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Spellings Declares, "We've Waited Long Enough"

Publication Date: 2006-04-12

During a rare break between CBN fund-raising segments, Sec. Spellings took a few moments out of her busy schedule of threats, castigation, and ultimatums to sit down and chat with Mrs. Charbonneau--and to throw this big chunk of red meat to the basest of the base.


Comments from Annie:

I found the reference to this article on Jim Horn's blogsite . His emphasis is on the privatization message, as so it should be. My own reaction, is to the campaign of misguidance for Advanced Placement.

For openers, please translate the following quote: "If we?re going to continue to create that next generation of jobs ? jobs that we wouldn't even know what they are today ? we have to have students prepared in these key areas." --Spellings. (No, I couldn't either!!!)

The following interview offers a rhetorical shower of praise for College Board's Advanced Placement courses, misrepresented here as more than the scripted, shallow, guided, test-based, controlled curriculum that it truly is, and hallmarked erroneously as a program that trains the teachers to do more than follow a guided curriculum of questionable academic value.

The fact is, ambitious students and their teachers are bored, disappointed by the classes, and resent the growing lack of any other course options with the recent explosion of Advanced Placement courses. The classes are test-preparation mills, the subject areas are shallowly "taught" in a race with time to cover the breadth of material at a fast pace to meet the test deadlines. The bulk of teaching is focused on testing skills such as how to "master" a multiple choice test with hidden "trick" answers, or how to "master" brief 5-paragraph essays using generic information to appear masterful and informed.

The reality is that the teachers have little time to encourage analysis, less time to make any of the information meaningful or relevant, and no time for the increasing numbers of students who have no foundation or little preparation for the amount of memorization and self-directed reading they are required to do in these classes.

In foreign language classes, the upper level classes, once opportunities for advanced students to participate in advanced analysis and discussions in foreign languages, are now skills classes in English to "learn" to take the test.

In "advanced" science and math classes, the teachers are given a prescribed order and pace to follow which does not include any time for questions, or assimilation, and has to ignore students who might learn the subject given the time to process or review the information. Social Studies classes, such as European History, translate as a brutal, fast-paced, memorization-marathon of dates, thoughts, names and periods in history, even given the College Board warning that it should not be taught in this manner. The warning looks nice enough but the fact remains that the point of the class is memorization for the ultimate exam.

Other similar ?guidelines? on the College Board site recommend that a teacher be relieved of other associated duties and responsibilities during the school year to accommodate the extensive reading the teacher should do in preparation for such a class. Appearance wise, this looks great, but the reality, as teachers know, is far from this almost comical piece of guidance.

The marketing for the product, sadly, just does not accurately represent the product. And, in the face of AP expansion, supported heavily by NCLB, the flaws are magnified and expanded.

If you believe that these "advanced" classes are truly advanced, why are assigned research or analytical papers glaringly missing from these "college level" courses? How does a test-prep. course supply an ?advanced? foreign language class experience?

Don't believe for a minute that the workshop "training" the College Board provides substitutes for a teacher trained and educated at a University, who has had the opportunity to study a broad range of academic topics, has been trained in various methods and principles of pedagogy, and who has a special area of academic interest and expertise.

The problem is, there is no place for such a teacher anymore.


The following is commentary (used with permission) from Jim Horn?s blog site which can be found at: http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/

Monday, April 10, 2006
Spellings Declares, "We've Waited Long Enough"

During a rare break between CBN fund-raising segments, Sec. Spellings took a few moments out of her busy schedule of threats, castigation, and ultimatums to sit down and chat with Mrs. Charbonneau--and to throw this big chunk of red meat to the basest of the base. Here's a clip that will mark the day that part of the truth leaked out:

Without No Child Left Behind and the truth in advertising we now have because of this law, parents are now armed with more information about what the quality of their schools are -- and when there are problems, what the specific problems are. Are they failing African- American kids in math, or is it Hispanic kids in reading? Is it special education? What are the specifics of the needs of schools? And parents can use that information to either exercise their options or not.

But this is one thing that I really intend to work more vigorously on this year, because we are discovering that the take-up of people who have these options available to them, either don?t know about them, haven?t been informed about them, or, in the example you used, simply can?t exercise them because there are not effective schools in a convenient way for families to access.

