Friday, September 26, 2008

The Education of a Person, Part 2

Part 1

So, when I decided to investigate the No Child Left Behind Act in order to have an informed opinion, I realized that all I had were, well, opinions! I'd heard people rail on George W. Bush; I'd heard people say he's only interested in money, not kids; I'd heard people say that it will finally get our schools going on the right track. I just didn't know who was right. Or if anyone was right. What I did know was that whatever the NCLB legislation had to say, it probably hadn't had enough time to prove itself right OR wrong. I believe that for any program to be judged as a success or failure requires time, hindsight, and reflection. NCLB has really just started to see results, and we need more distance to judge its effectiveness.

I got my interest piqued when I saw a collection of National Teachers of the Year on Charlie Rose on PBS. Here's just a snippet of the things I heard:

These teachers definitely seem to understand what the No Child Left Behind Act is all about. I got the impression that they were global teachers - not only teaching students but also mentoring fellow teachers, educating the public, supporting the district and community, etc.

So, I went out to investigate exactly what the No Child Left Behind Act was all about. In a nutshell, here's what I discovered: NCLB was a continuation of legislation that began in 1965 as the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act), and some portions were rewritten to support a high degree of accountability desired by President Bush.

(from About Title I)

Along with accountability, the Act redesigned the ESEA programs to emphasize three other pillars of reform: utilize practices that have been shown to work through scientific research, give states and districts additional local control and flexibility, and give parents expanded options, i.e. school choice or supplemental services.

While the main goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is for every student to meet state academic achievement standards, the Act also has established these five core performance goals:
* All students will reach high standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading/language arts and mathematics by 2013-14.
* All limited Limited English Proficient students will become proficient in English and reach high academic standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading/language arts and mathematics.
* By 2005-06, all students will be taught by highly qualified teachers.
* All students will be educated in learning environments that are safe, drug free, and conducive to learning.
* All students will graduate from high school.

These goals are repeated throughout the Act, exemplifying that many of these goals are not just specific to Title I, but also to Title II, III, IV and V.

The goals are laudable. The structure of the legislation had some gaps. The method of assessing gains made in each school year seemed to be the lesser of all evils: the standardized test. Schools were to be rewarded, through public recognition and financial grants, for meeting state standards for grade level assesment. Schools not meeting the state-mandated standards would lose funding and face sanctions. Students with special needs were included along with regular classroom student assessment. This created high expectations for students with disabilities (good) but also forced special-needs students to take standardized tests that they may not be able to complete because of their disabilaties (bad). Their overall progress was finally included with other students at the same grade level, so accurate information was available to assess needed further development (good). However, including the standardized test scores from students with disabilities led to some schools being considered as not making acceptable progress for that school year (bad).

Basically, the main thing I want to get to, in the next post, is WHO IS THIS AFFECTING? I want you to know this about No Child Left Behind Act: This law applies only to schools which receive Title I funding. What is a Title I school? Come back here on Monday to find out. OR, if you just can't wait, go here to see a great overview of Title I.

What effect has No Child Left Behind had on your state? Find out here.

So, I figure, I'm finding out my way around this stuff! I'm actually understanding what No Child Left Behind is all about. I'm getting smarter!

Part 3 on Monday!


Tammie said...

just about every school in florida ends up being a title one school and receiving the funding---it isn't just a poverty thing anymore. i mentioned to you the "rich" school my son went to---also a title one. the lines are very blurred now.

also i have to admit that i find the part about "all students being taught by highly qualified teachers" to be laughable. where i live, qualified teachers are routinely forced out to make way for first year teachers who will work for less money. (this might be specific to my area since i live in a university town and there are always new teachers graduating---but its still a disturbing phenomenon.)

my son is in the fifth grade and has had three first-year teachers. they were all nice enough people, but not highly qualified.

i want to mention to you that in theory i think that NCLB is a great idea but poorly executed and deeply flawed. i also dont think it can ever succeed if money for education keeps getting cut. (here we dont even have art and music anymore.)

i'm loving this disussion though.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Tammie, you bring up a good point about schools receiving Title I funding. In theory, this SHOULD be a good thing because the grants given to the school are intended to be used to improve schools, their programs, and their educators. I cannot speak how often or to what degree this actually happens in practice.

