Should we leave NCLB behind?

Should we scrap No Child Left Behind? Jay Greene is hosting a lively discussion on New Talk

About Joanne


  1. Yes, go and see the finest panel of pseudo-experts having a “discussion” about the merits of NCLB.

    The panel includes: the “Wal-Mart scholar” Greene, a lobbyist for all the companies making billions off of NCLB, some economists, and a pretend Democrat.

    Notably absent is anyone with any actual experience teaching experience in a K-12 public school.

    Shame on you Joanne for promoting this, instead of exposing it for the propaganda piece it is.

  2. That’s a bit vague don’t you think?

    After all, if someone has fifteen minutes teaching experience in a K-12 public school they’d qualify under your definition of “those who are allowed to speak”. Perhaps you ought to add a requirement for a certain amount of experience teaching in a K-12 public school to earn the privilege of having an opinion on the subject.

    And along the same vein, should one have a certain amount of experience driving a municipal bus in order to discuss mass transit policy? How much military experience is necessary in order to be allowed an opinion on the Pentagon budget? Does one need a degree in meteorology in order to decide to come in out of the rain?

    The last line’s a nice touch though. Very similar to sincere outrage.

  3. Allen,

    So you’re comparing educating with children to deciding whether or not to go out in the rain? Interesting analogy.

    I visited the so called discussion and took the time to read the biographies of those involved, IMHO none are qualified to speak in depth on education matters.

    Would you want your car repaired by someone who is not a mechanic? Do you want your bridges designed by someone who is not an engineer? But yet you’re willing to turn your children over to “experts” like these?

    Sandy Kress is a lobbyist. Jay Greene had his chair purchased for him by Wal-Mart. Do you REALLY think the “low cost leader” is interested in having a well educated population? I’ve noticed educated people tend not to be too excited about working for poverty level salaries.

    This is propaganda, pure and simple. The Dept. of Ed. has been engaging in this type of taxpayer funded and illegal activity for years.

  4. Mike,

    “Would you want your car repaired by someone who is not a mechanic? Do you want your bridges designed by someone who is not an engineer?”

    I suspect that the discussion was designed using exactly this principle. Which is why the discussion is focused on the politics and economics of education and not what to do with students in a classroom. Given that we can’t discuss every topic at once — I believe the topic under discussion is even part 2 of another dicussion –, this seems like a legitimate approach to me.

    If you think the approach they are taking is irrelevant because of other factors it would be interesting to know why.

    “Do you REALLY think the “low cost leader” is interested in having a well educated population?”

    I believe that same type of accusation has been leveled against teachers. And if my memory is correct I believe one of the commentators raises that point. As a parent it seems to me that I’m the only party that has no other interests but my children. And don’t get me wrong that’s exactly what I’d expect. And just because other people have other interests I don’t automatically conclude that they don’t care at all. For example, if quality education improves the general productivity of the society and WalMart could become wealthier as a result seems like they’d have a genuine concern.

  5. Mike–I don’t know where your information is coming from. I clicked on the bios of all the panelists. Jay Greene is the moderator, not a panelist. The panelists include a number of well-known and published researchers in the field of education, education policy and education finance, as well as government and policy in general. Several serve as State Board of Education members. I note that Neil McClusky lists classroom experience (secondary English). The fact that none of the others do is not an indication to me that none HAVE classroom experience, and I would guess that several do, as they have advanced degrees in education. Classroom experience used to be a prerequisite for acceptance into an graduate program in education–so this is a hurdle that they are likely to have cleared.

    The reality is that No Child Left Behind is a group of policies that tie accountability to an education funding stream that was created by the federal government with some pretty specific intents. There are plenty of other discussions where classroom teachers discuss the impact on what they do, or do not do. This is not irrelevant, but there are also key policy considerations that require a much larger view. Have the Title I dollars been well-spent with regard to the aims of the program, which was to provide a more level playing field for disadvantaged students? If so, how do we know? Have there been any fundamental improvements in the educational outcomes of the target population? Title I did not begin with NCLB, and all previous indicators that I have seen indicate that while there may have been an initial narrowing of achievement gaps concurrent with the introduction of Title I funding, these gains were not long-lasting and gaps stretched wider after an initial period of gain.

    This is a policy question that I would love to hear teachers address. Ought the Title I program continue as it was for a couple of decades, despite the lack of progress? Ought it to be scrapped as useless? Ought there be accountability for the dollars? What should the accountability look like (recalling that decades of accountability for compliance with spending brought no perceivable results). Perhaps it should be reformulated as a competitive grant, available only to those states or districts with and achieveable improvement plan.

    What I hear too often in teacher discussions, however, are all kinds of reminders that teachers work really hard, that either they, or their administrators have chosen to respond to accountability by trying to teach kids how to pass tests without really teaching them content in any meaningful way, and that they would prefer to limit their jobs to teaching some of the kids who they see as teachable (ready to learn, really want to learn, good kids, kids without behavioral issues, kids from good families, kids without disabilities, non-disruptive kids, etc), or why the schools are OK, but the neighborhood, the parents, the administration are not (or there just isn’t enough money).

    But, while we are being so all-inclusive, how about bringing some parents into the discussion–the people who actually live in those neighborhoods. How about bringing in some students–especially the ones who get written off as unteachable.

  6. > Would you want your car repaired by someone who is not a mechanic?

    Just so the parallel’s a bit closer, let’s make that a state-certified mechanic too whom I’m required to take my car and whose work I can neither judge nor eschew without picking up and moving house to another “car repair” district.

    But to answer your question as if it weren’t rhetorical: hell yes. I’m only interested in getting my car fixed. Who does it or how is of distinctly secondary importance provided I have some reason to think it’ll be done properly.

    Now, so not to get too far afield, perhaps you could explain why teachers should have any more influence over public policy relating to public education then any other citizen? No one, except a fellow ideologue, is going to give a lick of credence to your objectivity so why should anyone confer any greater value on your opinions then on those of the people in the discussion?

  7. You’re kidding right? So you don’t think the professionals should have any say so in education policy, and you’re content to leave it to a bunch of political hacks?


  8. Of course they have a say. They can vote in school board and state legislative elections just like any other citizen.

    You figure it’s the job of the citizenry to write a blank check for the professionals to fill in with any sum they deem proper?

    Right back atcha: unreal.

  9. Do I believe in outside accountability for education?

    You bet.

    Do I support the version as promoted by No Child Left Behind and the current version of IDEIA?

    Heck, no.

    The current version of accountability hides a bunch of bureaucratic paper pushing which is a sound and fury signifying nothing under a thin veneer of rhetoric. Under the current accountability rhetoric, my job has become more about the nuances of correct paper handling and triple the amount of paperwork rather than what matters–more time in small groups with children with disabilities and actual measurement of results. Curriculum based measurements? Heck, I haven’t the friggin time to do them, because my support staff gets cut and I’m busy slinging papers to ensure that I’m getting parents to meetings, having parents sign the correct pieces of paper (which have gone up since my son was first on an IEP, 17 years ago), and making sure that I’m going through the proper process instead of actually, y’know, serving kids.

    I compare notes with my husband, who works in private industry, and we both suffer from the same problem–an overdose of so-called “lean” management which requires individuals to do more paperwork bean-counting and less of the actual work they’re supposed to do–whether it’s selling things or teaching kids, it all appears that so-called “accountability” is about the paper trail than the actual work.

  10. Well those are all reasonable complaint Joycm but they don’t have much to do with public education or NCLB.

    Public education’s a political institution with education as its ostensible reason for existence. Of course that’s a convenient fiction since there’s hardly a political entity that exists solely for the stated reason for its existence.

    The Department of Defense exists to defend this nation but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used as convenient means of funneling jobs and money to the districts of influential representatives. Similarly, public education exists, ostensibly, to educate kids but all that nice money has other uses as well like hiring people whose utility to the process of educating kids is less then obvious.

    We sort these things out at the ballot box and Mike thinks that’s a lousy way to handle the problem since only teachers have the requisite experience to make determinations about public education policy.

    Pretty clumsily self-serving but there’s nothing remarkable about that. Every private in the Army knows how to run an army better then the general and every assembly line worker knows how to run a car company better then the CEO.

    But that’s not how things are done in the Army, the factory or the public school and Mike thinks there’s some rationale for changing things around. There isn’t but hope, especially self-serving hope, springs eternal.

  11. “The current version of accountability hides a bunch of bureaucratic paper pushing which is a sound and fury signifying nothing under a thin veneer of rhetoric.”

    Well, since this thread has chosen to move on from looking at the big picture to taking on the small picture of “how does this affect me in my classroom,” let me add my observations as a parent–certainly qualified to have an opinion about the education that my child with a disability receives under NCLB and IDEIA. I get really frustrated and infuriated when I hear about the “meaningless paperwork” that teachers are required to generate by the accountability provisions of both NCLB and IDEIA. For one thing, the school district is the last area of my life that still insists on generating hand-written documents, creating 4 copies with NCR paper. I used to take these “meaningless” documents and, as a public service, and just so that I could read them, put them into Excel spreadsheets–which were easier to edit, it was possible to line up goals, objectives and measures, and in the end were actually legible (and could provide as many copies as needed). I provided them to the IEP team in advance of the meeting. They thought I was a lunatic. A decade later they have finally purchased some “iep software” to do the same thing–and the state has revised the layout of the (recommended, not required) forms to encourage teams to see the connection between goals, objectives, measures services.

    It doesn’t seem to matter. No one believes that there is any point in assessing and planning, or writing measurable goals and figuring out the services that are needed to get there. It’s pretty much as joycem describes. The only “service” that anyone believes in is putting kids with disabilities in small groups. “Actual measurement” is whatever any teacher decides that they like to use–which prevents any meaningful determination of growth from year to year.

    My son’s senior year I requested a facilitator (something avaiable from the state that had not been available before) because I just thought that once in my son’s life he should get an IEP that actually laid out a PLAN for his education, based on data about where he is. It took about 10 hours. By senior year we should really have been just putting the finishing touching on completion of a plan that we had been building on for over a decade. But that would mean that every year someone had actually provided meaningful reports on progress towards goals (oh, when I complained loudly enough, I would get a report–as REQUIRED for every parent. It would give sort of a brief y/n answer regarding progress. If the answer was no, no one ever considered revising the plan–their response was always–we did everything, he just didn’t choose to do it). By the end of the year, the PLOP should already be a known quantity, ready to fill in. This should be the new baseline. The next set of goals should relate to how to move to the next marker.

    It never goes that way. It takes weeks of sorting back through “stuff” to get the PLOP in something other than a teacher’s opinion (and they always want to wait, because it’s always a new set of teachers and they have to figure out what they think). The NEED statement is always in terms of what the teacher wants him to do (not what he needs) so that he can fit with what s/he wants to do. The goals are always as vague as possible, so that no on can ever be accused of not meeting them. I love it when they add on “75% of the time” on to the end of everything, as if that makes it more concrete. As in “Johnny will expand his knowledge of the multiplication tables 75% of the time,” “Johnny will become more compliant with school rules 75% of the time.”

    The objectives are usually a handful of activities that vaguely relate to the goal “Johnny will study his times tables at home with his mother,” or “Johnny will make eye contact when spoken to.” The measures, of course are, “teacher made tests, grade book, report to parents.”

    I can guarantee you–this is meaningless paperwork, guaranteed a place in a drawer. It will not make an appearance at the following year’s IEP meeting (unless requested). It will not be considered during the year (unless the parent insists that the teachers follow through by reporting as required).

    I don’t know what line of work your husband is in–but this is very similar to the kinds of things that I have been doing in social services for years–particularly when a funding stream has been targetted to a population, purpose or part of a competitive grant. Now, I have seen some of the proposed changes to state monitoring of IDEIA, and I am really torn. I understand the impossibility of auditing every IEP, or even a reasonable sample, for basic compliance. But the current level of monitoring (does every child HAVE an IEP?) doesn’t get there either. Yes, they all have papers. Is anyone reading or following those papers–or do the papers contain anything that could minimally be considered an individual education plan? These are important questions–if you are a parent concerned with whether or not your kid is getting the education to which they are entitled.

    Time and time again (I just read something about the use of Title II dollars yesterday) the “just give me the money and let me use my professional judgment” approach has resulted in highly uneven quality. Some use the funding creatively to bring about change and improvement and others just continue the same-old-same-old. I am beginning to think that the best reauthorization of NCLB would be to make it a competitive grant. Let districts (or states, perhaps) apply with a plan for how they will use the dollars to meet the intended objectives, how they will measure success, what they will do differently. If it’s too difficult, or the pot of money too small, then forego the application (and the dollars). Go back to what you were doing.