So, what are some of the ways to get around that? Charter schools, the Choice Incentive Fund. That?s either a way to extend supplemental services into a more adequate funding stream, or private school vouchers. We have put No Child Left Behind in place. We?ve given states now five or six years, school districts five or six years, to implement this. And accountability is meaningless if there?s not a day of reckoning. How long must parents wait to have quality education for their students? And I would suggest we?ve waited long enough.


Finally realizing that Americans see through the lies about using No Child Left Behind to improve public education, the fallback position ends up as, what else, full steam ahead. No more pretenses, damn the torpedoes, and pass me a prayer cloth--let's put this boat on the ground.

More adequate funding streams, indeed.


Commentary

interview
Exclusive CBN News Interview with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings
CBN News



CBNNews.com ? White House Correspondent Melissa Charbonneau recently talked one-on-one with Secretary Spellings on efforts to boost America?s failing math and science scores.

MELISSA CHARBONNEAU: You?ve mentioned reports that American kids would rather take out the garbage or go to the dentist than do their math or science homework. What?s happening with America?s students? How big is the scope of this program, compared to other developing nations?

MARGARET SPELLINGS: Well, it?s very serious. We rank towards the bottom in developing nations in how well-prepared our students are. And only about half of the minority students in this country get out of high school on time. Most of the students who are coming out of high school are not prepared to be successful either in the workplace or in higher education. So we have a big problem, and a big gap. This is at a time when 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs require math and science skills. Every single day in this country, jobs go without being filled because we don?t have qualified Americans that can take them.

CHARBONNEAU: Are we talking about elementary school students or high schoolers?

SPELLINGS: Really, it?s across the board. One of the things we know is that our elementary school curricula need to have more higher-order thinking skills embedded in them. Fractions, number line - things that really are precursors to being able to do more rigorous work in middle school and high school. Less repetition, less computation over and over.

Likewise, in our high schools, we need to raise the bar. We need to have more advanced placement courses, more rigors in our high schools, more challenging coursework, because they?re bored in high school, and they don?t see the relevance or the importance of why they should be studying these things. So I think it?s both of those things.

But if we?re going to continue to lead the world as the world?s innovator, we need to make sure our middle and elementary coursework starts to seed some of the higher-order thinking skills, to allow them to take more challenging coursework in high school. So we have work on both fronts. In high schools, only 40 percent of schools offer advanced placement. And we don?t have enough coursework that?s rigorous, that?s challenging, that kids see the value in, and that is so much needed in the workplace and in college.

CHARBONNEAU: Get more into that. Why does this matter? Some say, so what? Who?s affected by it in the real world?

SPELLINGS: Well, we know, from the private sector, from the business community, that the jobs that are the fast growing jobs, the innovation economy, is going to be driven by people who have skills in math and science. Yes, we are a nation of creative thinkers. We already do that well, and that?s good. We need to keep on doing that.

But we need people who have strength in math and science, and we?re really falling behind, especially in our middle and high schools on that front. If we?re going to continue to create that next generation of jobs ? jobs that we wouldn?t even know what they are today ? we have to have students prepared in these key areas.

CHARBONNEAU: You talked about that in your testimony before Congress, but you also mentioned the national security concern.

SPELLINGS: Absolutely, the Defense Department, our military, the scientists that work in the government at NASA, or the National Institutes of Health, people who are working to cure the Avian Flu ? those are skills that obviously are rooted in the sciences. Homeland security ? all of those sorts of issues. And it?s critical, for not only the economic security, but the civic, democratic security, as well as our homeland security.

CHARBONNEAU: The President spoke directly to this in the State of the Union address and announced his new initiatives. Tell me about that. What?s the broad goal?

SPELLINGS: Well, the goal is to get more rigorous coursework, more teachers, and more students who have capabilities in these areas. And the way we?re going to do that is to beef up the curriculum in middle and elementary schools, train more teachers. And also, the President has called for 30,000 adjunct teachers. Let?s get some resources from the community broadly into our schools.

Why can?t a NASA scientist teach in our schools? Why can?t an agriculture extension agent bring that expertise, that real-world relevance into our classrooms? So the President has called for us to gain that kind of expertise, to make sure those people have the skills necessary to be effective teachers.

As we say in Texas, if all you ever do is all you?ve ever done, all you?ll ever get is all you ever got. And what we?ve always done is not going to be adequate to be the world?s leader.

CHARBONNEAU: How will it funded? Is it under the federal budget, or is it going to fall on the local schools, who don?t have the money to do it?

SPELLINGS: No, the President has called for $380 million to support this program for adjunct teachers, for advanced placement training, and for reforms in middle and elementary schools.

