Commission Gains Parental and Grassroots Perspective on NCLB (with commentary)
Comments from Annie: I alternate comments with the commission press release I received by e-mail today.
Although I attended this meeting yesterday in Washington with my two daughters, I think you will see that the marketing specialist who composed this press release and I were focused on separate rings during the circus…or something….
My comments are in red.
Commission Gains Parental and Grassroots
Perspectives on NCLB
Most Parents Agree with Accountability but Law Still Has Shortcomings
Washington, DC- Yesterday the Commission began a series of in depth roundtables in an effort to gain a more extensive and thorough understanding of key issues in the debate over the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
The first roundtable focused on parental and grassroots perspectives on NCLB. The Commission heard from a spirited panel that gave their personal and professional opinions on how NCLB is working for parents and children and providing useful information to the public on how schools are performing.
The conversation was by no means “in depth.” In fact, the conversation was not even a “roundtable.” It was simply a presentation of bibliographical information by the commission members, followed by a speech prepared by each of 5 panelists.
Although the Aspen Institute says that discussions were focused on parents and grassroots’ perspective, not a one was invited to participate in the pre-rehearsed dialogue.
The panelists were overwhelmingly in support of NCLB, but had prepared minor, seemingly incidental, “revisions” to suggest.
No time was allotted, as was promised, to any questions or comments outside of these sound bites.
At the end of the panelists speeches, the commissioners were given time to ask questions. The questions were generally of a quality that wasted precious time and bored the audience who left during their low energy, shallow responses.
“We want to know whether parents believe that NCLB has lived up to the promises made when it first passed and whether NCLB is working to improve their children’s education,” said Commissioner James Pughsley, who chaired the roundtable.
If James Pughsley or the commission really had an interest in what the parents believe, he made absolutely no substantial attempt to find it out.
The Commission heard from a diverse group of individuals representing parents, community based organizations and organizations who work directly with parents on educational issues.
The comments of the participants touched upon all aspects of NCLB, including its accountability and teacher quality provisions, as well as how the law has impacted parental involvement and communication with parents.
“Parents support the goals of the law, including accountability,” said Wendy Puriefoy, President, Public Education Network. “But parents also do not believe a single test should be used to determine if a school if failing.”
Of the panelists, there was absolutely no evidence presented that indicated that they attempted to ascertain the direct input of groups of parents for the purposes of this discussion.
When the commission reports that the discussion touched on all aspects of NCLB, they surely prove their limited scope and breadth of knowledge, then, of the issues which cover the many effects of the NCLB act. They did touch, and I mean touch lightly upon several aspects. Primarily, they complained about parents not participating.
When they spoke for the parents, I imagined they created a hypothetical parent and drew this character into whatever role they needed to support their speech.
Beginning with the statement” parents support accountability” and continuing with the statement that “parents do not support a single test as measurement of a school’s progress” I wondered who that savvy parent might be who has the ability to process “accountability” (whatever that means) as well as AYP and standards, but at the same time be the parents who also were described as not receiving information about NCLB, or their school’s policy, or outcomes of forced compliance with NCLB.
The panel also included Ronald E. Jackson, Executive Director, Citizens for Better Schools Birmingham, Alabama, who discussed the need for parents to be more empowered in knowing that they do not have to settle for low quality schools.
He also discussed the need for school districts to fully utilize the funds they receive for supplemental educational services and public school choice.
The rhetorical content of this speech was nearly schizophrenic. Just like the previous speaker, this individual argued in support of NCLB and focused on the “poor.” Everyone in this private group seemed to agree that “poor” is another way to say “black.”
He argued in support of school choice and also fussed about SES use as if he had not read a single article on the questionable quality of these services. He certainly did not fret about the millions of dollars funneled away from the classrooms within this practice.
And ultimately, again, it sounded as if he blamed the lack of awareness on the parents, ignoring the problems they might have for transportation, or time, or safety, or (on my daughter’s mind,) the fact that there are other children with needs in a given family. If that is a run-on sentence, I want you to know that there is more where that came from....
Charles “Chuck” Saylors, Secretary-Treasurer of National Parent Teacher Association, briefed the Commission on several recommendations that his organization has compiled on NCLB.
The PTA recommends not using one test to evaluate students, making information provided to parents more understandable and ensuring that NCLB dos not shrink the curriculum.
He also went on to point out the need for better parental involvement strategies and requirements and a better system of rewards and sanctions for schools.
Barbara Davidson with Standards Works in Washington, DC, discussed the fact that many low income families do not fully understand NCLB and their rights within the law.
Efforts to ensure better information for parents work best when coming through schools, but such a delivery mechanism can also create barriers to effective communication with parents.
Again, the parents….Look for this issue to be part of the revisions recommended by this group. It is obvious that this commission wants to lock in NCLB, with perhaps a token recommendation that parents who don’t follow through on endorsed policies like SES and school transfer options be punished.
Cherie Takemoto, Executive Director of the Parent Education Advocacy Training Center in Springfield, Virginia, called for a greater focus on children with disabilities. She mentioned several instances in which students with disabilities were seen as having a negative impact on the test scores of schools and how they were treated as a result.
There seemed to be some hope here at first but it quickly became clear that this individual had an agenda too. Her idea was to use the punitive policies against schools failing AYP to remove the disabled and special needs child to a program designed for their better care.
Her idea, then, was to manipulate the statistics in a manner that improved the odds of the entire school for being successful at the current measurement of AYP and use greater funds for the special populations.
She had no concerns at all for what may have been destroyed for the “normal” or "standard" or above-level child under the policies of NCLB.
The Commission will continue its summer roundtable series on Wednesday, June 28th with a discussion on the impact of NCLB on rural schools.
This roundtable will focus on the challenges rural schools are facing in ensuring teachers are highly qualified.
Additionally, the roundtable will examine how accountability and testing work in small, rural schools and how public school choice and supplemental services are being provided.
Welcome to the world of the Aspen Institute "roundtable." It is nothing more than a kangaroo court and nothing less than a mouthpiece for NCLB propaganda.
The Commission on No Child Left Behind is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Spencer Foundation.
This document is published to communicate the results of the Commission’s work. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in the Commission’s documents are entirely those of the author(s) and should not be attributed in any manner to the donors.
JUNE 21, 2006
Aspen Institute Press Release with commentary by Annie
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES