************************* From Substance, September-December, 2004, p. 24,20.21. Article was typed from the original article in Substance. ------------------------------------------ THIS IS PART II OF TWO PARTS. ************************* Since each state selects a test and sets the definition of what constitutes proficiency, numbers of failing schools vary widely from state to state - so widely that failing means very different things in different states. Last year Alabama reported 4.6 % of their public schools failed to make AYP. But next door in Florida 87.1 % failed. Can that really mean that Alabama schools are far better than Florida schools? This year Indiana had 4.1 % of schools failing for 2 years and the District of Columbia had 43.6 %. If a school is failing for two years it is subject to "corrective action."
The law also classifies any school district as failing if one school in it is failing. In Idaho 11.3% of schools have failed for two years but 38.3 % of Idaho's school districts are failing. Nationally, this year almost 20,000 schools will be labeled failing one year and almost 10,000 will be failing for two or more years and are subject to penalties.
But NCLB is like a mortgage with a balloon payment. States can use an easy test or hard one. They can slow down the impact of NCLB or speed it up. But by 2014, in every state, all students in all sub groups must be scoring at the proficient level.
This election year the federal monitors have been lenient a bit in how much they pushed the states. But the pressure will be kept up on states and local districts as these children progress through primary grades. Because all children in every state must be tested in third grade it will be to the advantage of schools to fail children in second grade who are likely to pull down the test scores as third graders. Each year the number of children who avoid failing a year will drop so that by the time they reach middle school an alarming number of pupils will have failed at least one year.
Predictably the toll will be heaviest among the poor, children of color, immigrants and handicapped pupils. These face a double blow under the law. They must all take the same test. And they must pass at the same rate as all other groups in their schools. Studies show that NCLB punishes diversity. A stated purpose of NCLB is to eliminate the gaps between the haves and the have nots in our schools, between poor and rich, between white and people of color. But the means to that end is to require all students to pass the same tests at the same high levels. And remember, 95% of a group must be present for the test. If parents choose to keep their kids out of the test or the school is hit by flu it fails.
Currently many award winning schools are failing because of a single group such as the English language learners. Scarsborough, New York is a failing district because 15% of parents kept their children home on test days. Scottsdale, Arizona with six percent African American pupils is failing because that one group missed adequate yearly progress. A New Hampshire superintendent says that his schools have 105 ways to fail on NCLB. That means that pupils in the groups schools have not served well are more likely to be left behind or pushed out under NCLB. If a school, or school district, is labeled failing because of one sub group, what will be the tensions that develop between that group and the rest of the students?
By the time current first graders enter middle school two-thirds will be entering schools labeled as failing and when, and if , they reach high school it will be hard to find a school not labeled failing. Predictions from California, Minnesota and Connecticut are for virtually all schools to be labeled failing by 2014.
Right now, around 30% of students, depending on the state, leave school without graduating high school. Under the NCLB with many more students starting school this year failing at least one grade before they would enter 10th grade that figure is likely to increase dramatically. Research shows that students who fail a grade are unlikely to stay in school until graduation. That will be even more likely in the increasing number of states that will deny a diploma to those who fail to pass high stakes high school tests. And under NCLB high schools have an incentive to get rid of the students who bring down their pass rates. Already a scandal has been exposed in Houston in which over a third of 9th graders left school without graduating but the school system was reporting no dropouts.
When these issues have been raised with the ardent advocates of NCLB, they respond that the law contains remedies to help the failing schools achieve. Parents have the option to have their children transported to another school from a failing school, for example, at the expense of the districts.
But in a city like Chicago, with a high number of failing schools, there are few schools to accept transfer students. In New York transfers have led to severe overcrowding and resulted in more failing schools. In rural areas there are no alternative schools and in places like Alaska there may be no practical ways of transporting students.
Let's suppose, however, that parents choose to have their first grader transferred to a school which is not failing. That means the child is leaving the neighborhood. But then if that school becomes a failing school will the parents again request a transfer? So far, most parents have opted to keep their children in their neighborhood school.
