Archive for Tuesday, March 29, 2011

First Bell: Obama backs away from standardized tests; small-class advocate criticizes task force report; ideas offered for budget cuts

March 29, 2011


A few education-oriented items from around the area and beyond:

Turns out President Obama sees eye-to-eye with folks in and around Lawrence on more than his belief in the Jayhawks.

Obama — who, for the second year in a row, picked Kansas to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship — also backs many teachers, administrators and school board members in the Lawrence school district.

Their common assertion: Students should take fewer standardized tests, and the government should find ways other than such assessments to judge the performance of schools.

“One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” Obama said Monday, during a town hall meeting at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C., as reported by The Associated Press.

“All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting,” Obama said. “And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in. They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”

Obama is busy working to rewrite federal education laws, including the “No Child Left Behind” regulations that have frustrated educators in Lawrence and elsewhere. The Lawrence district is “on improvement” because it has missed targets on state assessment tests for two consecutive years for particular sets of students.

Superintendent Rick Doll has supported shifting to more of a “growth model,” one in which students are judged on how much growth they achieve during a particular year as opposed to meeting a standard that rises each year until 2014, when 100 percent of all students would be expected to meet standards.

Like many crimson-and-blue supporters in Lawrence, of course, Obama has missed on his hoops predictions in each of the past two years. Whether he’s more successful on education changes will be determined in the months ahead.


Add another name to the list of detractors* of the conclusions of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy group based in New York City, sent a letter this weekend to members of the Lawrence school board, critical of several of the task force’s conclusions.

Among them: “Class size alone is not as important to student achievement as other factors...”

Haimson, in fact, counters that having smaller class sizes actually is one of the few evidence-based ways to increase student achievement.

To see a copy of her letter, you may download it from the section beside this story, or by visiting, where she writes as a blogger.

Haimson said she wrote the letter at the “persistent” urging of Greg Hough, parent of a student at Wakarusa Valley School and a member of the task force. Haimson figured that taking the opportunity to write a letter to the Lawrence board — and then posting it on Huffington Post, to gain a widespread audience — would be a good idea.

The Lawrence district, she said, is far from alone in searching for ways to save money in a down economy.

“Almost every school district in the country is grappling with that challenge right now,” she said. “Every single state and most localities are facing budget cuts.”

Haimson said she wouldn’t mind the district recommending school closings or consolidations so much, as long as they were honest about the financial pressures and not trying to misrepresent research to falsely minimize the importance of class sizes.

“This was fundamentally dishonest, as far as I was concerned,” she said.

Officials often assert that “teacher quality” is the most important factor in boosting student achievement.

One way to retain quality teachers and to make them more effective is to keep their class sizes relatively small, she said.

“A smaller class will make a good teacher better, and a mediocre teacher better,” Haimson said. “A teacher can’t do their best in large classes.”

* Hough himself is among the detractors, having filed a formal letter outlining his opposition to the conclusions of the task force. Other supporters of Wakarusa Valley also have criticized the task force, which recommended closing the school next year and consolidating others within three to five years.

Rick Ingram, a candidate for school board, has criticized some of the task force’s work, saying that some research was misinterpreted, leading to conclusions that lacked proper justification.

Others have lauded the task force for its eight months of work and reaching consensus on issues that have vexed the community for years.


So, where should the Lawrence district find savings, as it looks to fill an expected $3 million budget hole as it begins the next school year?

Well, Haimson doesn’t know the particulars of school finance in Lawrence or Kansas, but she knows of a few places districts tend to spend more than they need to:

• Teacher merit pay. “That’s never been shown to work.” That’s also not available in Lawrence.

• Testing and test prep materials. Those “are not helping our kids succeed.”

• Huge investments in online learning. In New York City, for example, the push is on to spend $500 million next year on technology — a push that could lead to even fewer teachers making personal connections with students.

Best case, in any district: Redeploy out-of-classroom positions into in-classroom positions, she said, reversing the “explosion” of positions during the past 20 years that have gone away from classroom instruction.,

“Do everything you can so that you actually invest in the classroom,” she said. “If you have a lot of math or literacy coaches, or intervention specialists or professional developers — or a lot of administrators doing who knows what — you really should be putting them back in the classroom, and making sure the max amount is invested in the classroom.”

The district is just now starting its budget discussions for 2011-12.


