Helping principals stay ahead

Strong principals are made stronger by No Child Left Behind, Jay Mathews argues in the Washington Post. In a response to columns (here and here) by a colleague, Marc Fisher, Mathews argues there are few examples of good schools abandoning good teaching practices because of NCLB’s pressures.

(Principal Jean) Frey herself acknowledges that Bailey’s teachers would spend time reviewing and assessing with or without the worries of No Child Left Behind, because they know that review is a vital part of the learning process and that a variety of assessments are invaluable to ascertaining what parts of the lesson have or have not been absorbed. All she wants is an assessment system that gets results back to her more quickly, and a reduction in the number of tripwires in the federal law so Bailey’s isn’t labeled as “needing improvement” just because a few too many of her Spanish-speaking students could not pass their English tests. When Congress tries to revise the law next year, such good suggestions are likely to be heeded.

At another school, allegedly threatened by transfers from low-performing schools, only 20 of 402 students are NCLB transfers. Principal Anthony Fears has used NCLB to deny other transfer requests, cutting enrollment from a high of 525.

Mathews summarizes the case for NCLB.

No Child Left Behind is not the best accountability system ever invented. But, most policy makers and educators say, it has the right idea. Learning should be measured with tests. Standardized tests are in many ways better than the teachers’ tests that have ruled schools up to now, because teachers can quietly decide not to test concepts that they have failed to teach well. Other forms of assessment, such as collections of work and conversations with teachers, have potential, but nobody has yet shown a way to make them work well with elementary school children from low-income homes.

Good educators such as Frey and Fears need a standard to guide them, a target to shoot for, so they can convince teachers to spend more time helping struggling students, convince parents to make sure homework is done and convince administrators at headquarters not to choke them with red tape.

Via Eduwonk, which is chock-full of goodies. Don’t miss Eduwonk’s coverage of this bizarre story.

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Comments

  1. Bluemount says:

    What has actually happened is a 23 percent reduction in the size of the student body, from 525 to 402 kids, since Fears arrived three years ago.

    The Beers principal said he found a school that was not enforcing many rules, including those limiting enrollment by students from outside the neighborhood.
    One in 5 students were eliminated and the scores improved. All we need is a standard to eliminate to and we eliminate the need for skilled teachers. I’ll bet the kids they ran out are now receiving the education they deserve and a message has been sent out to poor parents. If we think the standards are low today, it’s really sick to think the improvement in math scores at these schools had social value.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Jay Mathews is full of crap. I’ve never met a single teacher who thinks NCLB is a good thing as he claimed in this article But, most policy makers and educators say, it has the right idea. Learning should be measured with tests. You can find a link for one such article disputing his asseration (description here)“> (here)

    I did a Google search of his work and he also wrote a piece on how to choose a good school. He claims one concern of parents is diversity. I have never met a parent who clamored for diversity as a way to improve their child’s school. I believe there are also studies to show most parents could care less about diversity.

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    Whoops, that link should have been (here)

  4. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Jay Mathews is full of crap.

    From your keyboard to God’s monitor.

    I’ve never met a single teacher who thinks NCLB is a good thing..

    Maybe it’s a sampling error. You know, kind of like “Dewey Wins”.

    But, most policy makers and educators say, it has the right idea. Learning should be measured with tests.

    The nerve. Don’t these policy makers and educators know that throwing money at a problem is the way to solve it?

    You can find a link..

    Interesting article.

    First off, it’s from the Ohio Education Association. You know, as in “National Education Association”. That might cause one to, oh, I don’t know…have some qualms about the objectivity and veracity of the article?

    Second, the article doesn’t even say what you claim it does:

    They (teachers) agreed with the goal (of NCLB), but they expressed concern with implementation and the possible effects on curriculum, instruction, and the potential of attracting and retaining teachers in underperforming schools.

    Not quite the blanket condemnation you represented the article to be.

    Of course, there’s this observation:

    Teachers have a thoughtful and nuanced view of reform…

    Well of course! What other view could they have? Cavalier and vulger? Bored and annoyed? No! Thoughtful and nuanced.

    Personally, I would have gone for “compassionate and piercing” but “thoughful and nuanced” is sufficiently fulsome.

    I understand the reaction to accountability. I just can’t find anything to respect in that reaction.

  5. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote: I understand the reaction to accountability

    I have no problem with accountability but I won’t be judge by a bunch of self serving politicians sitting on their butts 200 miles away in Austin, or 1500 miles away in Washington.

  6. Mike in Texas wrote:

    I have no problem with accountability but I won’t be judge by a bunch of self serving politicians sitting on their butts 200 miles away in Austin, or 1500 miles away in Washington.

    See now that’s all the difference in the world. You don’t object to being held accountable – mighty big of you Mike, I must say – but you insist on picking out who does the judging.

    What could there be in a demand like that that anyone could object too?