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The Future of NCLB

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress began work on revising the No Child Left Behind Act for the law's planned reauthorization this year. Changes outlined in draft proposals issued thus far include: providing bonuses to teachers who transfer to low-achieving schools, piloting performance-pay systems for teachers, and allowing states to use multiple indicators—including graduation rates and tests in subjects other than reading and math—to measure schools' Adequate Yearly Progress. The highly qualified teacher requirements would, under initial proposals, remain intact.

How do you think the NCLB Act should be changed? What specific proposals would you offer? How well is the law working and what improvements could be made to help schools and teachers?

25 Comments

There should be no child left inside. Too much focus on testing and test results has kept teachers and students indoors practicing skills and memorizing facts. There are so many opportunities for students to learn in informal settings, but the pressure to test well is too great. Students and teachers need to be outside for "play" (physical movement), and they should also take field trips to natural history museums, zoos, nature trails, wetlands or nearby streams. Otherwise, Richard Louv's book "Last Child in the Woods" will become a reality.

There should be equal time for teaching and learning as there is for testing. The testing should not be a trivial persuit "gotcha" test. NCLB HAS BEEN FLAWED LAW

Congressmen should be required to work in a classroom for an extended period of time before being allowed to create or revise laws dealing with education. Just because you've ridden on an airplane a couple of times doesn't make you qualified to build one.

What happened to the arts? I'm not sure that high schools are affected by the NCLB as much as elementary and middle schools, but my school is still trying to build our arts program back because they've taken all of the money and used it for NCLB purposes. Foreign Language programs before high school also need to be reinstated. Elementary and middle school foreign language programs are non-existant in my school district. If kids could take foreign language earlier in their academic careers, we could focus on more advanced conversation skills by the time we get to Spanish I in high school instead of learning colors, numbers, and the alphabet. Again, they've taken all this funding away. I think someone needs to take a serious look at the NCLB Act and ask whether it is actually helping more than it is hurting.

I totally agree with April on have our legislators work in the classroom. What is missing in every format of accountability is the PARENTS AND GUARDIANS. I did not raise my students nor do I take them home to make sure they do their homework. We have far too many parents that do NOTHING and then blame the teachers.

Perhaps, as stated in school districts money is dedicated to NCLB. However, keep in mind, we have been told that there is zero funds for NCLB. Then, where is the money---hmmmmmm. We have a child--high-functioning autistic and we want all we can get to help with his education. Presently, for the first time--our school district have given us what we need for our child. We have great respect and admiration for our educators in this country---we know despite all of your obstacles in your classrooms---you all are what make the system work for our children and this country. Thank you for doing what is right for our children and this country! Much love to teachers!!!

Though many others exist, I offer two suggestions that could improve NCLB while enhancing its most-positive tenets: all kids can learn, and it's the responsibility of schools to make sure they do.

1. accountability should be redefined; the current absolute one-size/-test/-timeline-fits-all mentality should be supplanted by a more contextual examination, using a broad range of assessments and indicators (standardized tests, yes, being one), of how far individual kids move from the time they begin a school year to the end of that school year; the current buzzword "rigor" is fundamental but needs to be thoughtfully and concretely defined by teachers, principals, and parents and other key local, district, and state stakeholders, guided by the highest standards possible, always leavened by common sense, individual school realities, and demanding yet realistic goals; students bring different skills, knowledge, cognitive levels, and abilities through the doors each August, and they have multiple learning styles and rates of learning; NCLB should generate policies and expectations that respect and honor these defining characteristics of real kids
2. teacher quality being the primary factor in learning quality, "highly qualified" needs, also, to be redefined; the current NCLB emphasis on judging input (mainly degrees and certification) needs to be balanced by an increasing examination of output (i.e., the extent to which teachers affect students' learning growth and outcomes); the latter is a more complex task, but the complexity should not deter our determination to create reasonable, balanced, fair, and thoughtfully stringent criteria that judge teacher quality both by training/credentials and actual performance in the classroom; to do less is to denigrate the professionalism of teachers and, more importantly, jeopardize the learning potential of our students.