Stephen Roberts 6 years, 11 months ago

Did the LEA send a letter to this group to help further their cause. More pay for less work?

While I di not think NCLB was the best idea, there needs to be a way to hold districts & teachers accountable for teaching our children. I don't teachers teaching to a test but too many of them should be reviewed evey year & the bad ones should be let go. Get ride of "tenure." Make teachers have to do their work like the rest of the people not working for the government - knowing that bad employees would be let go if they do not perform.

KSManimal 6 years, 11 months ago

"Did the LEA send a letter to this group to help further their cause. More pay for less work?"

= lame attempt at a "have you stopped beating your wife?" kind of question.....

"Did the LEA send a letter to this group...?"


notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

The bad ones are already let go. Teachers can be fired for cause with due process, whether tenured or not. Get rid of any bad administrators that are unwilling to go through this exercise and would rather just play Donald Trump on a bad reality show.

llama726 6 years, 10 months ago

It's abundantly clear that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Shardwurm 6 years, 11 months ago

" in which students are judged on how much growth they achieve during a particular year as opposed to meeting a standard that rises each year..."

I think we need to shift the focus from the student and put it on the teacher.

Eliminate tenure and the union, give teachers one-year contracts, and pay them appropriately. By that I mean - if you are no good you go away. Give parents and students a voice in evaluating the teachers - they are the customers you know.

All of this would lead to better education...but it won't fly as long as teachers continue to brainwash the public about how special they are. Oh....some of them are - not ALL of them. Just like in any organization, 20 percent do 80 percent of the work. Please don't tell me that every teacher out there is the living example of an instructor. I know that's not true because just about every week there is one somewhere being arrested for sex with a student.

So when people run around screaming that teachers are underpaid, overworked, and blah, blah, blah. My answer is: "Some of them are." Make the jobs competitive by issuing one-year contracts and only the good ones will remain - and they have nothing to worry about because they are the performers.

Worried about the supply of teachers in those circumstances? Ha! Colleges are cranking them out by the thousands every year and they can't find work because Mr. Smith has tenure.

eric1889 6 years, 11 months ago

It would be nice if the public would educate themselves about the teaching profession, instead of relying on Fox and other righter wingers for their opinions. Teachers sign a yearly contract, thus they can be terminated at the end of a school year. Secondly, teachers in the state of Kansas are not tenured. They are given due process rights after their 3rd year of teaching. This means that a district has to have cause to terminate them. Poor reviews would be means to terminate a teacher with due process.

llama726 6 years, 10 months ago

"Eliminate tenure and the union, give teachers one-year contracts, and pay them appropriately. By that I mean - if you are no good you go away. Give parents and students a voice in evaluating the teachers - they are the customers you know."

There are some critical flaws in your assessment.

1) If you eliminate unions, you will cause instability within the profession and teachers will no longer be working as a team in a school - rather, like in the corporate environment, they will compete to undermine one another in order to stay employed. It's human nature. The school environment needs to be a team that works to educate a kid. A team doesn't work if the players have motivations to undercut their teammates so they can stay on the team. Make whatever argument about morals you want here, but people are people and when you take away their financial incentive to cooperate, they simply don't.

2) If you eliminate tenure, in states that don't recognize sexual orientation or other protected classes, what's to stop a teacher from being terminated based upon sexual orientation or something similar, then not be able to be re-employed, because they do not have sufficient experience?

3) Why do you believe students and parents do not have a voice, as it is? Last I checked, principals met with parents upon request and teacher evaluation surveys are frequently distributed.

4) There are two kinds of parents that I think you must either not realize exist, or you are deliberately ignoring, who do not deserve input. By nature, parents have an emotional investment in their child. The first type of parents exhibit this by insisting that their child could not possibly have underperformed on their assignment. We've all seen Billy's mom come to school after he got a D on his English paper to argue that her son simply could not have done that poorly. The second type sincerely does not understand what some of what their child is being taught any better than their child does, and so it would be impossible for them to confer an opinion about the efficacy of the teacher, because they have no method to evaluate their child's learning of the concept, other than the grades that child earns (which they are emotionally inclined to disagree with).

llama726 6 years, 10 months ago

Touching on the rest of your argument's flaws:

-All of this will lead to better education: How? How, specifically, does making the working environment more hostile toward teachers improve the situation?

