Secretary Duncan and President Obama are changing  No Child Left Behind.

The way it currently works where I teach is thus: there is a list of standards in each grade in math and reading. Children get tested on that material the following year: the school gets those results the following spring. Scores are reported in the local papers as to whether or not a school has made what the federal government calls Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP.

School populations are divided into sub groups called cohorts by race, socio economic status or whether the child receives special education services. If any one of those cohorts fails to make AYP, the entire school is considered to have failed. There are several more steps after that, including entire faculties being fired, school-wide self study, etc.

Rather than waivers, I suggest revisions to the current law to make it more effective.

  1. Stop failing an entire school because of one group. That invalidates the weeks and months of hard work of everyone else in that building in one fell swoop. Report the scores as they are: “Oak Elementary made AYP in reading and math school wide except one cohort missed it by Y amount.” As it is now, no one ever gets to know that a particular class actually did meet that standard, which is an indicator of superior teaching.
  2. Follow the teacher. Do their kids improve year after year? Sometimes a year’s growth is easy, but if a kid comes to fourth grade reading like a first grader, it will be nearly impossible to get that kid ready for fifth grade reading in ten months. If that educator’s students consistently trend upwards, that is another mark of solid teaching.
  3. Administer the test in the testing year. It is more appropriate for the kids to take the test with the teacher with whom they have been learning. The test measures learning, not memory, so why wait? The kids will work harder because of the relationship built with that teacher over the past 10 months. Not only can nothing be said during a test, nothing needs to be said: a kid will try and try hard because he knows his teacher is watching. Watching, not cheating. Proctoring, walking around the room, not saying a word, not pointing anything out. Just the presence is enough to motivate, ok, to put the fear of God into the kid. All I have to do is keep walking around and they work like the dickens.
  4. Score and return the tests before the end of that school year. Eighteen months are entirely too long to wait if I am expected to use that data to improve my teaching. Teachers reflect upon the year at the end of that year when events are fresh.

  The public wants to know what kids are supposed to know, if they know it and how well they know it. Teachers want to show how far students were able to learn from the beginning of the year to the end, not just how they did on assessments.

What we need now is for President Obama and Secretary Duncan to see that simply demanding that every kid be perfect by a certain age or else isn’t the way; we need to focus on them individually, as people, not plot points on a graph.


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About Deb Beaupre

I am a teacher and a mother who loves to read and hates to exercise but must. I live in the boonies and have three athletic kids and a cat and a horse.I touch neither. I grow flowers, not food. I am from Boston and so nobody understands what I say but that's okay, because no one around here talks much anyhow. Things I have done I never expected to do:own a horse and be asked to help catch a runaway cow. Thing I will never do: deliver a baby lamb.

5 responses to “2”

  1. LunaSunshine says :

    This is still NCLB policy, right? You know, I have seen the worst decline in education since that policy was instituted. We used to call it, “No Child Left Alone”. Obviously, I’m a music teacher, so there’s really no standardized test for that. Of course, I’m surprised that they haven’t come up with one yet. A standardized music theory test? HA! Every single school would fail, I assure you.

    Anyhow, there are all kinds of things wrong with that legislation. The standards don’t promote real learning. It promotes memorization. I’ve sat in on those “prep” classes. They are the worst. It isn’t learning. Not at all. It’s drilling. And that’s not how kids are supposed to learn. These are the skills that they need for the rest of their lives. And school boards and administrations are treating it like that’s not their primary goal any longer. Forget mission statements about fostering exceptional learning. The mission statement should read, “We’re looking to cover our behinds by any means necessary and get additional federal funding by exploiting gifted children whiel sweeping our special needs children under the carpet.”

    No child or educator is benefiting from this. And worse, we’re passing kids out of grades and school that shouldn’t be. It’s setting the bar lower, if anything. The worst of it all is the pressure it puts on special needs children and their teachers. A school can only get so many exemptions. We can’t expect all special needs children to meet the same academic standards as their peers. It puts pressure on academic standards rather than life skills and global development. It deprives them of the special part of their educational needs.

    Your thoughts?

