Dean the dismantler

Howard Dean vows to “dismantle” President Bush’s education reform bill, No Child Left Behind, reports Education Week. Oddly enough, Dean supports looking separately at subgroup scores for minorities and low-income students, but opposes annual testing of third through eighth graders. So what’s to analyze if the students aren’t tested at all? OK, he opposes “mindless adherence” to testing. What about mindful adherence?

It’s “ridiculous and impossible” for schools to make “average yearly progress” toward proficiency for all students, Dean told Education Week.

The No Child Left Behind law calls on states to test all students in reading and mathematics each year in grades 3-8. Public schools must ensure that all students are proficient — as defined by each state — by the 2013-14 academic year, and meet gradual targets toward that goal. The law also demands improvement for subgroups, such as racial minorities. If a school does not make adequate progress for two or more years, it is supposed to get extra help, but progressively stronger sanctions also kick in.

Mr. Dean contended that the adequate-progress demands were designed “to put public schools out of business.”

I agree on one thing: The idea that every student will be proficient by 2014 is ridiculous, unless “proficient” is defined way, way down. I think getting 90 percent of students to the “basic” level would be a worthy and challenging goal. But making progress toward proficiency is not ridiculous.

Here’s a summary of all the Democratic contenders’ positions on education.

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  1. Your “mindless adherence” quote from Dean is a good way to underscore that, for many of the Democrats, the idea of “mindful adherence” to testing simply nevers occur to them. It’s as though they cannot imagine testing that is not “mindless.” Certainly, testing can be done incorrectly, but it’s clear to see when someone is simply using “mindless adherence” as a catchphrase.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If every student is not proficient by 2004, then every teacher should be unemployed by 2005.

  3. If every student is not proficient by 2004, then every teacher should be unemployed by 2005.

    Are you serious? How about – if every student is not proficient by 2004, then every parent should lose custody by 2005? It makes just as much, if not more, sense.

  4. I can’t wait to see the Bush-Dean debates.

  5. Walter, I don’t think you thought that through.

    The teacher can put the knowledge out there, but the student has to pick it up. The burden can’t be placed 100% on the teacher.

    Besides, if a student in Florida (for instance) fails, then “every” student isn’t proficient; why fire every teacher in the USA? And where are you going to get warm bodies to replace all those fired teachers?

    As to the griping about NCLB – I think some of the goals of NCLB are silly, but you have to make some measurements or you don’t know where you are and can’t accomplish anything. Standardized tests aren’t perfect but they’re probably the best way to measure learning for the purpose of improving education. I’d like to see a more realistic use of the data.

  6. I doubt if anyone recalls, but a program very much the same was started by Bush 41, and signed into law by Bill Clinton called Goals 2000. Congress defunded this program during the summer, after failing to achieve even a SINGLE of it’s stated goals in 10 years (i’m impressed, NOT!).

    I don’t think NCLB will work either, and it’s another example of a soon to be failed government education program (like so many since the US Dept. of Education was formed as a result of Jimmy “Numbnuts” Carter who sold his soul to the devil known as the NEA for votes).

    Btw, Ronald Reagan stated that he wanted to dismantle the US Dept of Education, but he never did (government is like a Hydra, cut off one head, two grow back in it’s place).

  7. Ken Summers says:

    Fascinating. It looks like every one of the Dems that is in Congress voted for NCLB. Every one also claims that Bush is not funding it. I seem to recall that Congress funds programs, the President does not and cannot provide money for programs.

    BTW folks, Walter’s comment was made tongue-in-cheek. His point is that there is little accountability for teachers in the public systems.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I engineer plumbing and electrical systems. If my stuff does not hold water, I lose not just a job but my professional licenses. I also have to pay to fix what got broke because of my malpractice.

    The purpose of a school system is to educate students, not to employ teachers.

  9. Bill Leonard says:

    I can’t wait for the Bush-Dean debates, such as they’re likely to be, either Bart. This may raise a few hackles, but from what I’ve seen of Dean, he’s Bush II’s answered prayer.

  10. I can’t wait for the Bush-Dean debates, such as they’re likely to be, either Bart. This may raise a few hackles, but from what I’ve seen of Dean, he’s Bush II’s answered prayer.

  11. Wow, cuz, like, kids are just like pipes.

  12. Walter, I’ll buy your arguement the moment you use pipes of any and all materials – including papier-mâché, alumnimum foil, glass, bread,

    You get to choose the materials you work with – teachers don’t.

    I’m all for accountability – but let’s be realistic.

  13. “If my stuff does not hold water,”

    I am practicing restraint. I am practicing restraint. I am practicing restraint.

  14. jeff wright says:

    Well, Walter, I’ll accept your argument the day one of your plumbing systems says, “Screw you, dude,” and walks out of the room. And then then gets to come back the next day as if nothing happened. And you get to try to make that same system work day after day after day.

    Do you hear the drip….drip….drip….drip?

  15. Walter E. Wallis says:

    What was the statement that ended “…because neither your pipes nor your ideas will hold water.” or words to that effect?
    What a bunch of whiners.
    And my responses showed terrific restraint.

  16. “If every student is not proficient by 2004, then every teacher should be unemployed by 2005.”