We already know that the private sector is very supportive of this initiative. I look for them to be partners and funding partners. But states have already bought into programs like advanced placement, so these are not unfamiliar reforms for them.

It?s important that we at the federal level highlight the need for this and partner with them so we can expand these programs, especially in our inner cities and rural areas.

CHARBONNEAU: The principal of a Seattle, Washington school, who brought her school?s scores up from the 30s to the 80s over an eight-year period, told me it is all about the teachers. We?ve talked about the teacher standards, and how with higher standards under No Child Left Behind, teachers are no longer qualified who used to teach these classes. What are you going to do to re-tool and what do they need to train themselves to get ready?

SPELLINGS: Well, a couple of things. First, let me talk about the adjunct teacher notion. We need to get folks with content expertise, math and science, into our classrooms.

We all know you can?t teach what you don?t know, and that is why content is so important. And how are we going to get people with that sort of expertise and make them teachers? There are lots of people, especially as baby boomers age, who want to make a contribution to their schools. Let?s help them find a way do that.

Secondly, the advanced placement expansion program is a way for us to get teachers who, many times, not at their suggestion or preference, are teaching out of their field. A social studies teacher who?s struggling to teach an algebra class. Let?s get teacher training to them around advanced placement models or other models, so they can be more comfortable or effective and more skilled teachers. And that?s what the President has called for in his State of the Union.

CHARBONNEAU: It sounds like a long-term plan. You?re not going to train these teachers overnight. Could you get this done before the end of this term?

SPELLINGS: We believe the Presidents has said we can get 70,000 new teachers trained in about five years. Using these models of high standards, teacher training that is already developed by the College Board, which has this content knowledge that is so critical to our classrooms.

CHARBONNEAU: A lot of people are on board with competition and forcing schools to be better on their own, and some see school choice as the way to do that. What are you doing about the problems in many schools -- California, where there are not enough schools, where you have students who are eligible to transfer to better schools, but there are no schools for them to go to, no slots. How are you getting around that?

SPELLINGS: Without No Child Left Behind and the truth in advertising we now have because of this law, parents are now armed with more information about what the quality of their schools are -- and when there are problems, what the specific problems are. Are they failing African- American kids in math, or is it Hispanic kids in reading? Is it special education? What are the specifics of the needs of schools? And parents can use that information to either exercise their options or not.

But this is one thing that I really intend to work more vigorously on this year, because we are discovering that the take-up of people who have these options available to them, either don?t know about them, haven?t been informed about them, or, in the example you used, simply can?t exercise them because there are not effective schools in a convenient way for families to access.

So, what are some of the ways to get around that? Charter schools, the Choice Incentive Fund.

That?s either a way to extend supplemental services into a more adequate funding stream, or private school vouchers. We have put No Child Left Behind in place. We?ve given states now five or six years, school districts five or six years, to implement this.

And accountability is meaningless teachers are no longer qualified who used to teach these classes. What are you going to do to re-tool and what do they need to train themselves to get ready?

CHARBONNEAU: Two school-choice advocacy groups in California are suing because the school districts have not done enough to inform them. Do you support that kind of legal effort?

SPELLINGS: Well, I obviously can?t comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation, but anything we can do at the federal level, state level, local level, private state local level, to expand parents options, I?m for.

CHARBONNEAU: And what about school choice, and expanding the voucher idea to private schools?

SPELLINGS: Well, the one thing I know, having served at the state level, is that he who has the gold makes the rules. And states and localities are the primary funders of our schools. And really, the voucher debate -- in its truest form and richest form -- is more appropriate for state and local levels.

However, the President has called for $100 million to seed efforts that local districts or state governments might want to engage in, as a partner for them, particularly when it?s tied to accountability.

When schools don?t work effectively for students, what happens next? And that?s the core element of the Choice Incentive Fund that he?s called for in his budget this year.

CHARBONNEAU: Is there resistance you?re running into in Congress, or at the local level, and what do you plan to do to overcome some of that?

SPELLINGS: Well, I think the Congress knows we have the No Child Left Behind law, with respect to supplemental services and public school choice transfer, has been a little bit of an unfulfilled promise. And I think they share my passion and belief that we need to do a better job of living out that promise for parents who need those options.

Whether the particular solution is charter schools, or vouchers, or additional services and tutoring, that I think remains to be seen. Those are all part of the mix. But I think there?s general agreement that we need to do more, we need to do better.

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/commentary/060410a.asp




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