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NCLB Outrages

School Reform: A Position Paper by Anaheim Elementary Education Association

The Anaheim Elementary Education Association speaks out. How about your union, your professional association, your block party? Break the Silence!

Your silence is burying you alive.


by the Anaheim Elementary Education Association

Background

President Obama's recent Race to the Top (RTTT) legislation is an attempt to close the achievement gap that continues to persist no matter what educators do. Although President Bushâs No Child Left Behind (NCLB) plan appealed to many in theory, it has since proven to be unsuccessful in closing the gap. Without question, NCLB focused our attention and additional resources on schools serving our most needy children across the country. It also, unfortunately, placed an impossibly unrealistic goal on our nationâs superintendents, principals, and teachers to make every child in America grade-level proficient by the year 2014, despite the fact that by very definition alone, half of our students are below average. In an effort to achieve this goal to leave no child behind, educators everywhere, especially in our poorest areas, were forced to focus on a very narrow curriculum with the sole intent of showing, through the use of high-stakes tests, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward the 2014 deadline.

Having made dismal progress toward the 100% proficiency goal during the Bush Administration, Obama is now replacing NCLB with RTTT and reinforcing the goal of eliminating the achievement gap. He is willing to go even further than Bush did with placing the responsibility and the accountability for achievement on the backs of teachers and schools. Evaluations tied to student achievement and merit pay are supposed to entice teachers to do their jobs. This assumes, of course, that teachers are deliberately not doing so now, so as to pressure districts to increase their pay. Restructuring schools through turnarounds, transformations, charters, and even complete closures, threaten schools and districts with the illogical and incorrect reasoning that schools can and will do their jobs if they are ultimately threatened with closure.

While the fields of science and education continue to learn more about what we can do as educators to be more effective in what we do in our classrooms and how we do it, no one denies that schools by themselves cannot possibly fix all the social ills that contribute to our educational achievement gap, no matter how hard we try. Of course, we must try, but NCLB has already proven that we cannot simply legislate the achievement gap away.

Despite this fact, we must never give up on providing a well-rounded education for all students that will enable them to become productive citizens of our democracy. As well-meaning as President Bush's NCLB was and President Obamaâs RTTT is, legislating one definition of proficiency for all, one curriculum and education for all, is not the answer to closing our achievement gap. Ultimately, it fails to acknowledge the individuality of each of our children.


Purpose

The educators of the Anaheim Elementary Education Association (AEEA) are an association deeply committed to the education of the students for whom we serve in the Anaheim City School District. We firmly embrace the individuality and uniqueness of each and every child and strive to maximize the unique potential of all. We endeavor, on a daily basis, to meet the multiple and varied needs of the children placed under our care within our classrooms, schools, and district. We do this, not only to be exemplary representatives of our profession, but to build a stronger democracy and to develop a more humane society. With these principles in mind, we, the educators of the AEEA, make the following resolutions:

I. High-Stakes Testing

⢠Whereas all students deserve a balanced, well-rounded, and stimulating education that does not center around the score of a single test at the end of each school year;

⢠Whereas education is more than learning how to perform on a high-stakes test;

⢠Whereas studentsâ learning progress is individual and diverse, and one high-stakes test cannot accurately measure this diversity;

⢠Whereas high-stakes testing is bad for student morale causing a âcrisis of confidenceâ in students at younger ages than ever before;( Collateral Damage How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools, Chapter 3)

⢠Whereas high-stakes testing causes much stress and anxiety in students, teachers, and administrators;

⢠Whereas, due to the anxiety surrounding high-stakes testing, teachers are leaving the profession at an increasing rate;

⢠Whereas high-stakes tests discourage the weakest and most struggling students, often causing them to give up on their learning;

⢠Whereas students who become discouraged with failing test scores and little promise of advancement leave high school or are forced out at an increasing rate; ( High-Stakes Testing, Uncertainty, and Student Learning)

⢠Whereas Hispanic students, the largest subgroup whom we serve (85%), are especially vulnerable to increased drop-out rates as the pressure to pass high stakes tests increases; (Collateral Damage, Chapter 4)

⢠Whereas the pressure for schools to perform has caused incidents of score manipulation through selective and increased suspensions of anticipated low-scorers during testing; ( Testing, Crime and Punishment)

⢠Whereas research has concluded that schools have unnecessarily transferred struggling students to special education, thereby relieving them from taking the test; (Testing, Crime and Punishment)

⢠Whereas high-stakes testing forces a damaging focus on reading and math while ignoring other important and enriching curricular areas; ( Many Children Left Behind)

⢠Whereas those who come to school with disadvantages become even more disadvantaged by a diminished curriculum of narrowed focus, thus exacerbating an already existing achievement gap; (Collateral Damage, Chapter 3)

⢠Whereas high-stakes testing encourages schools to allocate their limited resources and time to those students who are on the borderline of a particular achievement band and whose jump to the next band will afford the schools precious points toward their API; ( Below the Bubble: Educational Triage and the Texas Accountability System)

⢠Whereas high-stakes testing provides an incentive to focus on the more "valuable" students who contribute academic point value to their schools and a disincentive to assist with intervention for those who are truly needy but unlikely to add such point value; (Below the Bubble: "Educational Triage" and the Texas Accountability System)

⢠Whereas high-stakes tests create disincentives for teachers to work with the neediest students; (Below the Bubble: "Educational Triage" and the Texas Accountability System)

⢠Whereas low-performing students are considered by administrators and teachers as liabilities rather than challenges or opportunities for improvement; (Collateral Damage, Chapter 3)

⢠Whereas, if the goal of a criterion test is to set the floor of achievement, a 56% failure rate for all tenth graders in English language arts denotes the usage of an inappropriate and unfair tool for measuring such achievement; ( California State Test Scores - ELA, 2009)

⢠Whereas much time and resources are wasted trying to bring up the API scores of schools rather than focus on the education of the students;

The bargaining members of the AEEA hereby resolve that high-stakes testing is an inherently harmful and misguided effort to eliminate the achievement gap. Given that high-stakes testing reduces what is good about education and augments the bad, it is, without doubt, a damaging attempt to create educational equality. High-stakes testing diminishes student, teacher, and administrator morale, academic achievement, and curriculum focus while it increases stress and anxiety, dropout rates, and desperate measures taken by all levels of stakeholders. The long-existing achievement gap will only be exacerbated by the continued and increased high-pressure, high-stakes testing that Race to the Top is mandating. The very students that Race to the Top purports to assist and raise up are the very ones who end up with the very least: a compromised education with limited subject matter and a lack of richness and balance.

II. Teacher Evaluation Linked to Student Achievement

⢠Whereas students come to school at various levels of readiness, background knowledge, parent support, home stability;

⢠Whereas English is not the first language of the majority of ACSD's students, and the rate of language acquisition varies greatly;

⢠Whereas student achievement and growth are based on more than the academic input of schools, and are dependent upon many factors, including family, cultural values, and dynamics; (Blame School Achievement Gap Misplaced)

⢠Whereas low birth weight, poor prenatal care and subsequent lack of good healthcare, food insecurity, environmental pollutants, and family and neighborhood characteristics cause neurological damage, ADD, excessive absenteeism, underdeveloped language, and oppositional behavior, all of which affect a childâs ability to learn; ( Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success),( Parsing the Achievement Gap II)

⢠Whereas teachers have no control over many of these variables listed above that impact student achievement and rate of academic growth;

⢠Whereas research concludes that it is impossible to fully separate out the influences of other teachers upon a studentâs academic achievement ; ( Improving Low-Performing Schools)

⢠Whereas there is no research evidence that proves that teacher evaluations linked to student test scores has increased student achievement;

⢠Whereas the desire to receive a good evaluation places undo pressure on teachers to spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for the test instead of teaching content material;

⢠Whereas evaluations dependent upon test scores invite cheating on many levels; (Collateral Damage, Chapter 2)

⢠Whereas research concludes that standardized tests are marred by incorrect scoring and other errors; ( Evaluating Value-Added Models for Teacher Accountability), ( Errors in Standardized Tests: A Systemic Problem)

⢠Whereas all testing is designed and constructed to measure student achievement at a particular time, not teacher effectiveness;

⢠Whereas evaluations should represent a fair measurement of a teacherâs effectiveness, evaluative criteria should include only that for which a teacher has control (i.e. implementation of California Standards for the Teaching Profession).

The bargaining members of the AEEA hereby resolve that linking teacher evaluations to student achievement is an inherently ineffective and inappropriate practice. Given that student achievement is dependent upon so many factors outside the classroom, teacher effectiveness cannot be reliably measured by academic test results of any kind. In addition, evaluating teachers based on high-stakes tests is inappropriate due to scoring errors, faulty test construction and the usage of a criterion-based test with an unacceptable passing rate and unrealistic floor. Using test scores, whether they be formative benchmark or end-of-the-year summative high stakes tests, would severely compromise good teaching practices by focusing precious instructional weeks on test strategies and test practice while promoting desperate efforts to ensure a good evaluation.

III. Merit Pay

⢠Whereas merit pay implies that teachers are currently doing less than their best to teach because they feel they are underpaid;

⢠Whereas so many teachers put in voluntary hours above and beyond contractual hours;

⢠Whereas teachers have individual strengths that enrich student personal growth and academic achievement;

⢠Whereas students are individuals with differing backgrounds and abilities, forming homogeneous classrooms for comparison purposes is unrealistic;

⢠Whereas students learn at different rates, it is impossible to expect a uniform rate of growth from each child;

⢠Whereas with each passing grade, the CST increases in difficulty, children who start out their educational path already behind, face decreasing odds with each passing year of ever catching up, making it unfair to judge their teachersâ effectiveness based on grade level tests;

⢠Whereas many special education students are placed in regular education classrooms in accordance with least restrictive environment regulations;

⢠Whereas merit pay would not be available to certain teachers whose positions do not require state testing of students;

⢠Whereas there is limited support for students with severe behavioral issues that disrupt the learning climate of the entire class;

⢠Whereas pacing guides that ignore individual rates of learning, coupled with benchmark test deadlines, prohibit mastery of the standards;

