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Many Children Left Behind.- Epic Fail

This is the 12th year. The year the educational law passed by near unanimous vote in the House and signed by Bush in 2002 "No Child Left Behind" was suppose to be met, and hopefully exceeded. The goal was that every student in the nation should be at or above grade-level in Math and Reading.  Grades 4 and 8 were the check points.

Doesn't seem like that difficult of a goal. If a child is in 4th grade, shouldn't she be reading at 4th grade level?

The whole plan sounds acceptable. It even gets your blood going. "No Child Left Behind". It rings with those slogans we hear from Fireman, Marines and Special Forces, "We Don't Leave Our Men Behind", "Everyone Goes Home." And at the time, 2002, just after the 9/11 crisis, we were looking for things to be patriotically positive about. Yeah, we were going to kill Bin Laden, but rage only gets you so far when you are hurt like that, you need something to care about, something with life in it -- who leaves children behind anyway? So Bush signed that paper, it became a national goal and we all felt good.

Results?  Epic Fail.

The test is only for two areas. Math and Reading. There is a single standardized test for each of those, which is given every year. The objective was to come up with educational strategies which would bring students up to grade level within twelve years. Math came up some. A steady if disheartening amount every year. Reading basically flatlined.

Our results indicate that NCLB generated statistically significant increases in the average math performance of 4th graders (effect size = 0.22 by 2007) as well as improvements at the lower and top percentiles. There is also evidence of improvements in 8th grade math achievement, particularly among traditionally low-achieving groups and at the lower percentiles. However, we find no evidence that NCLB increased reading achievement in either 4th or 8th grade. -- NBER Working Paper No. 15531

Children definitely got left behind. The NPR this morning has a good story about some of the details and efforts that were made. The bottom line however, is that no matter how you look at it, we made little effect with our efforts, even under the obligation of law.

Should we blame something? I believe blame is simply a method of obstruction. It gets us nowhere. The reasoning behind blame is that if you know the cause you can fix the problem -- which is shit. Sorry for the vulgarity, but it is, and when was the last time blame actually worked in your life? When did a problem as complicated as educating a wide variety of children in a single classroom while under budgeted and under staffed, come down to a definable single cause? -- Yeah, me neither. All blame does is distract, and then everyone else spends their efforts and time deflecting. Screw that. Congress's Culture of Obstruction is all the obstruction and blame this country can handle right now. They've used it all up.

The Reading levels bother me the most, of course. These are my future customers. I would like them to be able to enjoy a good book. What bothers me most is the "Flat line" Here we are putting out best into attempting to meet the No Child Left Behind goals, every state in the Union using every method we can think up, working together, crossing state lines with shared information,

Results? .. Flatline. No significant change at all. Well, some years they get worse -- just a little. Its frustrating. It's maddening.  And then, Obama comes in and puts Common Core out there, during our last year of No Child Left Behind, our last chance and he throws Common Core into the forge and stokes that puppy up. F%#k!
8th Grade Reading Up 2013 higher than all years previous

High school English scores grew considerably over last year’s results in English I and English II. -- 2014 TCAP State Results, Tennessee
The average reading score for eighth-graders was 2 points higher in 2013 than in 2011 -- NAEP 
 Average reading scores for eighth-graders rose to 268 after stagnating for about a decade -- Washington Post
 In reading, 32 percent of eighth graders were proficient, up from 26 percent in 1992. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the results "absolutely encouraging." -- Huntington Post

Exactly. First year on Common Core, reading levels actually go up an amount worth mentioning. Not much. Not every state -- but it moved. Up.  Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, agrees with my assessment.
Common Core learning standards and links between teacher evaluations and students' standardized test scores. "All eight states that have implemented the state-designed higher standards at the time of the 2013 NAEP assessment showed improvement in at least one of the reading or math assessments between 2009 and 2013," Duncan said.
It works. Twelve years of an impressive amount of Traditional Strategy variations giving us only a flatline,  and then a the change of focus and method of Common Core works. Even though most teachers were not quite comfortable with the methods or the change in perspective (which is admittedly disparate) the methods demonstrated a clear hope of improvement.

Common Core changes the objective, the focus and the perspective in the How of Teaching. Traditional teaching methods equate to Memorize = Learning. This is known as Rote Learning, or as it is called in many teacher lounges, "Teach to Test".  The logic says "If I can recite the Preamble of the Constitution, I Know the Preamble of the Constitution."  Of course this ignores anything like Understanding, or Ability to Apply.