-Focus on the teachers, not the students: Why? By all accounts, students work much less now outside of school than at any point in the past several decades. Poor students don't have access to adequate nutrition for mental development. Middle class students don't have access to adequate adult supervision in the home due to both parents (if both are present) being in the workplace as an economic necessity. In that regard, most students are presented with distinct disadvantages. Most parents aren't equipped to help their children with homework, either - how many parents across America could give their child meaningful assistance with a general math or chemistry problem? How many of those parents can afford a tutor?

-Are you sincerely making the argument that teachers cannot find jobs because of tenure? It would seem that between retirement, people leaving the profession to go to other professions, firings, and increasing population (meaning more students to be taught), the teaching profession should be able to accept new bodies every year. Yet, schools often cannot afford to hire another teacher due to increasing restriction in state budgets.

You ignore a number of possible third variables that could cause education to suffer. You're giving an emotional answer to a problem that requires careful study, deliberation, and careful, reasoned steps toward improvement, which is why it's so unappealing to most of us.

Some actual solutions: -Give kids more reasons to be engaged in school (Art, music, athletics, after school programs, clubs, etc) -Give kids more hands on experience with applied math (science) earlier, rather than making them learn abstract concepts to fill in bubbles on a test -Have more educational opportunities, public and private, open to kids -Have parents in the home who provide adequate support, etc.

Education requires much from the community, as it does from the teacher. We don't give that support and until we admit that, we will not make any gains. There isn't one simple answer, because it's true that there are many teachers (not most) who underperform. But why they underperform isn't explicitly clear, and may have as much to do with how much they are berated by our society as it does with them lacking the ability to perform their jobs well. And students may underperform even with a great teacher. We cannot take the axe to our teachers and expect things to drastically improve - there's no rational reason to expect that.

It's easier and more convenient to seek only one simple answer. Well, if we just get rid of tenure and fire a bunch of people, things will be better. Reality is always more complicated, no?

buffalo63 6 years, 11 months ago

The public doesn't understand that tenure DOES NOT mean a bad teacher can't be fired! It does mean that the administration has to have a reason to not renew a contract. This means the admintrators have to DO THEIR JOB, which is to evaluate a teacher, assist the teacher to improve with specific goals and then recommend rehire or fire. My son had a teacher one year that obviously was not doing the job. That teacher had been moved from building to building each year. When we approached the principal about the possibility of termination, the comment was, "Why should I stick my neck out, I didn't hire (that teacher)!" The teacher was in a different building the following year. Tenure means that a teacher can't be fired just because they tick off the principal or because a school is closed. It means that the administrators need to do more than just sit in the office. They need to be interacting with teachers and students and being in the classrooms observing. A good principal is one that mentors and provides the support teachers need to be successful in the classroom. If there is a bad teacher in a district, then the administration has not done their job properly.

Gedanken 6 years, 11 months ago

Great explanation! Everyone needs to read the comment above!!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

Sorry, Shardwurm and commuter, but if the goal is to actually improve educational outcomes, there is really no place for your Ideologically based Schadenfreude.

You want to know what the single greatest hindrance to improved educational outcomes really is? It's poverty, which afflicts at least 23% of all kids in this country.

Now, I understand that in your worldview, these kids deserve to be poor because they pissed off Jesus or Ayn Rand or the Koch brothers or some other supernatural being(s.) But if you and your ideological brethren continue to be successful at punishing the most vulnerable among us, simply for being among the most vulnerable among us, don't be surprised when the only tangible result is deja vu all over again.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

I think the idea to shift to how much progress a student is making is a bad idea.

We need to ensure that all children are performing at grade level, not just improving. With the caveat for DD, and other kids who may not be able to do that.

Gedanken 6 years, 11 months ago

I understand what you are saying, but I think you are failing to grasp the situation. The metric that the law is trying to measure is if schools are doing their jobs. If a student is making a reasonable amount of progress during a school year then it follows that the school is doing its job. If a student isn't performing at grade level, then we need to go back to the system where a student repeats a grade to get to that point. The idea that all students learn at the same rate is a joke. Some students may need an extra year in a grade to meet expectations.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

The expectation that educational outcomes can be pegged to some mythical "grade level" relies on a theory that kids can learn as a herd.

While human development follows somewhat predictable patterns according to age, learning always has been and always will be a largely individual activity.

