I've finally found a poltical science professor I can agree with. His name is Ted Reuter and he refers to the No Child Left Behind act as "Disastrous". Reuter's beefs with NCLB are:
It focuses on punishment, negative labels, and threats. It places too little emphasis on the social causes of poor school performance. It does nothing to improve the curriculum, reduce class size, decrease school size, increase parental involvement, create after-school programs, diminish school violence, lessen absenteeism, or increase funding.
Great find -- this article is very "on target" with what NCLB is doing to instruction and student engagement (killing both). We are heading down a frightening path that could eventually lead to a generation of individuals who lack critical thiking skills, creativity, and a love of learning.
Assessment FOR learning (not assessment OF learning) is what is needed in our education system. In Building Shared Responsibility for Student Learning, the authors discuss the issue of using data for accountability and decision-making. They give two options for approaching the use of data -- option 1) "For collaborative inquiry" and option 2) "As extrinsic motivators and demotivators". Option 1 leads to real improvement of student learning and the system as a whole. Option 2 leads to either "distortion of the data" (...like excluding some students from the results?) or "distortion of the system" (... like eliminating certain electives and narrowing the curriculum to only the material being tested?) which results in a dead end that has no impact on real school or system improvement.
Unfortunately, our policy-makers have chosen option 2 -- as Rueter clearly states in this article.
I forgot to mention that "Option #1" -- "using data for collaborative inquiry" -- means having teachers work collaboratively (like in Professional Learning Communities) to regularly assess student work and make instructional changes to address gaps in learning. But the collaboration is done in such a way that, as Tony Wagner states, there is "no blame, no shame, no excuses" -- just collaborative efforts to do what is best for all students.
The big difference in this kind of assessment is that it is a part of instruction -- like regular common assessments -- and occurs frequently enough for teachers to make instructional improvements much more quickly. It is not a once-a-year snapshot (like high-stakes standardized testing) where the results come back to the school too late in the year (or during the summer) when it is too late to help the students who are struggling.
I agree with you both completely... "You can't fatten a pig by weighing it"
I've been consumed lately thinking about how NCLB attempts to make every school system in the nation adhere to "their" way or the highway. Local control today is a joke but it's the only way to address the individual needs that each community in our county needs. What works in small town America won't necessarily work in New York City. Some of the items that NCLB mandates simply aren't needed in many localities.
Our SPED teachers have been running amok changing ARDS to have our SPED students take harder tests. These tests are sometimes waaay too hard for the student and only measure their ability to flunk a test and become frustrated. Our school has a higher proportion of SPED students than the MS down the road with similar demographics. We will not meet NCLB standards because of this but they probably will. After three years, our school could be "re-organized". All programs in place to help our SPED kids will be disrupted. The assessment will actually hurt rather than improve. The design is flawed. Welcome to the "AMC Tracer" of education reform.
One thing still amazes me is that a school can lose its academic rating due to the results of small groups. One local school in my area lost its high rating because 3 (THREE) students in a minority group did not do well! Overall the school did very well, but 3 did not so the school's rating slipped.
HEY AMERICA! Teaching is not making bricks! The students don't start out the same and they don't end up the same.
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