A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

March 16, 2007

NCLB Being Challenged In Congress

Ran across this in Red State and it seems that some GOP lawmakers are unhappy about the progress being made by NCLB.  This is the case, even though most states are reporting improvement in scores, and particuarly improvements made by those subgroups, poor, rural, inner-city, and minority children, who benefit most from this policy.  This is shameful, as is the history in recent years concerning the method which public schools are financed, and the way that children are effected. 

First of all I want to keep this brief, so maybe a regular segment about public education is needed, however, what the law states is important.  Every child is entitled by statute to a tuition free, education that is borne at the taxpayer’s expense.  That is the law, and its precedent dates to 1647 in the Americas.  So, those of you don’t like the concept, too bad.  Over 350 years of precedent and public policy have an invalidating effect upon your opining

While there are needs to address NCLB, issues which have not been adequately addressed by the state of local authorities for many years, which deal with equity and student achievement are at least broached by NCLB. One of the worst practices currently left in place by Title I because, in most urban districts a systematic bias is built into district allocation legislation. This bias supports disproportionate funding for schools in the more affluent neighborhoods.  NCLB is justly attempting to remedy this bias.  In candor, NCLB probably doesn’t go far enough, towards the goal of improved student achievement and equity which are both laudable goals from any side of the political perspective.

Many would say that NCLB is a series of unfunded mandates. A countering argument can be made, that the federal government stepped into an area that should have been addressed and funded by the states a long time ago. Consider that if the problems associated with the education of inner-city poor and minority children were typical of the affluent, predominately white suburbs, one can only imagine how quickly the issues regarding equity in education would have been addressed. The inferred message that American policies sent was, as long as the white, affluent, and middle class children of the suburbs are performing well, education is fine. Poor children, particularly those of color, do not count in the evaluation of school performance. Those that would refute this supposition should take a look at the lack of a coherent and cohesive policy prior to NCLB to address equity in education; look hard, none existed.

More to follow in the future.  NCLB is a combination of ethics, social equity, and a legitimate interest of the Federal Government, when the state either would not or could not handle the ball.



  1. One strategy for reporting higher scores and improve AYP as required by NCLB is to mess with the statewide assessment. In Illinois, where I live, the Illinois State Board of Education revised the state assessment, the ISAT, that serves as the state assessment for AYP. Oh my, scores rocketed although it took the ISBE almost a full year to report those scores to the public. Suddenly in Illinois far fewer schools are on the watch list, are performing below standards. It is some kind of miracle.

    Comment by Roger — March 16, 2007 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

  2. That to me is one of the flaws of NCLB. In the long run, standards that are truly standard would be welcome. Most states have the same lingo with regard to performance indicators, so why not go with a nationalized test rather than having 50 sets of rules. It was probably a compromise to bring GOP lawmakers into the fold, but I don’t see how having an ELA test that is the same throughout the country is an affront to our American life.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 16, 2007 @ 9:18 pm | Reply

  3. I have a different perspective on NCLB. My wife is a teacher. She teaches middle school special ed. In SC, AYP is based on PACT (Palmetto Aptitude something-or-another), a state mandated test. Her kids are being tested on grade level. There’s no way they will pass the PACT and in many cases, won’t show progress. Right now, she has both Emotionally and Educably Handicapped (if those are the right words – she’s the teacher not me). Testing these kids the same was as “regular” ed kids isn’t quite fair.

    I understand that one year in Texas they exempted special ed kids from the testing. The number of special ed kids doubled. Teachers were moving kids in to special ed to avoid having them tested.

    So where’s the understanding? How should the progress be measured? I don’t know.

    P.S. I believe that SC mandates special ed kids be tested and that other states may implement NCLB differently. I also believe that NCLB is simply Goals 2000 (a democratic program) known by a new name.

    Comment by Randy — March 16, 2007 @ 9:40 pm | Reply

  4. After following your links, I found this Pete Hoekstra quote:

    “President Bush and I just see education fundamentally differently,” said Hoekstra, a longtime opponent of the law. “The president believes in empowering bureaucrats in Washington, and I believe in local and parental control.”

    I think this is blatantly unfair to President Bush. He, as you indicated, took a decisive step to hold the teachers and administrators responsible – because no one else was doing it.

    Hoekstra’s website emphasizes his desire to “…encourage parents to become more involved in the education of their children, return to basic academics and ensure we have qualified teachers in the classroom.”

    Wouldn’t that be every taxpayers dream. I’d like to think that parents want this also.