Unfortunately, the fetishism of today's self-described conservatives sees kids as sheep, and therefore teachers are expected to be little more than sheepdogs. But they then can't understand why so many kids can't read or write or do arithmetic when they get out of school (it doesn't really bother them that they can't think critically, though.)

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

We want to make sure that children are well educated, and consistently so from region to region, don't we?

I'd say the reason kids can't read, write, or do math well when they graduate is that we aren't doing just that.

It is true that different people learn in different ways and at different speeds, but we can't design an educational system that caters to each individual child without spending astronomical amounts of money.

Somebody who wants that sort of extremely tailored approach should probably home school their kids.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

"but we can't design an educational system that caters to each individual child without spending astronomical amounts of money."

Yes, it might mean spending a bit more money to provide somewhat more individualized instruction but we spend astronomical sums of money on all kinds of things considerably less important that education.

So it comes down to priorities. We either get serious about educating all kids, or we just quit pretending that it matters (and let's face it, for a whole lot of people, well represented on this forum, poor schools, both in quality of outcome and amounts of money spent, is precisely what they want.)

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

It wouldn't just be a "bit more", it would be quite a lot more, and we're already spending a lot of money on education - about 1/2 our property tax bill goes to schools.

I want good schools, and I want children to be well educated, but I don't understand why that has to mean spending enough money to provide tailored approaches like the one you're advocating.

And, of course, there are some children who have conditions that severely limit their ability to learn - they can't be educated to the same standards as "normal" children.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

Ironically, a more individualized system would probably end up being cheaper in SpEd expenses, since so much of the current expenses center around adapting the mainstream curriculum to the individual needs of the learner.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

Not necessarily. Technology made pretty much every single other industry cheaper and more efficient while allowing for increased custom user experiences, so I'm really not sure why it always comes down to being more expensive and less efficient when we use it in the classroom.

There are also educational methods, such as Montessori, which are highly individualized and yet can be managed in a classroom setting.

We'll have to change a lot to get to that point, but the main thing we need to change is the one size fits all learning model.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

Yes, and Montessori schools are notoriously expensive.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

Because they're private and require Montessori trained teachers and specialized instructional materials. Those are all costs that would decrease with mainstream adoption.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago


The need for specialized training and materials would be the same, wouldn't it?

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

If there were mainstream adoption of Montessori methods, universities would adopt the specialized training (making it no longer "specialized" and simply part of teacher training), and there would be some economy of scale for the materials. You could also pick and choose pieces of the methods that were shown to be effective and balance that with the cost of materials to decide what parts of the method to employ.

Back to the earlier point, this was only one of many suggestions for ways school curriculum could be individualized.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

That would be fine, if we held kids back until they can demonstrate knowledge and skills appropriate to their grade level.

A school's job is not to ensure kids make reasonable progress - it's to ensure that they are learning what they should be learning, and demonstrating that in measurable ways.

If we fail to establish and maintain consistent standards across the country, then children will not be getting the education they deserve.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

"A school's job is not to ensure kids make reasonable progress."

I disagree. To expect anything except reasonable progress, however you want to define that, is by definition, unreasonable. And having unreasonable expectations of our schools or teachers or students, is, well, unreasonable.

And no one to my knowledge is against consistent standards. But it needs to be kept in mind that any such standards are strictly theoretical-- students have greatly varying abilities, and often ability isn't even the determining factor in educational outcomes. As I mentioned above, child poverty is the single biggest obstacle in achieving "reasonable progress" in our school systems across the country.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

Oh, I totally agree that we should have national standards. Right there with you. But that doesn't meant that they have to be in this giant grade level group every step of the way to get there.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago


But if they don't meet standards at lower grade levels, it's extremely likely that they won't meet them further along in the system, and by then it's too late.

Why not simply make sure they're meeting those standards all along?

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

Why not make sure they're making progress and find the methods that work best for that child? I agree that early intervention is key here, but a binary system that either passes a student entirely or fails them entirely isn't the answer.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

I'd rather track individual students to see that they're progressing and how much and then address what we as individuals can do to help them progress.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

Should there be consistent standards of performance, or simply improvement?

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

Let's try an example: A child in 9th grade is reading at a 3rd grade level. They make "reasonable progress", and can read at a 6th grade level. Are they being educated well enough?