The intentions of NCLB are probably good, but in the end the teachers do not take the state standardized assessments. The
students, many of whom have no interest in education, take the state exams. The measuring stick is being used on the wrong group. Teachers and schools are penalized for the performance of these students.

We have so much talent and experience in the field of education. With all the technological advances there should be programs for all learning styles. We have a right to be proud of the hard work and creativity that built our great nation. Why now are we limiting education focus to raising test scores? Our society needs thinkers and problem solvers. We have never been content with pat answers. A better trained work force is not going to happen by requiring a student to score better on a multiple choice test. Not every child does his best by sitting quietly in his desk for hours of drill and kill. What happened to the discovery of ideas and the appreciation of art and music? Oh, maybe only students in private schools are allowed the education of the whole child.

In my heart I believe EVERY child CAN learn. I hold to that truth and will work my hardest to reach every child. But, isn't that what every educator worth their salt does? However, it is also true, that some students have limitations, and will not allow them to reach the heights that others will. (This is seen in the general public as well as in the schools.) However, I will continue to help everyone reach the highest level they can. We don't need a law to make us do that.
When NCLB came along, it has caused us not be have time to truly teach every child. In this day, more time is spent on testing, than on teaching. More time is spent on "analyzing" than reaching out to each child. Teachers are weary and stressed. Students are stressed and are not being allowed to experience the "magic of learning" as in the past. School seems to have become more of a "job" than of a joy of childhood.
Legislators need to spend a month in the classroom and truly see what is happening... not stay in their lofty towers and dream of what they think should be.
Parents need to learn how to parent. I would be willing to help provide classes and resources. Teachers cannot take the place of the home. However, legislators are putting that on us today. This is driving many experienced teachers to early retirement and causing younger teachers to leave the field quickly. This turnover is hurting the profession. I have been an educator for 25 years and a parent for 26. Times have changed, but NCLB is killing our profession. When will NCLB die? I hope we can outlive it!!!

Did you know that schools are using NCLB to keep kids from transferring into their district? They are hiding behind the party line of "you have to follow district policy." However, if you have a conversation, they will tell you that they want to make sure the student's grades don't make them fail to meet AYP! I have never been so appalled in my life! School are now keeping students OUT because they may fail to showcase how wonderful the school is! I really cannot believe this is legal, but apparently it is. You only get a free education in the district where you live. You CANNOT choose to go outside your district, even if your child is being bullied by students and teachers to the point they need medication for depression. Lets change THAT!

My, oh my, where to begin? I am so tired of trying to put square pegs in round holes....Why do my students have to be all alike? When can I go back to teaching and instilling the love of learining in my students? I am sick of paperwork, testing and being told teachers are the root of it all. We are professionals being treated like we know nothing and do less or at least can't on our own. I give my nights, summers and free time up for my students and I am a good teacher but no one would ever know it to hear the NCLB talk.

As an educator with over 30 years of experience in the field of second language teaching, (French, Spanish, and now English), I can say with some authority that to expect students to absorb enough ACADEMIC language in two school year (or less) to be successfull on a test designed to rate children who have spoken English since they began talking is, in and of itself, evidence of the complete lack of knowledge that the framers of this law had about how long it takes to become fluent in a language -- especially for someone who switches languages when he/she arrives home each day. Any credible research that I have ever heard about this issue says that it takes 5-7 years OR MORE for fluency to develop in a second language that is learned in a school setting. Yet schools and teachers are being punished when they are unable to accomplish this particular miracle.
In addition, schools are being punished if a certain percentage of their ESL students do not become totally proficient in English and exit the ESL program in 5 years or less. For a child who enters a U.S. school as a kindergartener, this is fairly reasonable. But what about all the chldren who come to us AFTER the first couple of years and who begin to learn English in 3rd, 4th or 5th grade or above? These are the children who will pick up social language in English in a year or two but who will be "behind the eightball" in terms of academic language for most (or even all) of their school careers. To set these children up for failure and then to punish them and their teachers for that failure is not only stupid, it is downright CRIMINAL!! I sincerely hope that the changes in the law will take SOME of the research in languages learning into account!!