    “If every pipe does not hold water by 2004, then every engineer should be unemployed by 2005.”

    Walter, you want to lose your job and your professional licenses because somebody somewhere let a pipe leak?

  17. Jeez, if that’s the standard, Laura, Walter is already out of a job because the hot water pipe in my classroom has already begun its annual leaking. Last year we nearly lost the entire building because a pipe burst in the utility tunnel, flooding the electrical system and causing a series of fires. Hey Walter, yer fired, dude.

  18. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I don’t recall having worked on any of the mentioned projects. I do not claim that my work, or the work of any engineer is perfect. What we do, however, is learn from our mistakes to reject materials and methods that don’t work, and go back in on our own time to corrrect a problem.

    Were engineers teachers, I guess we would respond to a leak prooblem by whining that we needed more money and that we resented being held responsible for leaky pipes.

    Looks like I hit pay dirt.

  19. Walter, you said that if every child was not proficient, then every teacher should be fired. You’ve had every chance to clarify that statement if that is not what you meant. Why in the world would Rita need to be fired if a child in North Alaska cannot do algebra? You are making no sense at all. And I have not seen one word of whining, just attempts to point out to you the utter illogic of your statement.

  20. I am more than willing to be held responsible for what I have control over.

  21. I don’t recall having worked on any of the mentioned projects. I do not claim that my work, or the work of any engineer is perfect. What we do, however, is learn from our mistakes to reject materials and methods that don’t work, and go back in on our own time to corrrect a problem.

    But of course teachers are one great monolith that all teach, behave, and think alike. No teacher is capable of learning from their mistakes nor capable of trying different methods. And of course, none of them do any work outside of school.


    Sorry Walter, but you made a stupid remark that started this whole thread – and that “pay dirt” you supposedly hit just looks like fertilizer to me – and you’ve dug yourself one helluva hole.

  22. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Bingo! Rita, you get it. Alas for the rest.

    If my client refuses to allow me enough control over materials and methods to allow me to have confidence that the final construct will function, I am OBLIGED to withdraw from the project. It would be unethical for me to continue without control.

    I suspect that most teachers know what went wrong with education, and yet allowed themselves to be seduced by bigger paychecks and earlier retirement. They ceased to be professionals and became factory workers. When was the last time a teaher resigned in protest against counterproductive interference with the educational process?

    Wine, but not whine, improves with age.

  23. Walter: over half of all teachers resign from the profession within the first three years. I suspect many do so because of the flawed system.

    I don’t withdraw from the project because I love my job, flaws and all, even though I am held responsible for factors outside of my control, even though I’m insulted for what I do. You can insult me and my profession all you want. You have no idea what a joy it is to do my work.

    I am no different than many teachers.

    I spent six or seven hours today, a contractual day off, writing lesson plans.

  24. Walter E. Wallis says:

    When was the last time you instructed your collective bargaining committee to allow a teacher to throw a disrupter out of class without the teacher being penalized later?

    When was the last time you demanded that slow learners be assigned to special tutoring even if it meant larger, but educable class size for the rest?

    Lest some think I am anti union, my last union was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a craft union. We were proud of our competence and would never consider a contract that protected incompetent workers or that mandated sloppy work. For Pete’s sake, if you need a union, make it a craft union, not a factory union.

    Walk out for principle instead of for fringies, and I suspect you would regain the respect of the public and start educating again.

  25. Walter:

    1st paragraph: I am not a member of any union, nor have I ever been. You know more about them than I do.

    2nd paragraph: This week. I also moved two students up into enormous classes. I’ve arranged tutoring for several struggling students, and I am in constant contact with special ed. regarding my learning disabled students. This is all quite routine.

    Have you any idea what goes on in an actual school? I mean aside from sensationalist news stories?

  26. Walter – I agree with Rita – why don’t you spend time in some classrooms.

    I volunteer an hour a week in my son’s 3rd grade class and I see the challenges and efforts his teachers put in.

    Why don’t you ask to visit three or four schools in different socioeconomic areas and give us some first-hand ancedotal evidence – as opposed to your ignorant opinions towards teachers.

  27. Thomas and Rita, if Mr. Wallis took your advice and spent time in some classrooms, then in your opinion, what evidence (or phenomena) ought Mr. Wallis expect to see that would change his mind on this subject?

    I don’t know the answer, I’m just raising the question.

  28. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I suspect I have built more schools than most of you have attended.
    Do my opinins seem to be just reflections of sensational news stories?
    If you see in my opinions an attack on teachers rather than an attack on the impediments to teaching, then you are beyond hope. Embrace your chains, but don’t whine when they rust.

  29. Gosh, Walter. “Fire all teachers if all kids aren’t proficient” looks like an attack to me. Guess I’m beyond hope.

    Building a school shows you all about what goes on in the classroom, I’m sure.

  30. Mark — I’d expect he’d have a more nuanced and sophisticated grasp of what the challenges really are and could posit similarly sophisticated solutions.

  31. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Why, pray tell, do we have schools?

    I am soo dumb I thought it was to educate our children.

    The solution is to abandon ineffective approaches and either change to function or quit wasting money.

    I suppose I lack the sophistication to appreciate the intrinsic value of throwing money away.