    • Deb Beaupre says :

      Hey Luna, Thanks for reading. In NH, we have this thing called Alternatative something or other. It enables SPED staff to send in a detailed portfolio in lieu of taking the test. SO kids with IQs too low to test or be in class, really do this. Everyone else gets as many accomodations as we can think of to help them be successful. Even so, they still choose incorrectly at times, which is MADDENING.
      Tell me about prep classes. I’ve never heard of them.

      • LunaSunshine says :

        Oh, you guys up there don’t have prep classes? Here’s how they do PSSA down here (PA). At the very beginning of the year, everyone gets a pretest. It’s a way for teachers to identify kids that need to go to these prep classes.

        The prep classes are usually held after school and on Saturdays for pretty much anyone who wants to go. (In high school, it’s different. Bear with me.) It’s not teaching as much as it is making the kids memorize the material. (That’s why it’s no big shock that they’ll score badly on the next year’s test). It’s drills and tests. Until a kid scores satisfactory, they will be hassled.

        So then, sometime in February, they’ll do the real thing, and pray they meet AYP. They do, but there is still that group of kids that’s dragging down their score, and limiting their funding. Exceeding AYP here brings more money.

        So, those kids are remediated. The next year, they are expected to score satisfactory, or they won’t pass to the next grade. And the cycle begins again.

        Once students reach 11th grade, PSSA scores are like the finals for all of high school. If they don’t pass by 12th grade, they won’t graduate. So, the pretests are given. If a student scores below satisfactory, PSSA prep becomes mandatory. They will remove the student’s study hall, and the drills start again.

        That makes a lot of kids want to drop out at 11th. They’ll move on to 12th, provided their grades are okay. But, they just don’t want to end up failing high school, essentially.

        So, some school districts do this so that their grad rate stays high. If a student looks as if they may not pass PSSA, they’ll recommend alternative school to the parents. Charter schools, online schools, tech school, etc. It sounds like a good idea for the kid, because they don’t want to fail again, and because alternative schools usually give more freedoms and less hassle.

        It’s bad for the kid. If we stop the drills and increase the education when they are young, then this wouldn’t happen in high school! Schools are too concerned with meeting AYP anymore to be concerned with actually educating kids.

        Even worse, probably the worst, we’re graduating substandard kids because they could squeek by on a test. And that’s how they learn now. By banking everything they need for a test in short term memory, then dumping it out when it’s test time. Those kids are going to go to college and get degrees they didn’t really earn.

  2. jmlindy422 says :

    Absolutely agree to point one. It is ridiculous to fail an entire school because of one population. Failing a school on a particular population might also make it easier for students who need the supplemental services that NCLB offers to actually get them. In Illinois, where I live, I do SES tutoring for schools that are not making AYP but there is no guarantee that the students I serve are the ones who are the “reason” the school isn’t making AYP. All parents in the school are offered tutoring for their children. If a parent signs their children up, those kids get tutoring. The school does not make recommendations or identify kids who need additional support.

    In Illinois, we test what was taught in the year the test is given (school year, that is). I’m pretty sure we also get the results in the same year. As a consequence, the first half of the school year is front-loaded with the things that will be on the tests. There is a lot of pressure, particularly as test time approaches in late Feb/March, to cram in everything the students will be tested on. As a result, the kids are cramming in the winter. Then, come spring, they can “have fun.” There is a distinct difference in classrooms before the test and after the test. Before the test: practice, practice, practice on how to take the test and do things that will be on the test. After the test: study poetry, go on field trips, do project-based learning.

    I have no hope that Duncan can change NCLB in any positive way, but we’ll see.

    Great post.

    • Deb Beaupre says :

      WOW. That is amazing. What a great argument against standardized testing.

      I have little hope as well, especially with the Race to the Top business, but when I met candidate Obama- remember, I live in NH where the primaries are so long that you see the contestants 3x at least- he really seemed to get it. Why the law was all wrong.

      Snide, thanks for reading. I LOVED your piece about why you are a bad blogger. I found you from Freshly Pressed, but dunno if I would have otherwise yet you are my blogging twin sis.


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