    At the start of NCLB, Ted Kennedy received his reward from Bush, took the free “face” time and has worked against everything NCLB stood for – even though he said at the time: “This is a defining issue about the future of our nation and about the future of democracy, the future of liberty, and the future of the United States in leading the free world,” the legislative icon had proclaimed on the Senate floor. “No piece of legislation will have a greater impact or influence on that.”

    Now Kennedy has another plan to do it his way – Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid. I sure would want that pair to educate my child!

    As to Randy’s comment above, these testing maneuvers are despicable and there are obviously “agreements” between teachers and administrators and, I would think, parents, to get children moved into Special Ed classes when they do not belong there (and I am certainly not indicating that Randy’s wife is implicated – she is obviously concerned about it). Where are the parents? Most of us will not want our children in Spec Ed unless they need to be there.

    Maggie M. Thornton
    Maggie’s Notebook

    Comment by Maggie M. Thornton — March 16, 2007 @ 10:38 pm | Reply

  5. Randy,
    I’ve been doing a good deal of research on the formation of NCLB, and it is strongly linked to the Governor’s conferences under President’s Bush (41) and Preseident Clinton. It mostly came out of those policies, and it is true that many of the formers of the legislation, Sen. Kennedy of course sponsored the bill, were Democratic.

    What you speak of with Sp. Ed children is an issue. However, the way states had typically accounted for these children learning is to ignore. The same was done with other subgroups. One of the methods that many in research are calling for change is that individual results be accounted for very much in the same way the aggregate results are formulated, by a value added measurement. Basically, it would take where the child is at a point, and to see if progress is being made in that child, similar to schools which find themselves in trouble have to meet certain benchmarks called AYP.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 17, 2007 @ 4:04 am | Reply

  6. Maggie,
    There are very important steps that parents can do to be involved in the school, and NCLB doesn’t change that importance. As a matter of fact, much in the Federal legislation calls for improvment in cooperation between schools and local communities.

    A rising trend in schools is to see themselves as Learning Communities, and many in the leadership field are expressing the need for stronger collaboration among all the stakeholders in this learning community.

    There is no question that NCLB is a directive approach by government towards learning, but one must consider the total lack of strategies for schools in poorer centers prior to this move. The way Title I is administered, particularly via block grants is not typically effective as administrators often pump money into schools that don’t need the funding as much as poorer schools in a district, to make “showboat” schools.

    The largest threat to NCLB, and oddly this is from the National Education Trust, hardly a part of the “Right Wing Conspiracy” is softening of the expectations of the legislation. Schools need to produce effective results.

    Consider some statements by those opposed to NCLB:
    “I have difficulty with the standards because they’re so unattainable for so many of our students . . . We just don’t have the same kids they have on Long Island or Orchard Park.” (Superintendent, Buffalo Schools; The Buffalo News, October 21, 2002).

    If a school has five subgroups (of students) and four do well, but one fails, the entire school is a failure. We don’t think that’s fair.” (Reg Weaver, President of the NEA, Whittier Daily News, 5/24/03).

    Ask yourself:
    What this says
    to parents – about whose kids matter.

    to students – about how much the educators who lead them think they can learn.

    to teachers – about whether they should even try

    Ask Yourself:
    What would happen if it was your child that was being generalized by such statements.

    What would happen if this attitude prevailed among affluent, suburban schools that teach non-minority students.

    You know what would happen.

    At Least NCLB:
    Requires states to compile data in a disaggregated manner to allow an understanding of various impacts, such as social setting, economic diversity, racial composition, and other factors have upon student achievement

    Promotes equity to the schools which are in most in need.

    And these things:
    Were often done in affluent schools of the suburbs, that catered to non-minority students.

    Should have been done by the states for all students, regardless of wealth and ethnicity.

    Positively impact upon the de facto segregation of America’s schools

    Remember….I’m not hard right, hardly, I am very Centrist.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 17, 2007 @ 4:14 am | Reply

  7. Maggie,
    Just for clarity for everyone, SC does not allow “exempting” special ed students from these measurements, so even if my wife wanted to, she couldn’t participate in these testing maneuvers. I know you didn’t think that (you even went out of your way to say so), but want to make sure other readers see that too.

    As parent of 3 public school students (2 graduated, 1 in 11th grade, 1 of the first two continued for her BS degree and now getting MBA), I have been involved in schools for close to 20 years. One thing I have noticed was that the “good” schools have bad teachers and the “bad” schools have good teachers. Parental involvement can help, but can’t overcome a bad teacher. I’m not sure how you measure progress on a wide basis. I think some degree of parental education is required, but frankly I’m not sure I trust the “establishment” to do that. To paraphrase Tip O’Neil, all education is local. I need to worry about my brood and be actively involved.

    Comment by Randy — March 17, 2007 @ 11:53 am | Reply

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