Rote Learning has many advantages for Teachers, and School Systems, especially when dealing with all of the political hoops government entities like to throw at teachers to demonstrate value against funding (Basically ROI). Outcome Based Education is hardly new (one of the nay-say memes against Common Core is that it is new, which is epically false), and one of the complaints against OBE was that it didn't allow quantifiable reports to show value against funding.

In the early 1990s, several standards-based reform measures were passed in various states, creating the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (1991), Washington Assessment of Student Learning (1993), the CLAS in California (1993), and the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (1993). No Child Left Behind was a Standard Based program though it did little to suggest how the schools were going to achieve that goal.

No matter what, or how good or how important a method is there will always be those who throw doubt -- for the most part that is good.
Statisticians caution policymakers from reading too much into the scores. "NAEP is very good at telling us where we stand," said Jack Buckley, commissioner of the Education Department's research arm. "But it is a study that is not very well-designed to tell us why." In places like D.C. and Tennessee, where there were larger gains, "it just shows that some good things happened in those states," he said.
So, Jack isn't a bit fan on life down in Tennessee on the whole it seems -- aside from this his caution is worth noting. It was only the first year. Granted, it draws a great deal of attention when you have been desperate to see a sign of hope, but ...

Reality also has more than one focus however. We have not been training students in High School to be ready for College.
...while eighty-nine percent of high-school instructors in a just-released ACT survey described the students who had completed their courses as "well" or "very well" prepared for first-year, college-level work in their discipline, only about one-quarter of college faculty members said the same thing about their incoming students. -- Chronicle of Higher Education,
We may think we have prepared our graduates for the next level, but on the whole, the next level is not agreeing with that belief.
The Common Core might seem tough-minded and heavy-handed to some, but when the freight train is dangling precariously off the cliff, it takes ingenuity and muscle to begin to set it aright. -- KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR
There is a flood of Anti-Common Core propaganda on the web. People like Janet Robbins, who works for the Koch funded think tank American Principles Project, will say anything, it seems to throw darkness on the program. Her tactics are basic, even fundamental with any propaganda program.
To sum it up, here’s the formula being used:
1.  Tell the person everything they think is false, i.e., you’re a liar.
2.   Use the debunked Common Core talking points to prove those claims are false.
3.   Offer no proof you are right and they are wrong, just ask questions back that are false comparisons and red herrings.
4.    Confuse people by pointing them to a website that has a such a non-specific search engine that it will keep them busy looking for what they asked for in their letter for the better part of a year. This will hopefully make them lose interest.
5.   Declare victory.
If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” ― Adolf Hitler
The playbook is well known, but the reason it is well known is that for the most part it works.

Methods of outcome-based education (OBE) are student-centered learning methods that focus on empirically measuring student performance (the "outcome"). OBE contrasts with traditional education, which primarily focuses on the resources that are available to the student, which are called inputs. OBE was a popular term in the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s. It is also called mastery education, performance-based education, and other names.

The thing that hits me hardest today, after reading the No Child Left Behind program description on Wikipedia, is I have this strange sense of Déjà vu. I came in on this ride with Common Core, and I'm not a teacher, nor am I trained in Education. But reading this NCLB, I come to realize that NCLB is all the things that people are complaining about in regards to Common Core.

  • Standardized Testing
  • Too many tests
  • Federal Centered Standards with Limitations on local control
  • Cuts to classes not essential to NCLB (Since 2007, almost 71% of schools have reduced instruction time in subjects such as history, arts, language, and music to provide more time and resources to mathematics and English)
  • "Teaching to the test"culture development encouraged
  • Removal of other evaluation methods such as :case studies, ethnographies, personal interviews, discourse analysis, grounded theory, action research, and other forms of qualitative research, forcing one method of evaluation on teachers and students -- evaluations in which pay raises and funding are determined.

If the school's results are repeatedly poor, then steps are taken to improve the school.

  1. Schools that miss AYP for a second consecutive year are publicly labeled as in need of improvement, and must develop a two-year improvement plan for the subject that the school is not teaching well. Students have the option to transfer to a better school within the school district, if any exists.
  2. Missing AYP in the third year forces the school to offer free tutoring and other supplemental education services to struggling students.
  3. If a school misses its AYP target for a fourth consecutive year, the school is labelled as requiring "corrective action," which might involve wholesale replacement of staff, introduction of a new curriculum, or extending the amount of time students spend in class.
  4. A fifth year of failure results in planning to restructure the entire school; the plan is implemented if the school fails to hit its AYP targets for the sixth year in a row. Common options include closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to run the school directly.