I say no - someone graduating from 9th grade should demonstrate reading skills at a 9th grade level, at the least.

Whenever attempts are made to ensure consistent standards, I hear many objections, similar to yours - teaching "to the test", different children learn at different rates, etc.

What's your proposal for ensuring consistent standards? Standardized tests are the most obvious method, and have been used for many years.

Other than developmental disabilities or other physiological issues (brain dysfunctions, etc.), I think that all children are capable of learning all required subjects through the end of high school. Do you disagree? If so, why?

And, yes, poverty is a big problem - we should be doing what we can to help kids who are poor, and help their families as well. But just lowering our standards, and letting them continue through the educational system without learning enough isn't really helping anybody.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

You realize that a 9th grade student of normal intelligence reading at a 3rd grade level is by definition someone with a learning disability, right?

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

Or somebody who's been allowed to graduate from previous grades without meeting those standards.

And, that doesn't answer my question - if "reasonable progress" doesn't mean performance at grade level, is that good enough for our schools?

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

So you want to have a fourteen year old in a third grade class, even if they know all other subject matter at the ninth grade level? Or do you want to kick that child out for not performing to a "standard?" Is the sixth grader that reads at a twelfth grade level now done with reading or should we expect them to continue to progress?

I think it's reasonable (and ideal) to have a set of objectives for performance in order to get a high school diploma. I'd even argue that they should be national standards. However, there's no reason why we can't address a child's shortcomings individually, other than right now we just don't have a system set up to handle it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

There are usually multiple reasons a 9th grade kid can't read at a 3rd grade level. And most of the time, the majority of them originate outside the schools and the kids' teachers.

There's plenty of room for improvement in our school systems, but if we expect them to be miracle workers that can fix all the problems of kids broken by a society that finds it perfectly acceptable to have 1 in 4 kids living in poverty, we'll just continue to be disappointed that continually banging our collective heads against the wall does little more than give us a headache.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

So how would you ensure consistent standards?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Consistent standards based on what? The variability among same-aged students can be rather dramatic.

While benchmarks of where students of a particular age tend to be is a useful tool to educators, it isn't going to give any teacher the ability to magically transform a 9th grader reading at the 3rd grade level.

And neither will the collective punishment that constitutes the core educational theory behind NCLB.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Consistent standards in education, meaning that a child who graduates from a certain grade in any local area of any state receives the same quality education as any other.

If there are certain subjects that we feel children graduating from 7th grade should know and be able to demonstrate proficiency with, then children from any public school in the country should be able to do that.

That's the whole idea behind public education in the first place - that all children are guaranteed a certain quality of education, regardless of their families' income.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

The problem is that schools have three frequently conflicting duties.

  1. Provision of daycare for working parents
  2. Training kids in age-specific social skills
  3. Academics

As kids get older, the first duty becomes less of an issue for most kids, but for those who don't do well in learning proper social skills, the "daycare" duty for schools and teachers actually becomes the primary duty.

And while for most kids, academic skills stay on pace with the development of social skills, for many, that's not the case. For some kids, academics skills advance much faster than social skills (usually "gifted" kids) while for others, it's the opposite. And for some, they don't advance well on either.

How can "standards" reconcile this uneven development? The short answer is that they can't. That doesn't mean that standards aren't important. But it also means that they can't be held to too rigidly. You have to deal with kids where they are, not where you wish they were.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

The standards are academic ones, and since academic education is the primary function (or should be) of education, those are the standards that matter.

Schools aren't day care providers, and thinking of them that way does children in school an injustice.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

There's nothing wrong with academic standards-- as long as it's kept in mind that a high percentage of students are not going to fully meet them-- and may never meet them. Should that mean we just give up on those kids?

As long as both parents have to work, as the vast majority do, schools will have a "daycare" function. (And that drives one of the biggest complaints about early release on Wednesdays.)

If school systems are done on the cheap, that only increases the extent to which they are more "daycare' than "education."

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

If the standards are set well, then the vast majority of students, especially if you take out the dd or otherwise impaired population, should be able to meet them.

Are you really saying that a high percentage of kids are never going to be able to be educated to basic standards through high school?

Thinking of schools as daycare is a big mistake, and/or if we think of them that way, we're paying way too much for the daycare.

What's your conclusion - we should just let kids graduate without being educated to basic standards?

