Bridging Differences

Bridging Differences is a new blog on Education Week done as a dialogue between education reformers Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch, smart people who don’t agree on many things.

Kevin Carey on Quick and the Ed questions Meier’s throwaway line about Title 1 (No Child Left Behind) being a thousand-page monstrosity that nobody reads. The law, which runs 669 pages in his edition, reauthorizes all the pre-existing education laws, he points out.

Title I, Part A — which is what most people mean when they refer to “NCLB” — runs 91 pages. The really controversial testing and accountability provisions are only a subset of that.

I do wonder how many people have read it.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If teachers resent teaching to the test, how about teaching to the payheck the way most of us do?

  2. SuperSub says:

    Well, what we have is a national tradition of autonomous teachers who are supposedly experts in their field. We do have a lot of teachers who are exactly that, and many of the loudest protesters against NCLB are them.
    Unfortunately, the problem with education reform is not the unions or teachers but the teacher preparation establishment and state dept of eds. In rooms next to those stellar teachers we have idiots who got their teaching degree and certification with no difficulty at all. We have funds going to schools to fund this fad program or that, but not to pay for better teacher pay and improved materials for lessons. The degrees and certification programs for school administrators turn out plenty of mindless administrators who are easily pacified with the utterance of terms like cooperative learning, contructivism, and student-centered learning. Finally, in those NCLB-mandated tests, we have questions that rarely seem to match the suggested curriculum and standards that the state puts out.

  3. Wayne Martin says:

    > Finally, in those NCLB-mandated tests, we have
    > questions that rarely seem to match the suggested
    > curriculum and standards that the state puts out.

    From http://www.edweek.org:
    Published: July 26, 2006

    States’ Standards, Tests Are a Mismatch, Study Finds
    By Bess Keller

    One aspect of the problem, the report says, is the quality of the standards themselves. Another is the mismatch between states’ expectations for students—the academic standards—and the content of the tests. For a state’s NCLB-mandated testing regime to qualify as “smart,” the standards had to be clear and explicit, and the tests had to sample proportionately from them, according to the paper.
    Only 11 states met the union’s criteria for strong standards and tests that “align” with them, it says, and 20 states “have much work to do”—beefing up their standards, matching up tests with standards, or showing what they have done online.

    On The NET:
    http://www.aft.org/presscenter/releases/2006/smarttesting/Testingbrief.pdf
    —–

    If it is true that there is a significant mismatch between tests and standards, then this would seem like a fairly easy problem to correct. At least 11 states meet the AFT’s approval, so getting a standards/test matchup can be done.

  4. SuperSub, great post.

  5. SuperSub wrote:

    Well, what we have is a national tradition of autonomous teachers who are supposedly experts in their field.

    Huh? Teachers are the lowest level professional employees in a government agency. That hardly sounds like a situation in which much autonomy would be allowed or even welcomed.

    Finally, in those NCLB-mandated tests, we have questions that rarely seem to match the suggested curriculum and standards that the state puts out.

    To the best of my knowledge, all the tests that are used to measure compliance with NCLB are state tests. All NCLB requires is that there be some progress toward meeting the standards that the state already has in place.

    All NCLB does is put a sharp edge on those tests. Previously the tests were, in most states, either an inconvenience or utterly inconsequential. NCLB changes that and on the basis of the performance of the public education system over the past couple of decades it could hardly be a change for the worse.

  6. Well said, SuperSub.

    Yes, many teachers are autonomous which, as SuperSub so eloquently pointed out, is a blessing in some cases and a disaster in others.

    Allen, this autonomy may not be by design (in many cases I suspect that it is the result of there not being anyone willing or able to watch we are doing each day) but ideally autonomy ought to be something we earn and maintain by demonstrating that we know what we are doing. Is it so far-fetched that a teacher could be an expert in his subject and how to teach it?

    That we are the “lowest level professional employees in a government agency” is obvious — but a good administrator knows that we are also the most important.

  7. SuperSub says:

    Allen –
    Even as an untenured teacher, I am only observed (with notice) three times a year. I do not have to turn in my lesson plans to anyone, and at the three separate schools I have worked at, there have been few, if any, other measures to check in on new teachers. The current school I work at has provisions for the tenured teachers to be observed once out of the entire year.
    Now, while we do have state and district standards, and NCLB mandated tests, the methods of teaching are left to the individual teachers. Add to that weak state tests, and there is little accountability for the actual coverage of the intended curriculum set forth by the standards.
    I’d call that quite a bit of autonomy.