Those are all "No Child Left Behind" Issues.. not Common Core. We need to keep in mind that NCLB is a LAW. You take the funding, you agree to meet the goals. And everyone failed. So, I have a hard time reconciling in my mind why these complaints are being laid at Obama's feet. Like him, hate him, or points in between, Bush made this law and we were all happy when he did. (I wonder if pushing the goal date out past his term was a tactical choice? hmm) Anyway, from all that I have discovered, Obama has been very active in developing programs so that schools aren't closed and turned in to charter/private education systems.

President Barack Obama released a blueprint for reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the precursor to No Child Left Behind, in March 2010. Specific revisions include providing funds for states to implement a broader range of assessments to evaluate advanced academic skills, including students’ abilities to conduct research, use technology, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, and communicate effectively.

In addition, Obama proposes that the NCLB legislation lessen its stringent accountability punishments to states by focusing more on student improvement. Improvement measures would encompass assessing all children appropriately, including English language learners, minorities, and special needs students. The school system would be re-designed to consider measures beyond reading and math tests; and would promote incentives to keep students enrolled in school through graduation, rather than encouraging student drop-out to increase AYP scores.
Therefore, in order to make the AYP goals, the school as a whole and each subgroup must meet certain benchmarks each year, or the school would be considered failing. This has caused significant controversy because some schools have gone to extreme measures to increase their score. For instance, school administrators have been accused of encouraging students in certain subgroups to stay home on testing days or, even more troubling, encouraging students to drop out of school entirely to increase the school’s AYP score. -- A Past, Present, and Future Look at No Child Left Behind Vol. 38 No. 4 By Andrea L. Bell, Katie A. Meinelt
No child left behind? That sounds a lot like exposing the flawed children to the elements to me. 

Obama’s objectives also entail lowering the achievement gap between Black and White students and also increasing the federal budget by $3 billion to help schools meet the strict mandates of the bill. There has also been a proposal, put forward by the Obama administration, that states increase their academic standards after a dumbing-down period, focus on re-classifying schools that have been labeled as failing, and develop a new evaluation process for teachers and educators.

That's a lot of work put out to be bitched at for -- especially since he didn't make, or ask for this problem.

In 2012, President Obama granted waivers from NCLB requirements to several states. "In exchange for that flexibility, those states 'have agreed to raise standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness,' the White House said in a statement.

  • February 9, 2012 - Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee
  • February 15, 2012 - New Mexico
  • May 29, 2012 - Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island
  • June 29, 2012 - Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia
  • July 6, 2012 - Washington and Wisconsin

Eight of the 32 NCLB waivers granted to states are conditional, meaning those states have not entirely satisfied the administration's requirements and part of their plans are under review.
Arizona's, Oregon's and Kansas' waivers are conditional, according to Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin. Arizona has not yet received state board approval for teacher evaluations, and Kansas and Oregon are both still developing teacher and principal evaluation guidelines.

In addition, five states that did not complete the waiver process—and one whose application was rejected—got a one-year freeze on the rising targets for standardized test scores: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Maine and West Virginia.

All this time NCLB is being ignored for renewal in Congress, bashed by teachers, begged for by governors and thrashed by unions. It's getting its ass kicked. Bush pops up with the defence that "children do learn" and is promptly ignored.
A few moments later, he[Bush] added, "As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured." The official White House transcript later corrected the statement to "children."
 You could always count on GW Bush to be consistent at least.

As it is right now, with as far as I have gone, I'm liking Common Core. Studies suggest that many (larger percents) teachers find it better than the days of NCLB -- and the more I read, the more I'm amazed anyone wouldn't bless the day "anything" came along to get them out of the NCLB days. But I feel that I should at least do some delving into Common Core. The big money behind its demise, along with the big money pushing it to succeed -- basically an epic battle between billionaires, intrigues me.

The frustration teachers feel at the constantly changing standards is understandable, as is the sentiment of one teacher that his profession " no longer exists": when restrictions pile on top of one another, it seems that there is little freedom for the teacher to exercise his or her own judgment and expertise. Yet, the fact is that the freedom to teach literary texts was appropriated long ago by politicized special interest groups who would rather interpret Shakespeare, Milton, and Twain using the agenda du jour rather than actually read and understand first what Shakespeare, Milton, and Twain are saying. Invisible ideological tails have been wagging the dog of daily classroom instruction for so long that we don't even know what the freedom to read looks like. It is all fogged over in platitudes and cheerleading. 

The Common Core standards in reading restore freedom, the freedom of students to be able to read and comprehend a text on their own upon leaving the classroom because they have gained the skills to do so without the mediation of a teacher-facilitator. The Common Core standards in reading are designed empower students to read, and to read well, the very foundation of success for college, career, and life. It cuts the crap. The standards are clearly defined, the skill sets are attainable, measurable. Oh, and did I mention they work? Good.

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