Today’s Bookmarks from Diigo 01/29/2007

29 01 2007

Teacher Magazine: The Real World

  • great articel on a project-based program that champions authentic assessments over bubble-based testing
     – post by del_ambiguity

SCHOOL MATTERS: Bush Bails on Education – NAM  Annotated(6)

NCLB began auspiciously with the right emphasis on enabling urban students to improve their school performance. It provided a frame for establishing high standards for all students and making schools responsible for student progress.

But for all its good intentions, the law has created huge problems for educators, students and parents, and has failed to deliver in crucial areas.

    In a feeble attempt at a remedy, once again the Bush administration is playing the voucher card. In his speech, Bush said he wants to enable “children stuck in failing schools the right to choose some place better.”

    The Department of Education reauthorization plan allocates $4,000 scholarships for students to attend private, other public or out-of-district public schools. This does not address the problem that in many cities, there are simply no schools in which to use the scholarships. Private schools are exclusive and are not likely to accept large numbers of under-performing students from public schools. The tuition of the best private schools can range from four to seven times that of the scholarship money. And there is no sign that suburban schools with high performing students are lining up to accept these students, either.

    So far, the transfer aspect of NCLB is a failure. In 2005, nationwide, only 1 percent of eligible students chose to transfer. Critics also question spending money on busing students when funds are needed to hire better teachers, improve instruction and provide books and computers.

    Notwithstanding the need to establish stronger benchmarks for success, the testing regime established by NCLB has delivered no more than minimal results.

      In his speech, Bush cited the progress minority children had made in closing the testing score gap between them and other students. Fact-checkers working after the speech and others say that Bush’s claim that NCLB is closing the gap is exaggerated.

      Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2005 indicated that the reading scores for fourth grade Asian, Hispanic and black students went up modestly. Native American scores went down. For the eighth grade, scores for all groups except Asians went down. The achievement gap between black and white students from 2002 to 2005 widened a bit.

        For sure, teachers around the country are reeling under the weight of a testing regime. Some out of desperation are resorting to deadly drills that sap the spirit of students and deaden the joy of learning.

          Harnessed with poor teaching conditions, unruly students and inadequate training, teachers do not last. There should be more federal money going directly for salaries and training for those teachers willing to take jobs in schools with vast numbers of under-performing students.

            The war in Iraq and tax cuts for the rich have depleted the treasury, and now that the Democrats rule Congress, Bush has forsaken the route of deficit spending and is trumpeting the virtues of a balanced budget.

            Yet there is no more important challenge facing the nation than turning out, in Bush’s words, “a public with knowledge and character.” It will take more than a warmed-over NCLB to meet that challenge.

              Schools Matter  Annotated(1)

              The CBS Film You Won’t See on CBS

              Apparently it doesn’t fit the feel-good format of America’s mom, Katie Couric, and the MSM corporate fealty to the War Machine. From Josh Marshall:

              Take a look at this video segment about the war on the ground in Baghdad, The Battle for Haifa Street, little more than a mile from the Green Zone. For some reason CBS only ran it on their website. It never saw the light of day on the network news.

              Murrow rolls in his grave.

                http://www.nypost.com/php/pfriendly/print.php?url=http://www.nypost.com/seven/01282007/news/regionalnews/lost_lessons_in_test_prep_craze_regionalnews_angela_montefinise.htm  Annotated(5)

                • teaching strategies instead of just teaching….

                   – post by del_ambiguity

                January 28, 2007 — For a month, third-graders at one Brooklyn elementary school had only two social-studies lessons.

                Their teacher said she was too busy teaching kids test-taking strategies.

                  “The kids can’t tell you who the president was during the Civil War,” she said. “But they can tell you how to eliminate answers on a multiple-choice test. And as long as our test scores are up, everyone will be happy.

                  “That’s education?”

                  The teacher, who requested anonymity, said she was ordered by her principal to “forget about everything except test prep” over the four weeks prior to this month’s statewide English tests.

                  “All anyone cares about now are test scores,” she lamented.

                    Since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 brought high-stakes testing to the nation, city teachers have complained that statewide tests and test preparation have dominated class time. Now, they say, the situation is getting worse.

                      Another teacher called it “institutionalized child abuse.”

                      There are no systemwide rules for test prep. Individual schools decide how much is necessary.

                      Principals are partially evaluated on test scores, so “naturally, they want the scores up, [and] that’s our priority,” one teacher said. “Actual education is second.”

                        Tests are crucial because they “give schools valuable information that they use to pinpoint students’ strengths and weaknesses and create academic plans to address them,” said city Department of Education spokesman Andrew Jacob.

                          Schools Matter: Testing and the “Darkest Underbelly”  Annotated(5)

                          In the meantime, of course, there are the millions of children, parents, and teachers who are being sacrificed each year in order to attain the assured failure that has been planned for them. The choking canaries in this dark poisonous mine are, of course, the poor, the disabled, the immigrant, the minority–the ones supposedly for whom the title of this legislation was stolen from the Children’s Defense Fund. No Child Left Behind, indeed.

                            Bush and Spellings have shown zero interest in acknowledging the impossibility of children reaching their 100% proficiency target in math and reading by 2014.

                              At this time, about 40 percent of our student body is special-needs students. One part of the No Child Left Behind Act requires special education students to meet the same benchmarks as their counterparts in general education.

                                A little-known aspect of this policy is that a school can be judged deficient solely on the basis of the Education Department’s judgment that special education students are not successful on state assessments. This indeed is the mechanism by which Campus West was designated as needing improvement. The policy of judging an entire school program by measuring special education student achievement on standardized testing precipitates much more negative fallout than the simple label implies.

                                  Lastly, and the reason for this explanatory piece, the policy of judging a school by the success of its special education students on standardized tests affects student responses to their educational program. One bright student, perhaps reflecting her parent’s comments, was recently overheard: “Campus West is a “bad’ school because we have “dumb’ kids taking these [standardized] tests.”

                                  Much more could be said, but to me, this statement reflects the darkest underbelly of the unwarranted use of standardized testing and provides its own commentary.

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