Wrestling with the angel

No Child Left Behind is making a difference in classrooms, concludes a report by the Education Commission for the States. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

For the first time in US history, an overwhelming majority of states now test new teachers. They also test nearly all students, including those deemed learning disabled.

. . . But the report also concludes that few states are on track for ensuring a qualified teacher in every classroom. Fewer than half of states, for instance, are providing high-quality help to failing schools. And many states don’t have systems to collect the massive amount of data required to meet the new law’s standards.

Sandy Cress, a senior education adviser to President Bush, says the complaints are a good sign. “It means that people are wrestling with it. Like Job wrestling with the angel, there’s good at the end of it.” (Great metaphor. Wrong Biblical character. It was Jacob who wrestled with the angel.)

Teachers in Pueblo, Colo., thought they were doing a good job educating mostly poor and Hispanic kids – until they started seeing statewide test results.

“We called it ‘CSAT shock,’ ” says school superintendent Joyce Bales of Colorado’s student assessment program. “People thought they were doing a lot better than they were.”

But the poor results on the 1997 program – a precursor to the NCLB Act – spurred Pueblo schools to teach, and reteach, all students until they could read.

“I fully support No Child Left Behind,” says Ms. Bales, who calls her district “the most data-driven district in the state.” In a recent study of Colorado schools that “beat the odds” in educating poor students, six of the 20 were in her district.

The law’s insistence on analyzing test scores by racial group is turning up low achievement in suburban schools that were viewed as doing well.

African-American parents in Lower Merion, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, were shocked to learn that 60 percent of black students score below proficient levels in a district known for its high performance.

“NCLB has uncovered data that had been previously buried in our district and other districts as well,” says Linda Heller, a member of Concerned Black Parents, a new local advocacy group that is using NCLB data to lobby for more help for low-performing students. One result: Special programs this summer to build skills for children who are below proficiency.

Progress is still “frustratingly slow,” she says. “But now the information is so public it’s impossible to look the other way.”

That was the idea.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. interested observer says:

    The United States is increasingly involved in commerce with other nations. The young people we are training now will compete in that arena. I believe the data being generated by NCLB can help us make certain they have the skills they need.

  2. I find it unlikely that some multi-hundred page federal bill is really going to improve education in a meaningful way.

    Sure, there will be some success stories, and some disaster stories too, but mostly NCLB will be about filling out a bunch more paperwork and figuring out how to game the new system.

    Now the feds have their foot in door, though. When the miracle fails to materialize, look for NCLB II. Of course, some folks may see that as a good thing.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I would hope the feds would now slowly back out as the schools revert to educating instead of whatever it was they have been doing recently.

  4. Here in the great liberal state of New Jersey, with 762 school districts in 21 counties, the preceding words indicate where the priorities in education are. Downsizing to 21 school districts, with 762 representatives would free up funds for more teachers to teach our children what their parents should be teaching them. But then that would allow the teachers to actually teach what they were trained to teach, not raise our children for us to boot.

  5. Steve LaBonne says:

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  6. I don’t find it hard to believe that the students from the district that’s known for performing well even have low performance scores. It seems like the same thing is going on throughout the nation. Hopefully the education system will be improved somehow so that the students will actually learn .. I know much needs to be done throughout schools in the US, but I am not exactly sure what type of things needs to be implemented to improve the actual quality of the education. Any ideas?

  7. “Now the feds have their foot in door, though”…the feds have had their foot in the door for a long time, by providing billions and billions of dollars to schools. There were no complaints about federal involvement until the government wanted to make sure that the money was actually being employed in effective ways.

    “I find it unlikely that some multi-hundred page federal bill is really going to improve education in a meaningful way”…does the fact that legislation/regulation is lengthy mean that it is valueless? The Federal Aviation Regulations are quite lengthy…would you prefer to do without them?

  8. J Thomason says:

    “There were no complaints about federal involvement until the government wanted to make sure that the money was actually being employed in effective ways.”

    Well, I seem to remember Reagan wanted to do away with the Dept of Education (I also seem to remember that Carter was the one that implemented it, though this is much more shakey). I’d still love to get the Feds completely out of education.

    Then again, I’d like to get state and local governments out of education as well.

  9. Marvin Thalinburg says:

    Until NCLB it was easy to hide the problems of schools. Now it is much harder to do, and the special interests are howling “fowl!” But the nest must be cleaned out throughly so that real learning can start to take place.

  10. Mike in Texas says:

    I noticed the article didn’t mention any classroom teachers by name gushing over NCLB. It does single out a superintendant. I would love to ask her how much of a bonus she will get for driving up the test scores of her students. Of course she doesn’t mention that while her teachers are administering these tests to collect the data she cherishes so much the students are not learning anything.

    Always beware of reforms touted by people who haven’t been in a classroom for a long time.

  11. Andy Freeman says:

    > Of course she doesn’t mention that while her teachers are administering these tests to collect the data she cherishes so much the students are not learning anything.

    Really? It is commonly believed that students learn during tests. Are these tests special?

    Or, maybe Mike is claiming that while the students are learning to pass these tests, they’re not learning anything.

    > Always beware of reforms touted by people who haven’t been in a classroom for a long time.

    I’m more worried about folks who defend a broken status quo. And then there are folks like Mike, who deny that the status quo is broken.

  12. Mike In Texas says:

    What I deny is that teachers are to blame for so many of the problems American schools are having. It is the fault of politicians, educrats and American society in general.

    I don’t know what purpose Andy seems to think all this high stakes testing serves but the next time we have 8 year olds at my school crying and throwing up b/c they are terrified of the reading test they have to pass to move on to 4th grade I’ll be sure its necessary to help maintain a new status quo.

  13. Andy Freeman says:

    > What I deny is that teachers are to blame for so many of the problems American schools are having. It is the fault of politicians, educrats and American society in general.

    There’s blame enough to go around, but as long as the NEA is a potent POLITICAL force, teachers get at least a double ration.

    > I don’t know what purpose Andy seems to think all this high stakes testing serves

    Not a good admission for someone who claims some relevant knowledge. (It’s one thing to disagree, it’s quite another to be ignorant.)

    The purpose is to figure out what, if anything, we’re getting out of public education, and to do so early enough to do something useful. (A 10 year plan dooms ten years of kids.)

    I’m willing to consider alternatives, as long as they aren’t things that have failed for decades. In other words, teacher self-evaluation isn’t an option.

    Note that Mike doesn’t bother to defend his arguments. Given his arguments, that’s probably for the best.

  14. No one will ever convince me that competition, consumerism and accountability are not the solution. Anything that is consumer driven will always produce the newest, best and most efficient product or service. You won’t give me a refund for your defective product? Fine, I am taking my business elsewhere! You won’t lower your interest rates? Fine, I am taking my business elsewhere! No time in my life am I more empowered and more likely to get the result I want than when I use those six words (which, it is worth noting, have no meaning in a socialist society).

    “Buyer beware” used to be the way of business, until manufacturer’s began realizing that a warranty would bring in more business, and now almost every industry actually compete on the basis of who offers the best warranty (i.e. auto manufacturers: 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty?!? unheard of 20 years ago! And now it’s how Hyundai tries to win your business, and you actually have the CHOICE! what a concept!).

    Most Americans forget, because we take it for granted, how empowering market competition actually is. Consumer empowerment is the basis of our market, and an educational service would be no different. Vouchers!! Talk about choice! Talk about competition!! The teacher’s unions are afraid of the competition… too bad. Consumer empowerment is paramount, because acheiving the best possible education is paramount. Competition always works. Granted, there are always market regulations, but the fundamental choice must be there.