I am so sorry to hear about qualified teachers being forced to leave your schools. And unfortunately, the description of "highly qualified teachers" does not mention level of experience or years taught. I think that is on purpose, so that teachers who have been "in the trenches" for many years but in practice are pretty inadequate in their skills, are given the choice to either make improvements or find a new job. It is what's best for our kids - teachers need to be proficient at what they do, just like the everyone else at every other job. I support any process that reviews teachers and holds them to high standards. The only way we can get teachers who love to be in the classroom is by finding individuals who are willing to keep current on educational standards.

And, yes, I agree that NCLB is flawed. The more I investigate this, the more I see. However, no piece of law can be perfect. There in lies the chance for amending and moving forward. I think NCLB hasn't had enough time to work and consider the results. If lawmakers want to cut it out, or redo it, I think they need to at least give it until the end of it's intended program date, 2014. Then we can look back with more clarity and give NCLB a fair chance to do it's job. If we decide that it has to go, we can do it with a clear conscience knowing that we DID give it a chance.

Thanks for your excellent comments. I am learning SO much from my readers!

dddiva said...

I can't speak for all schools or school districts, I do know in our school system, the cuts were made in the extracurricular and gifted and talented programs and everything is going to the special needs children.
I believe they have a right to a quality education.
I do not believe that children who are capable of more should be given less, though.
The basic flaw, at least how they are doing things around here, is that they are lowering the standards for those capable of much, much more and the kids are bored out of their minds, unproductive and not the least bit inspired to excell.
It is very sad that they can't seem to come up with a way that ALL children, wherever they fall on the scales, are not striving to reach their personal best.
I am not saying that those who need extra help shouldn't get it, just that those who are above a certain level shouldn't be penalized so that they can.

Tammie said...

i feel like im learning a lot too and i really appreciate you going to all the trouble to gather this info.

i also wanted to say that i hope it doesn't come off that i'm "anti-teacher" because I'm not. I don't blame the teachers for what is going on in education right now and i applaud anyone that goes into the profession. even though i mentioned first year teachers, i am fully aware that even the best teachers had to have a first year at some point. i just think it's odd that my child has had so many.

I see your point that it's unfair to really judge the success of NCLB at this early stage, yet at the same time, my kids are the ones dealing with it now and will be forced to deal with the consequences at some point if the education they are getting is not up to par with that of their peers.

I never thought in my life that I would have to be as personally involved with my child's education to the level that I am forced to be. I know that a parent is to be the child's first teacher, but I'm constantly online looking at curriculum and art/music things to supplement the education he is getting at school. Sometimes I feel as if we home school in addition to public school and it can get overwhelming. I'm fortunate that I don't have to work outside the home and have the time to do this.

But yeah, I just don't know if there is any easy answer or fix at this point.

again, i really want to thank you for writing all this and compiling it all. it's a great topic to discuss and i think it's awesome that we as moms can discuss it and educate ourselves.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

@diva - Wow that really stinks for your school and its kids. I agree - there should be a way to help kids excel. However, this particular piece of legislation is designed to target those kids who would not get ANY type of quality education at all. The extreme is a school in an inner-city or a school in an all-hispanic area with very few English-speaking students, for example. Unfortunately, other schools that are "in the middle" get caught in NCLB too - those with all types of students from all types of backgrounds. I would suggest you ask your school if they receive Title I funding. If they do, contact the district and tell them you want to see what the grants are used for. If they don't, you will probably have a little more of a voice when it comes to telling your school what you'd like to see the $$ spent on (b/c they wouldn't have to follow NCLB requirements).

@tammie - you don't sound anti-teacher at all. You sound very involved and that's what our kids and our schools need! I know what you mean about TOO much involvement though... I asked my daughter this morning, did you do your homework last night? And she replied, Yes! Don't you remember? Many nights, it's all just a blur of homework, dinner, chores, go to sleep... do it again tomorrow. :-)

Thanks again ladies for the awesome discussion!

