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NCLB Outrages

Six States to Design Own Plans for Fixing Schools

Ohanian Comment: Probably the most important thing about this news item is who did the evaluating: Margaret Raymond of the Hoover Institution. The AP identifies her as being "at Stanford." Well, yes, the Hoover Institution is physically located at Stanford, but one needs to take a close look at their ideological links. At Hoover, Raymond serves as director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which analyzes education reform efforts around the country.

In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools.

Now let's take a look at the features of these states' evaluation procedures:

  • The new pilot will assist states by helping target resources and interventions to those schools most in need of intensive interventions and significant reform.

  • Keeping with the Department of Education's military metaphor, this means that struggling schools will be more under the gun than ever: intensive interventions and significant reform focused on "those" subgroups. And by "intensive" and "significant" they don't mean dental clinics in the school or living wages for families.

    Or more joy in the curriculum.

    Actually, they mean removing any perceived joy and concentrating on those skills manufactured by McGraw-Hill, et al.

    I am of the opinion that a whole lot of philosophy, pedagogy, and practice is revealed by booklists. Here's the recommended Summer Reading Poetry list for Indiana students in grades 9-12, published by the Indiana Department of Education. Surely, this proves that they have Standards, even though they fail to exhibit any understanding of young people. The list, like most "recommended" lists, is both pretentious and pathetic.

    *"The Bean Eaters," Brooks, Gwendolyn
    *The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer, Geoffrey
    *"Chicago," Sandburg, Carl
    *Selections from Collected Poems, Eliot, T. S.
    *Selections from The Collected Poems, Plath, Sylvia
    *The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
    *Selections from Complete Poetical Works, Lowell, Amy
    *Selections from The Complete Poetical Works,
    Riley, James Whitcomb
    *"Easter 1916" and "Sailing to Byzantium," Yeats, William Butler
    *"Fish," Bishop, Elizabeth
    *"I Hear America Singing" and "O Captain! My Captain!" Whitman, Walt
    *"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," Wordsworth, William
    *"In Memoriam," Tennyson, Alfred Lord
    *"One More Round" and "Human Family," Angelou, Maya
    *Selections from Poems of Pablo Neruda
    *Selections from The Poetical Works, Shelley, Percy Bysshe
    *Selections from The Poetry of Robert Frost
    *"The Raven" and "Annabel Lee," Poe, Edgar Allan
    *"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
    *Selections from Selected Poems, Heaney, Seamus
    *Selections from Selected Poems of Langston Hughes
    *Selections from Sonnets, Keats, John
    *Selections from Sonnets, Shakespeare, William
    *Selections from Spoon River Anthology, Masters, *Edgar Lee, "The Tiger" and "The Lamb," Blake, William
    *"To Freedom" and "This Life," Dove, Rita
    *Treasury of Great Poems, Untermeyer, Louis (ed.)

    It comes as no surprise that the people who could compile and publish such a list would devise continuous testing as their new prescription for operating under new freedom from NCLB.

    Florida's summer reading list contains no poetry, but it does contain books young people are likely to enjoy reading. So although Sylvia Plath, T. S. Eliot, Keats, and Shakespeare did not make the cut, Walter Dean Myers, Sandra Cisneros, Markus Zusak, and Carl Hiaasen did.

    As one of the pilot states in the new, improved NCLB, Florida seems to be promising to align its grading of schools with the Feds proficiency ratings (and thus stop the public dissing of NCLB).

    Georgia doesn't offer recommended summer reading lists but refers interested parties to several institutional lists such as the classics list offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    So if a teen in your life loved Beowulf, this is probably the list for her.

    Georgia's NCLB project plan will reverse the order of when school choice and tutoring are offered, allowing tutoring to be offered in the first year of "Needs Improvement" status.

    The banner on the Maryland State Department of Education website reads "Achievement matters most," and their website loads at a snail's pace. There's only so much of this language I can take. Here's their Breakthrough Center plan:

    Breakthrough Center. The proposal outlines a broad array of State and local supports for schools across the continuum, some of which will be provided through a new Breakthrough Center now under development in partnership with the Education Alliance at Brown University. The Breakthrough Center will revolutionize the work with low performing schools and will help assure very high quality outcomes.

    There's only so much of this language I can take. If you want more, go here.

    The Maryland State Department of Education does not offer a summer reading list but their library division cooperates with public libraries in Summer Reading Club, which is individualized to local libraries.

    I did find a quite astounding list of books added to Maryland Correctional Institution Libraries. It seems indicative of a failure to understand the needs of people outside the mainstream.

    Maybe I was tired out by Maryland, but I couldn't find anything on the Ohio website, not about summer reading nor about their pilot program for NCLB.

    by Nancy Zuckerbrod, Associated Press

    Six states are getting the OK to write their own prescriptions for
    ailing schools under the Bush administration's signature education law.

    It's a softening from how No Child Left Behind currently works ΓΆ€” with
    schools having to take certain steps at specific times for missing math
    and reading testing goals. Critics have complained that the approach is
    too rigid and treats schools the same regardless of whether they miss
    the mark by a little or a lot.

    The states getting more freedom under a pilot program are Florida,
    Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland and Ohio. Education Secretary
    Margaret Spellings plans to make the announcement during a speech
    Tuesday in Austin, Texas.

    The states that won approval have come up with plans to more closely
    tailor solutions to individual schools' problems and focus resources on
    schools in the worst shape.

    "We expect to see a closer fit between the causes of school
    underperformance and a focused attention at repairing those sources of
    failure," said Margaret Raymond, director of an education think tank at
    Stanford University and the chair of a panel that reviewed the state

    Examples of changes the states plan to make include requiring schools to
    offer tutoring earlier than is currently called for and a greater
    reliance, in Indiana for example, on testing throughout the year to
    catch academic weak spots.

    Maryland is placing more emphasis on training principals. It's common
    under the law for failing schools to replace their principals. "We think
    principal leadership is key. It's not just changing a principal, it's
    ensuring principals have the necessary skill sets," said Maryland
    schools superintendent Nancy Grasmick.

    In Georgia, schools will be able to become charter schools, which are
    public but operate with broad independence, earlier than is currently
    called for, said the state's superintendent of schools, Kathy Cox.

    Some critics worry the changes, specifically the focus on the
    worst-performing schools, will take the pressure off schools that are
    generally doing well but having trouble with one group of students ΓΆ€”
    such as a minority group or kids with disabilities.

    "I don't think it's taking the pressure off. I think it's allowing
    focus," Cox said.

    Spellings has said up to 10 states will be allowed to try to participate
    in the pilot program. The Education Department plans to review
    additional state proposals this fall.

    The six states that won approval were among 17 that sought it.

    The states that didn't win approval were Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana,
    New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South
    Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

    Spellings said in an interview that the efforts by the states that won
    approval to try new approaches will be closely watched and will shape
    any future rewrite of the six-year-old No Child law.

    "We're trying to set the table for a strong and sensible
    reauthorization," Spellings said. "We're going to learn some things."


    — Nancy Zuckerbrod
    Associated Press


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