While I can certainly support some improvements (increased funding, more effective professional development, more meaningful definition of Highly Qualified, cleaning up the Reading First abuses), I am in favor of continuance of most provisions of the current law. I say this for several reasons. First is that decades of Title I without consequences resulted in only sporadic lessening of achievement gaps. Second is that we are still burdened with teachers and administrators who have just been hanging on until this one goes away and they can "go back to teaching," by which they mean teacher-selected activities that may or may not result in their students arriving at any measureable level of learning in teacher selected areas. We need to continue NCLB just to get past the denial (or else wait for the retirement of a generation of educators). Third is that it is the only remedy I have experienced that has truly brought home to my district the importance of educating ALL the children, including those with disabilities and those who come from low-income families. Despite continuing gaps of substantial size, the improvements have been tremendous. It has begun with attending to the curriculum for all.

My hope is that the administrators who are foisting uncreative lessons and test prep will have an opportunity to see how marginally effective these strategies are, and that teachers who truly excel in the development of engaging and imaginative lessons will be given a greater role. The reality is that lock-step test prep, drill and kill learning, or every student reading the same story on the same day is not required or even really encouraged, by NCLB. Nor is it found in any state's standards.

They are logical responses to believing that all teaching was formerly adequate to examplary and either some students cannot learn or don't "test well." I have seen too many years of worksheet driven instruction in resource rooms and chapter by chapter (read and answer the questions) approaches in regular education to believe that this was the case. (These incredibly boring methods were generally eased by "Friday videos," or unrelated field trips, parties, etc.)

Not to say that there have not also been excellent teachers, using creative and engaging methodology suited to the learning needs of students--only that there have been far too few and their influence on others too limited.

I once knew a nurse who summed up accident prevention efforts by noting, "people do stupid things when they are tired or angry." Let's face it. Teacher have been tired and angry since universal testing has provided public knowledge of the gaps in public education. They (along with administrators) have been doing stupid things. The law doesn't say everyone has to teach in the same way on the same day. Those kinds of decisions are made locally. In fact, best practices supported by research indicate the need for differentiated instruction (not differentiated content), for rich lessons that foster the ability of students to think and the connection of content to students' experiences.

Had these things been universally in place--and based on a system of state content standards--the implementation of testing would not have brought about the panic that it did. It's time to stop reacting and to proactively implement good educational practices, for all students. NCLB doesn't prohibit that--in fact it does much to support the need for them.

Wow! Mom Margo sounds like a real teacher lover. She must have had to stay in at recess once too often. All the negativity and mud slinging from the Margos of the world(Can you say Kati Haycock and the Education Trust), cannot dispel the fact that urban public school teachers are as good as any teachers in this country. We have more degrees, more certification and more experience then those in private schools and charter schools and as least as much as those in the suburban public schools. Teacher quality is a red herring for opportunists and cynics. Ms. Margo, Kati Haycock and the like wouldn't know the inside of an inner-city classroom if it bit them on the nose. For all their proselytizing about experience, ask them what their experience is and all they give you are anecdotes and "stories" of the worst kind of fabrication. Kati Haycock referred to urban public school teachers as racist and just the crumbs that fall through the cracks. According to Margo we are stupid, boring and do nothing but take unrelated field trips, have parties and show movies on Fridays. Leave it to a novice to think field trips would be easier than teaching. They and others like them are the reason we cannot get a grip on the achievement gap.

Let Margo and the other teacher bashers explain how private schools with teachers having far less qualifications still manage to have students that score so high. According to their teacher quality theory, they should be unable to do so. Gee, I wonder if the cause could be something else unrelated to teaching.

"I once knew a nurse who summed up accident prevention efforts by noting, "people do stupid things when they are tired or angry." These are the facts that the Margos and Kati Haycocks use to make their arguments............ God help us!

