acqiring the knowledge and skills that will result in a high quality of life. Let's try to make something that is complex into something simple. Distant governments cannot relate to the individual student or his/her special giftedness. Schools should respond to the differneces in the students and not try to test to see if we are like all others.

Merrow says, "Without the escape hatch provided by the confidence interval, the adults in charge would have been publicly embarrassed, but the students would have received additional resources." What additional resources? Afterschool tutoring? Paid for out of existing Title I funds. Busing to a higher scoring (i.e., richer) school? Paid for out of existing Title I funds.
This is the worst education legislation ever foisted on schools. Repeal it now!

I've been visiting schools (Los Angeles) for many years and I have never seen it as worse as it is now.
Teachers and students operate out of fear of not "succeeding" in their NCLB world.
I've had teachers asking to talk to third graders about their work ethic in the work place when they leave school.
Their only eight!
Students are losing their creativity and imaginations. They can't think critically, spontaneously, and improvise.
For the first time I'm being asked to write rubrics for my art classes and these have to now be approved by the district. I've been teaching for many years and I resent the fact that someone up there is now making me go by their rules when my classes have worked successfully for many years.

In the case of one form of dual admission where healthcare certificate courses are offered to 12th graders, the national certifying exams trump accountability loopholes.

The adult world is driven by competition, whether it be in sports, the white collar world or the blue. You rise in your chosen profession based upon being better than the rest. Better than the rest in accordance with the standards that are in effect, and those standards include the basics of performance.

Yet in schools (1-12) that does not happen, it does not happen in the teaching arena nor in the student arena. For some reason we have devolved the education system into a feel-good-at-all-costs environment, much like our PC society.

If we as a nation are to excel in the global community, we as a nation need to become one nation. That means a national standard. If this country is so determined to eradicate race, we need to stop pointing to race as an excuse. Set a standard, and enforce it, stop making excuses.

We need to be able to reward teachers who excel, we need to weed out teachers who are marking time to retirement, the unions do not want that and make it very hard to do anything with lackluster teachers and administrators. Here in Texas we have a principal who failed her certification test 37 times (made the news and she is not alone), she claims that she has trouble passing tests, our wonderful reporters who also excel at feel-good questions, never asked her how she attained a college degree or the advanced degrees necessary to hold her position - she still has not passed and has not been replaced. One principal I know said, "Why should we strive to excel, we get nothing extra if we do."

The pay disparity between administrators and teachers is an issue, not to mention the ratio of administrators to teachers in some districts. I would love to know a valid reason, other than supporting more administrators, why a major city has more than one school district. Combine districts and you combine tax revenue, portion out the revenue according to student population, and you get a parity of funds across the schools within the city, combine accounting, supply, et al departments and you reduce the costs of operating, and increase the availability of funds to the schools. Of course you also reduce the upper end of the administrator career ladder too - oops.

Any time you more leaders than followers the system devolves into multiple methods of operation. Just look at the business world model, bloated staff and executive positions are a thing of the past.

We need to be able to identify students who "get it," and put them in classrooms that challenge them, with teachers who can challenge them. Instead we teach to the lowest common denominator, and and up losing the students who get bored.

Ever wonder what happens to that child prodigy? You know the one that seems to just figure things out, like what a red light is for, or a key, or a door knob, or.... Then we send them to school, what happens to that child that learned so rapidly, that explored his environment and learned? We dumb them down to the lowest common denominator.

Basics, we need to teach the basics in elementary school to a level of excellence, and as long as we teach to the lowest common ability, that will never happen. Allow administrators to game the system, and the emphasis is placed on just that, presenting the results in most advantageous way that will result in job security.

Preparing students for the adult world, an increasingly competitive global adult world, means we have to teach them to compete, and competition means you have to excel. To do that we have to have a standard in order to measure excellence, a national standard.

Public Schools standards are generated by School Board Policy. These standards are based solely on local, state, and federal laws. Its an aligator kind of thing. The State Education Agency is the State's enforcement body. Its enforcement body is the State Education Agency/Committee/Board, etc. These jurisprudences have many standards in place that could show improvements in most student populations of public education: K-12 instruction, special education, Gifted and Talented, General Ed, the Clinic, behavioral removals, and Counseling.

All these facets of public school hinge on making changes from with-in that move the system from inept or ineffective to effective performance. It all depends on the idividual leaders you find in these schools and the organization, management, and jurist of the system.

From this jurist facet, there has developed specialized teams of which all members in it are to work cooperatively with each other in the performance as expected by the district.

How these teams are treated by the Central Office has an effect on every school's academic performance. A performance that has high regards to personal and professional performance will improve student performance. To make this happen, individual performers in this very serious drama must act in a way that includes demonstrating dignity, respect, cooperation, duty, fairness, and equity to the students first and foremost.

It is imperative that we follow all laws, Federal, State, District policies and procedures, whether or not we agree with their being. Fair is not equitable. Equitable is fair. All children can learn and it would be relatively easy to show at least a years growth in a nurturing environment with quality academic instruction. One of the main drawbacks to achieving maximum levels of student academic growth is effective time-on-task mastery.

Look at the problem of time. Research has proven that the most effective learning enviornments provide time-on-task. Students directly involved in the learning; and yet, students are currently loosing a month of instruction each paultry 175 day school year, taking tests that are not assessments generated by the teacher. These district curriculum assessment tests take up valuable teaching and assessment time due to the nature of the test such as one-on one testing.

All this information is taken to level, group, diagnose, and place each child on a learning level. Then, the teacher writes a lesson plan that meets the individual student's needs both official and unofficial.

However, group testing can provide just as accurate and clear a picture of where to effectively place these young developing students.

One teacher can have to give as many as 25 individual tests at least two times during a two week period, Three times year school year of 175 days.

Translated, means that of these 175 teaching days, already one of the fewest in the world, 142 teaching days. Not a lot of time for some states to teach an enriched curriculum (most states have increased the amount students are to learn compared to just fifteen years ago).

There are more pieces that need to make this happen than I could cover here in mere comments.

I have no problem with the annual assessment. However the assessment for any student should measure the amount of growth the student has made in one year. Special education students should be expected to make one year's growth, but realistically, their "bar" should not be the same as nonhandicapped students.

This law reflects the lack of knowledge on the part of the politician about learning. We should have one standard across the United States, not only the same reading and math tests, but the same measurement per school in every state.
The current practice is not fair for all students in all states.
I suggest you create a focus group of knowledgeable educators working in schools to revamp the law. It should not be a political decision, but decisions that will lead our country
to have high standards with high student performance in reading and mathematics.
Also it is imperative to hold parents accountable as well for their children's achievment in school./

For me, educator is a 4-letter word. Teacher is pure gold. For example, education researchers look at data that gives “significant” improvement via statistical tests of the data - - yet the expectation is that real improvement double, triple or quadruple the effectiveness of teaching. I don’t need statistical tests of the data to see that kind of success! NCLB says that ALL children will meet minimum standards (whatever those are). Does this include the severely mentally disabled? Are we to forget the gifted?
I left teaching because I find I am not one. Oh, I can instruct effectively and love my work of tutoring students that need and appreciate a little extra help, but I can’t engage a class of 20 or more of whom 1/3 actively do not want to learn! (- 1/3 don’t care and 1/3 want to learn.) A quality teacher is able to engage them all. The real question is how to find more quality (as opposed to “qualified”) teachers. Money alone won’t do it. Better teacher training alone won’t do it. Parent involvement alone won’t do it. All will help. But the true teacher comes from an internal love of bringing out the best in each child, the experience necessary to express this effectively in their own way and the willingness to spend the time necessary to individualize.
Then there’s the peer group that looks up to the athletes, rap stars and criminals - - and can’t see spending any time on core lessons. “I’ll be able to hire anyone to do that [stuff]” Worse yet, “I don’t want to act [like the mainstream population]”. Getting through to these requires far more than the school and the teacher. “It takes a village to raise a child.”
All the research, tests and laws in the world cannot embody the complex nature of educating children. Successful education will only happen when all citizens truly value education.

please see the commentary on our "Latest Evidence" blog at: http://www.empiricaleducation.com/evidence.html#error

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  • Al Peabody, Tutor/ex math teacher/parent: For me, educator is a 4-letter word. Teacher is pure read more
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