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NCLB Outrages

Higher test scores or bust!

by Julie Woestehoff

On Monday the outgoing President George Bush will stand with the waning Mayor Daley at Greeley Elementary School and proclaim the success of the No Child Left Behind Act. Itâs the anniversary of NCLB, and apparently no one has dared tell the president that no one else is celebrating.

At least this time the dynamic duo arenât preening at another charter or AUSL school. Greeley Elementary is a solid traditional CPS school with an LSC and a school reform baby for a principal (Carlos Azcoitia Jr.). In October 2007, Greeley was named a Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education. Blue Ribbon Schools used to be selected using a variety of measures, but under Bush the award is just based on test score increases.

Which makes the selection of Greeley a little more problematic, since the school has a fairly new gifted program for Spanish and Polish bilingual students.

So, not for the first time, the system rewards a school that has significantly changed its student population by bringing in higher-achieving children. Another example - the kudos USDE head Margaret Spellings gave to Oaklandâs American Indian Charter School last year after it ditched most of the American Indian students and replaced them with Asian students and then -- woo hoo!! raised its test scores!

Of course, that kind of situation is inevitable when test scores alone are the standard, and when it really doesnât matter to the top brass how you get higher test scores.

In our 2007 report, Chicago School Reform: Lessons for the Nation, written jointly with FairTest, PURE laid out the similarities between NCLB and Mayor Daleyâs school reform efforts, and concluded that they are both major failures and that our children deserve better.

At the time, Monty Neill stated, âThe failure of test-driven school reform in Chicago should provide a warning for the country. The Chicago schools most affected by test-based grade retention and takeovers continue to fare poorly. No wonder NCLB has not been successful in significantly improving academic performance nationally: it is based on a failed model.â

The recent NAEP scores support our dim view of CPSâs approach of test-driven school labeling, closure and replacement.

But the truth never seems to make a difference to either Bush or Daley.

For example, thereâs the truth told by the student at Senn High School: "If they want this school to be better, than give us the things we need to be successful," said Ibrahim Sablaban, an 18-year-old senior enrolled in the IB program. "Don't make us do without and then turn around and blame us."

Thereâs the truth underlying this letter from a Julian High School student to Arne Duncan after central office cuts decimated many popular classes two months into the school year: "Dear Arne Duncan, I remember when you visited our school and said you were going to be by our side. What happened? What happened to your promise to us?â

And thereâs the truth so clearly articulated by a junior from Delaware who believes that the SAT should be sidelined: âIf the SAT is the culmination of American primary and secondary education, then we have a sad state of affairs. Students should be tested on their ability to solve real problems, to make innovative decisions, to think creatively. The crass, reductive approach of the SAT is counterproductive to all of these ideals. We have a formulaic test for a stunningly non-formulaic world, and this needs to change."

On Monday, I'll be celebrating our youth, and the hope that they'll help us pick better leaders in the very near future.

Parents United for Respondible Education


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