It's always hard to tell if Mr. Xavier is actually desiring back-up research. However, here's a go at it just in case. Here are a few scholarly articles dealing with teacher effect and variations in teacher quality. The indications are that the current "highly qualified" criteria don't really touch defining who is and is not qualified. (In fact, until all those who were "grandfathered" in various ways, they won't even guarantee that "highly qualified" means having a degree in the field in which one is teaching--that is my own observation from reading highly qualified criteria in my own and other states).

Ringstaff and Standholz examine the effects of out of field teaching, and point up additional factors that have a greater impact on the efficacy of first year teachers. Olsen and Kirtman deal with teacher effect in reform settings, pointing out that the "teacher is a teacher is a teacher" mentality overlooks a powerful indicator of how reforms are carried out.

Gordon, Kane and Staiger--recently alluded to by Columnist Bob Hebert, echo the findings that certification is a very poor indicator of teacher quality, yet the only one in primary use. They also underline the power of teacher effect and substantiate more effective indicators, with policy recommendations for their use.

Sorry that I cannot respond to the assumptions about my personal qualifications by providing a CV, but I still have children in public school that I have to be concerned about. However, I am well acclimated to not only urban classrooms, but also urban neighborhoods, urban residents, urban households and urban children.

Happy reading.

References:

Ringstaff, C. & Standholz, J., Out of field assignments: Case studies of two beginning teachers. Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 4, 2002, p. 812-841
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10894, Date Accessed: 10/3/2007.

Olsen, B. & Kirtman, L. Teacher as mediator of reform: An examination of teacher practice in 36 California restructuring schools. Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 2, 2002, p. 301-324 http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10829, Date Accessed: 10/3/2007.

Gordon, R., Kane, T. J. & Staiger, D. O., Identifying effective teachers using performance on the job, The Hamilton Project. Policy Brief 2006-1, April, 2006. http://www3.brookings.edu/views/papers/200604hamilton_1_pb.pdf, Date Accessed: 10/3/2007.

It's always hard to know if Mr. Xavier really wants to know about research. But, there are scholarly works on teacher effect. Ringstaff and Standholz, for instance examined out of field placement in first year teachers. They observed substantial differences not only between the approaches of two teachers, but also the amounts of support available from the schools where they taught (as in the new guy gets five preps). Both of these outweighed the certification issues, but underlined differing teacher effect. (This did not add up to either one of them being stupid, yet one set of classes was exposed to a much richer curriculum).

Olsen and Kirtman looked at teacher effect in the implementation of school reforms. They cite experience, expertise, assumptions about learning, and the point at which a teacher is in their career cycle among teacher variables that account for their ability to faithfuly or successfully implement reforms.

Last, because Bob Hebert has just referred to it in his column and it is getting some other consideration, I offer the work of Gordon, Kane and Staiger. In their work they have found certification (the common denominator in determining "highly qualified" in most state equations) to be a very unreliable indicator of classroom performance. They recommend that certification be used only as a "gatekeeper," criteria with increased evaluation--especially during a teacher's initial years as a means of ensuring quality.

Happy reading!

References:

Gordon, R., Kane, T. J. & Staiger, D. O., Identifying effective teachers using performance on the job, The Hamilton Project. Policy Brief 2006-1, April, 2006.

Olsen, B. & Kirtman, L. Teacher as mediator of reform: An examination of teacher practice in 36 California restructuring schools. Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 2, 2002, p. 301-324.

Ringstaff, C. & Standholz, J., Out of field assignments: Case studies of two beginning teachers. Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 4, 2002, p. 812-841.

In response to Mom Margo's uncertainty about if I want to know about research, the answer is yes. Exponentially more important, though, are my 20 years of teaching in a large urban public school district. With that, let's review some of Margo's "research".

1) "A study in California- sorry I cannot locate the citation- revealed that school factors outweighed parent factors in determining success in a comparison of low income, high minority schools". Ok, now I know I'm getting paid way too little. This is just an incredible statement and, no doubt, the reason no one wants to put their name to it.