Tammie said...

okay...i hope im not being a comment hog and i promise i'll get off the computer at some point but i wanted to mention how much i agree with what dddiva said.

i've noticed the same thing here as well. my son brought home a progress report tuesday and he got straight A's. my son is smart, but not the type of child who wants to put forth the effort to earn all A's. when i was in school, earning all a's was an achievement you worked really hard for. as much as it irritates me, my son does all his assignments with the sole purpose of just getting them finished, giving very little thought to how neat it is, if all the answers are correct, etc...(yes, it drives me NUTS!) so when he brought home all A's I was SHOCKED! of course i told him how proud i was but in my head i was like, "how did this happen?!"

so yeah, i definitely see a lowering of the standards. i love that my son brought home A's but I don't know how much of that was earned. i worry that he's being allowed to coast through school without challenges.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I have nothing to add to this discussion. This is not a subject I have educated myself on whatsoever. I am loving finding out more from Texan Mama and from all these great comments. And everyone is so CIVIL. If only our politicians and media could learn a bit from this discussion.


Bridge said...

I am loving your research, the interviews on Charlie Rose are especially good.

Yes, based on this information there could be a half-full or half-empty opinion.

I get the feeling you loved college!

dddiva said...

I also appreciate the research you are doing- I don't blame the teachers at all and hope I don't come off that way- my niece moved to a different school district (private) so that she could actually help her students and not be forced to fit them all into a neat little mold.
Yes there is Title 1 funding here, and a lot of poverty, although that is getting better with the drilling many more families are getting a higher standard of living. I will have to make sure I find out exactly where the grants are going but I do know they dropped at least two "unnecessary" teachers and several programs that don't fit into the core curriculums that all children must have. Art was one, I can't think off the top of my head the other so that they could have more money available so that each special needs child could have one on one tutors.
I am not at all against everyone having access to the resources they need to become the best they are capable of in any way they can, but in some cases the children they are trying to push just do not have it in them to function at the level necessary to meet the minimum requirements, but are getting pushed through anyways.
I know it sounds harsh but different children have different needs and strengths.
Tammie, I see my kids skate too for the A's and it is really a sad thing because they are going to get smacked upside the head in the real world when they are competing for grades and jobs that they actually have to earn and I don't think that is fair either.
I don't think there is an easy solution but I am very interested in seeing this from all angles as of course I am seeing it from only my perspective.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Oh, you are not going to like this answer, but....

Programs like Art, Music, PE, and gifted/talented do not help our students become better readers & make gains in math skills.

There, I said it.

I don't like it, and if my child went to a school without the programs listed above, I would be raving mad. I would make sure the school added those programs and I would annoy the hell out of every school board member until it happened. Unfortunately, these programs just aren't as important as the others. It is important to have a well-rounded learner, but it just comes down to one idea: If the money has to go somewhere, what is the most important place? Math and reading. Those are the most important topics to tackle.

The problem happens when schools have so little money that they use all the funds for math & reading and have nothing left over for "extra" programs. Ideally, a school should have enough $$ to do both. But, if a school is struggling just to keep the funding it has, they must throw their efforts into the place where it will get recognition (in the form of the NCLB requirements being met).

Now, on the subject of your kids getting straight A's, I don't know if that actually has to do with NCLB. The NCLB doesn't have anything to do with grades received or even classroom tests. It is solely based on standardized tests, which would not affect your kids' grades. If you think your kids are getting grades that are too high, talk to your kids' teacher or principal. Sometimes they need to set the bar a little higher. Also, if it's the beginning of the year, sometimes it take a while for a teacher to get to know the kids, and figure out if kids need more of a challenge or if they need to slow down.

Great talk ladies!

Tammie said...

i feel that in a round about way---the all a's thing has a lot to do with NCLB.

many of my sons teachers have told me that they spend so much time teaching the subjects and topics that are stressed on the standardized tests that they have very little time to spend teaching anything else. so all other subjects get glossed over and, in short, it's real easy to earn an A on something when, say in geography you were only expected to learn 2 or 3 facts about the state of Alaska, before moving on to something else.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

Again, I don't feel comfortable debating but I am glad my kids go to a private school reading this.
(And you know the mess my Dino is in going to the public school special ed program right now.)

OHmommy said...

Wow, what a great conversation. I am really passionate about and have strong opinions on. I could go on and on as a former teacher. ;)