Parents of children in failing schools may also request private tutoring. But NCLB does not permit the local school districts to provide the tutoring themselves; they must contract with approved private providers whose fees range from $40-80 per hour per pupil. And the tutors provided are likely to have less professional training than the classroom teachers. Furthermore since the help is provided to those whose parents request it, children who need help will not necessarily get it and students may get it who don't need it. Because the tutoring is off site and often after school many parents choose not to request it. The Hawaiian department of education is flying tutors from a private company at great expense from Honolulu to the island of Molokai where the schools are labeled failing.
Another remedy offered to "failing schools" is that the state sends in a team to "help" it become more successful. These teams are trained in the narrow methods and materials the Washington implementers are pushing as "evidence based," They become enforcers limiting the flexibility of the teachers to vary the experiences of learners using their professional judgment.
NCLB has a goal to have "highly qualified teachers" in every classroom. But as the law defines that, this year's first graders are likely to have fewer teachers with professional education and certification. Many teachers are taking early retirement for a variety of reasons. These include restrictions on their ability to use their professional judgments on behalf of their pupils, heavy paperwork involved in NCLB and unwillingness to use methods and materials they don't agree with. These teachers are often replaced with teachers certified through alternative routes with little professional education. The Bush administration has set a procedure for national certification through passing tests with no professional education course work.
Elementary heritage language programs in native communities are disappearing because the law requires that teacher aides have two year college degrees. In many rural communities, those currently working as aides will lose their jobs adding to the high unemployment rates. NCLB requires secondary teachers to have degrees in the subjects they teach. But most middle school teachers are generalists who teach more than one subject. So when these first graders reach middle school they will be finding highly experienced teachers replaced with teachers who can only teach one subject such as history, or chemistry.
Small high schools in rural areas are being told that the common practice of having one teacher teach all the science courses is unacceptable. If the chemistry teacher is going to teach biology then he or she must take an examination or an additional degree to be considered qualified.
If parents are worried about what the future holds for their kids once they leave school, NCLB has an answer for that too. The law requires school officials to provide the names and addresses of all school leavers to the Defense Department which will be happy to provide employment opportunities.
It should be clear that NCLB would be better called "No child left Unscarred." It is a law that can not succeed in its stated goal of bringing all children to proficiency. If the law was designed to make public schools look like failures then in fact it is likely to succeed. But then what would American education become? It would become a system much like that in many third world countries. Children of the wealthy would be in private schools. Middle class parents would buy the best education they can afford for their kids with most priced out of the prestige schools. A small number of high achievers would make it through because business needs them to be the technicians, engineers and scientists. And the public schools that are left would serve the working poor providing a pool of cheap labor for business, industry and the military.
Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas yet to come if the terrible scenes he is shown are what must be or whether he has the power to change them. All that I have predicted are the inevitable results of the NCLB law as it is currently written and enforced. NCLB is the product of politicians. Under pressure from parents and other voters, all or some of it can be changed by the politicians that enacted the law. The only way to avoid or limit its impact on our children and young people is also political. It is discouraging that in an election year neither party or their candidates are indicating they will make any changes in the law itself or any long term changes in its enforcement.
At some point this punitive law will implode on itself as it affects more and more children and more and more families. If parents join to support teachers, administrators and school boards in resisting NCLB much of its potential effects can be avoided. But if it takes too long for the resistance to become effective, the damage to public education in the United States may be catastrophic. ---------------------------------- NCLB 'Bottom Line' boomerangs against Chicago's teacher bashers
By George N. Schmidt
Despite the fact that many of the most punitive mandates now in "No Child Left Behind" have been field tested in Chicago since the corporate version of "school reform" began in 1995 with the mayoral takeover of the public schools, those who bash teachers using a fatuous "bottom line" based on biased standardized test scores are get caught in the same statistical traps they use against others.
On December 9, the Chicago Board of Education's communications department convened a hastily assembled press briefing after federal officials announced that Chicago would not be allowed to use city teachers to tutor "failing" children under No Child Left Behind since Chicago is a "failing district." A district that has 'failed' must hire private companies to do it.
Duncan [CEO of Chicago schools) routinely bashes teachers and schools for failing to meet impossible "bottom line" goals. He failed to realize that the privatization agenda he supports in many cases is ultimately aimed at his staff as well. Tutoring and transfers are just the beginning. ------------------------------ THIS IS PART II OF TWO PARTS - THE END. ****************************************** -- Jerry P. Becker Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O] (618) 457-8903 [H] Fax: (618) 453-4244 E-mail: email@example.com