2) "I believe there was a county in Tennessee(her specificity is uncanny) that was able to bring about improvement in low scoring schools". Well, not that I know much about research, but the name of the county was Hamilton. They were awarded millions and millions of dollars to turn around the achievement scores of their lowest scoring eight schools. Some different teachers were brought in based upon a statistical model claiming them to be "highly qualified". The hope was, of course, to show that it was the lack of teacher quality that was keeping these children down. Things didn't turn out quite the way they had anticipated. Five years later, seven of the eight lowest performing schools were, still, the lowest performing schools.

3) "Numerous studies have looked at such things as teacher experience- we know there is a large difference between teachers in their first and fifth years". Well, the difference is four. I don't know if I would call that large, though. Anyway, new rule: No school, be it public, private or charter, is allowed to hire teachers unless they have at least five years of experience. Where said teachers are to acquire that experience is, as of this time, unknown.

So, here's a question I do want to know the answer to. In fact, I have asked it a couple of times already. Margo, how do private elementary schools(catholic schools) consistently and repeatedly score higher than urban public schools even though their teachers were(are) less qualified and less experienced?

I am so looking forward to your response.

Mr. Xavier--in order to answer your question "how do private elementary schools(catholic schools) consistently and repeatedly score higher than urban public schools even though their teachers were(are) less qualified and less experienced?" perhaps you would be so kind as to offer a citation that indicats that private elementary schools consistently and repeatedly score higher than urban public schools even though their teachers are less qualified and less experienced.

I am not familiar with that research.

Ok, my bad. I assumed, incorrectly it seems, that when Mom Margo wrote of the poor qualities of teachers that she was referring to all teachers, not just a single group in a certain location. None-the-less, I find it incredible that anyone following the issues of education in this country today would not know that private schools have been performing better than our public schools in urban areas. Try a google search. Try looking at high school graduation rates, college scholarships, national merit scholars, college graduates, NAEP scores, etc.

I am equally amazed that she was not aware of the fact that private schools are much more likely to have uncertified teachers, less experienced teachers, teachers teaching out-of-field(though that's a red herring) and other such teacher characteristics. One should not feel bad, though. There are many others who are equally ignorant of these facts. The Education Trust comes to mind first. If I had a dollar every time some individual or organization tried to fault low school scores on the teaching characteristics of urban public school teachers I'd be a rich man. Anyway, try starting with the National Center for Education Statistics(NCES). From there you might try Common Core of Data and then the Schools and Staffing Survey.

None of this data or all the research in the world will do anyone any good if we cannot use our brains to think and reason correctly. We must be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. We have to be able to know that when someone tries to tell us that teachers are more important than a child's upbringing, we're being sold a bill of goods and that there is probably some ideological reason behind such a statement.

"By doubting we come to inquiry; and through inquiry we perceive truth." Peter Abelard. Sounds good to me.

If those making the decisions truly wanted experienced teachers, they would give schools the money to hire those with the experience.
I have 21 years of experience with the NYC DOE. For 2 years I was a literacy coach. But I have been excessed twice in the past year! The first time it took me from June 06 till Feb. 07 to find a position. Four months into this position, the DOE closes 4 schools, including the one I was in.
There are hundreds of us, with experience, acting as full-time subs in various schools. There is no incentive for the principals to hire us. The districts pay our salaries as long as we teach a max. of 2 classes. This makes it fiscally responsible for the principals to leave us as ATR's (attendance teacher reserves).
I do not think that a teacher already in a school should give up his or her spot for me. I think that from June through September, no principal should be able to hire any new teacher before interviewing all ATR's who wish to apply for the position. I have contacted more than a dozen HS schools that advertised ESL positions. One gave me an interview, but had their ESL enrollment drop. The other 16 or so told me that the job was already filled. These are schools I contacted within a week of the posting.
NCLB in NYC has become a union-busting tactic. Klein has stated to the press that he wants us to be fired after 18 months as ATR's. Until we create schools where teachers, parents and principals work as equal partners, we will never fix the education system.
Sometimes I feel like beating my chest and screaming at the top of my lungs, "I AM A GOOD TEACHER." But then, this is about the privatization of public schools. Nobody in power cares who can teach and who cannot. Those in power want the schools to fail so they can be closed and reopened as small boutique schools with corporate sponsorship.
I guess then, NCLB is succeeding! (The C stands for Corporation, not child)

NCES did commission a comparison of public and private schools using NAEP data and Hierarchical Linear Modelling to attempt to account for population differences. While not conclusive with regard to causality, their data tended to be dismissive of the advantage of private schools.

Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government countered by questioning whether the model utilized the correct variables in their model--for example questioning whether participation in government entitlement programs, such as free lunch or Title I was an adequate proxy for socio-economic status (over-reported in public schools due to some schools qualifying on census data rather than individual family income; underreported in private schools due to inability to receive Title I funds).

Overall that set of research remains inconclusive. There are other studies, for example comparison of urban students in voucher programs in Cleveland and Milwaukee. Again, due to the difficulty of accounting for the selection/choice factor as well as to measure student growth as opposed to point in time achievment it is difficult to come to hard conclusions. I believe that the last study I heard from Cleveland showed no advantage to the private schools. From Milwaukee, I have heard both, although, as I said, I am not really familiar with the research. In any case, I have not yet seen anything to support a resounding conclusion that private (or charter) schools are either superior or inferior to public schools.

But on a practical note, schools can bemoan the conditions of the world, or they can work on reforming those things within their control. Teacher quality is within the influence of schools. To those, like NTLB, who want to shout to the world that they are a good teacher, can you honestly say that every teacher in your building is as good as you are? Can you say that you have always been as good as you are today? Does every building have the same percentage of good teachers? Are you the best that you can ever hope to be?

I can't defend anything happening in NYC, but I will continue to say that until NCLB required testing that could provide some apples to apples comparisons, what I saw was everyone thinking that they were really doing a pretty good job based on whatever measures they chose. That's just not good enough.

First of all, the Harvard paper does not contradict the facts of the NCES paper which states that private schools score higher than public schools in both reading and math. These facts are not only incontrovertible but the two papers actually corroborate one another on this point. Ms. Margo should try reading the papers once again, this time more slowly. Secondly, no one ever stated that "private schools are either superior or inferior to public schools" as Margo recently wrote. What I wanted to know(and what I still want to know) is how private schools consistently score higher than public schools but with less qualified teachers. It kind of throws a wrench in that whole "teachers matter most/ teacher qualification thing". As to the voucher argument, which was included for some unknown reason, I agree with Margo that they are unproductive. They are another example of the flaws in the teacher qualification argument. Not only that, but the vast majority of vouchers are going to children who are already successful in school. Finally, I find it interesting that Margo claims that the NCES report was "dismissive of the advantages of private schools". Really? And just what are those advantages of private schools, Margo?

I believe that the advantages of private schools that you defined were that "private schools with teachers having far less qualifications still manage to have students that score so high."

In response to Margo and Michael's interest in how private schools do so much better on testing let me offer a few reasons:

1) Private schools normally charge tuition. This makes the parents sit up and take notice of what their child is learning. Most private schools depend on parents to volunteer, participate in fund-raising and do other various things to keep the school afloat.

2)Private school teachers may or may not be teaching in their field, or may or may not have advanced degrees. WHEN HAS A PIECE OF PAPER MADE SOMEONE A GOOD TEACHER???

3) Private school teachers often look at their work as a calling and are willing to work long hours for very little pay.

4) Private schools are able to be selective about their students. If a student is trouble OUT, if a student isn't able to keep up (and normally the schools bend over backward to make it happen) the student is asked to leave.

Look--I'm a mom of three and a teacher. I teach for a private agency that provides services to a local urban district. I live in that district. I'd die first if my kids had to attend those schools. Each of my kids are in private schools that eats up nearly 1/3 of my salary.
Public schools are in trouble. It has nothing to do with charter schools, private schools, but everything to do with poor parenting and students who come to school not ready to learn. Teachers can only do so much. But often teachers are not doing enough. So the blame falls on both...teachers and parents.

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