⢠Whereas a portion of our student population is transient and irregular in their attendance;

⢠Whereas many of our students come from families living below the poverty level;

⢠Whereas research has determined that the use of merit pay does not increase student achievement; ( Teacher Merit-Pay Pilot Failed)

⢠Whereas research concludes that paying for performance creates school environments in which reading and math are the areas in which there is increased focus, and other important areas of the curriculum, including social studies, science, art, music, and physical education, are deemphasized or worse, altogether eliminated; (Choices, Changes, and Challenges)

⢠Whereas merit pay decreases the standard salary of all and enhances the salary of a few, there are teachers who will be tempted to take desperate measures in order to receive what is perceived as fair monetary compensation; ( Analysis Suggests Cheating on TAKS)

⢠Whereas the pressure and desire to obtain merit pay will inevitably lead to increased pressure on the students by the teachers to perform, causing many of the less than proficient students to give up in frustration and discouragement; (Collateral Damage, Chapter 6)

⢠Whereas research concludes that providing merit-pay based on student test scores reduces cooperation among teachers; ( Paying for Student Test Scores Damages Schools)

⢠Whereas research concludes that using a value-added model (VAM) to evaluate teacher effectiveness has many pitfalls: VAM relies on imperfect standardized tests, does not take into account student backgrounds, and ignores the fact that many teachers do not teach curriculum that mandates standardized testing; ( Using Student Progress to Evaluate Teachers), ( The Value of Value-Added Methods in Identifying Effective Teaching)

⢠Whereas "merit pay" should only be considered additional compensation for those who perform extra duties;

The bargaining members of the AEEA hereby resolve that paying educators according to student test scores or utilizing a Value-Added Model to measure progress is an inherently ineffective and inappropriate practice. Given that student achievement varies with each individual and is dependent upon so many factors outside the classroom conditions, there is no equitable method to determine who deserves bonus compensation or merit pay. Merit pay creates a competitive, rather than collaborative and cooperative environment, which good teaching requires. Additional compensation should only be provided for those teachers who perform additional duties (i.e. PAL, Fitness Club, before and after school tutoring, BTSA Support Providers, master teacher for student teachers, and School Site Council).

IV. Restructuring Schools

⢠Whereas the media is falsely portraying the public school system as failing to fulfill studentsâ needs; ( A Manufactured Crisis)

⢠Whereas corporate influences, under false pretenses, can motivate parents to petition the School Board to turn around a low performing school through the establishment of a charter school;

⢠Whereas these corporations' true intent is to create charter schools to increase their profit margin;

⢠Whereas recent research has concluded that public schools have out-paced charter schools in student achievement; ( Public Schools are as Good as Private Schools)

⢠Whereas recent research conducted by the United States Department of Education has concluded, after taking into account the variances in student populations between those students who attend private schools with those who attend public schools, that the achievement of students at public schools is the same, and sometimes better, than those of students at private schools; ( Comparing Private Schools with Public Schools)

⢠Whereas research shows that when some charter schools are established, many of the original students are replaced;

⢠Whereas schools being considered for turnaround are often restructured into charter schools, which drain resources from the public school district;

⢠Whereas charter schools impose what is effectively forced desegregation by implementing contracts that allow the removal of students who do not comply;

⢠Whereas the relationships and connections between school and community, that an experienced and professional staff build, are destroyed when they are replaced;

⢠Whereas experienced teachers who are required to transfer out of a turnaround school are often replaced by new, less experienced staff; ( ACLU Sues LAUSD for Layoffs in Low Performing Schools)

⢠Whereas restructuring schools destroys the school fiber and causes upheaval and disruption within the community that the school serves;

⢠Whereas restructuring schools is a crude and simplistic way of trying to solve complex social, economic, and cultural dynamics; ( When Schools Close)

⢠Whereas research concludes that restructuring a school has the potential to do more harm than good, every effort should be made to maintain and sustain a school community with the provision of funding and other resources to support all student learning; ( Improving Low-Performing Schools)


The bargaining members of the AEEA hereby resolve that restructuring schools as defined by RTTT is an inherently ineffective and inappropriate practice. Recent research has concluded that private/charter schools are not the panacea for school reform. Given that student achievement is dependent upon so many factors outside the classroom, school effectiveness cannot be measured by test results and should not be the reason a school is restructured. Restructuring destroys established school communities and severely compromises the cohesiveness created by connections built over the years. Building strong schools depends upon many variables, including long-term relationships developed between teachers and staff members and the families they serve. Dismantling schools is not a viable solution.

Summary

Therefore, we, the educators of the Anaheim Elementary Education Association hereby present this paper on School Reform to establish these principles for the purpose of making our convictions known regarding high-stakes testing, teacher evaluations, merit pay, and restructuring schools. It is our intent, with this document, to shape and influence policy for our District's School Board and beyond. We do this out of respect for the individuality and growth of our children, the morale and effectiveness of our staff, and the strength and hope of the community that evolves from the continuity of the positive relationships among us all that have developed over the years.

— Anaheim Elementary Education Association
Position Paper
2010-04-27


INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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