The point of education is to educate children - why shouldn't we demand that system function as it should?

spiderd 6 years, 10 months ago

The teacher that oversees a child jumping from 3rd to 6th grade reading level in one year should be given a reward. I think I see your point but your example is ass backwards.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Sure - that's a good teacher - give them a raise or a bonus.

But the child is still not proficient at a 9th grade level - they shouldn't graduate from 9th grade without being able to do so.

I don't understand why this is so difficult for people - if we want all children to be educated to certain minimum levels, we have to insist on it.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

Why tie it arbitrarily to grade level? Why not have a set of objectives at the end? Why make a student repeat math and science and social studies when it's only English where they need the help?

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

How would that work?

I'm not against it on principle, I just don't see how it would be implemented. Would children graduate from grade to grade or not? Would they have to repeat the subjects they're not proficient in, ie. they take 9th grade English again while in 10th grade for all other subjects?

Or would you just do away with grade level proficiencies, and just require all high school graduates to show proficiency at a 12th grade level in all subjects?

I'm all for anything that will ensure that children in public schools are getting a quality education, and one that's consistent from state to state, and within a given state.

And, preferably, something that will not cost astronomical sums of money, as we're already paying quite a lot for education - it's about 1/2 of my property tax bill already, and that's just the local educational system.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

I think national standards and evidence-based practice are the way to go for sure. And I want experts in charge, not political hacks. A student moving from state to state or school to school should not have to start over, and if we're all studying the same curriculum, the price of textbooks and other materials will go down.

You could have a set of standards for the student to reach by graduation, or you could have several miniature graduations at different ages, but there has to be a way to help the struggling students without hindering the advanced students. Technology might help us here by keeping a database of areas where a student still needs to improve or keeping students in touch with specialists.

Synjyn Smythe 6 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Fagan: Does Mr. Hough's persistent urging that Ms. Haimson, an internationally recognized expert on class size issues, weigh in on an erroneous conclusion make Ms. Haimson's comments any less relevant? NO! What Ms. Haimson's comments do is totally discredit a subcommittee's findings and cast further doubt on a taskforce recommendation that bears no resemblance to the legitimate findings of its subcommittees. What you should be reporting is that the school board has no sense, that the taskforce had no vision, and that the best interests of the school children of USD497 have not been served!

Paul R Getto 6 years, 11 months ago

Good discussion. NCLB was based on a lie from Houston. If/when NCLB collapses under its own weight, another state's model would suffice. Mid-90's QPA regulations, with some real teeth, would be an excellent model. We need accountability, but relying on test scores as the main indicator is not the best approach. QPA once required three big issues and if schools had to prove they did them well, we would see some improvement. 1. Account for all groups of students and make sure they are making continous academic progress. 2. Have real, behavior-changing professional improvements for all staff and 3. Engage and involve the community in the process. Doing all three of these things well won't take us to the promised land, but it would be better than the current system. I also agree that poverty is a prime indicator of potential academic achievement. Buried in the 1,000+ pages of NCLB is the requirement that the best teachers be placed in the most challenging schools, but it is usually ignored. The medical model should be applied to education: The 'sicker' you are (academically) the better service you will get from the system. Money is also an issue, of course. I think NSBA quit counting, but not too long ago the feds were probably 50 billion behind what they promised when GW promoted the program in 2000/2001. Ted Kennedy signed on because he thought they were finally serious about helping poor kids, particularly poor kids of color.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

Wow, all these comments on testing, roles of teachers and administrators, programs for this and that. Not a single word about the role of the parent. Almost every student will fail if the parent does not fully participate in the educational process. The student will fail, the teacher will fail and the administrator will fail. I've seen so many parents that simply have no business being a parent. And their children will fail no matter what test you give the child, whether or not the teacher has tenure or if the administrator is or is not doing their job. You have to pass a test to get a driver's license but any fool with an IQ of a tomato can make a baby. And the school cannot fix that problem no matter the test and no matter the amount of spending.
In all honesty folks, there is no solution to the problem. None. Sorry. Really, really sorry.

KSManimal 6 years, 11 months ago

Don't apologize for being honest and realistic. All the folks who insist that all students "read on grade level", etc., are basically demanding that all students perform at average or above - a statistical impossibility.

The only way all students will perform at "grade level" will be if we define "grade level" as the performance of the absolute lowest-performing student. Voila! All students are now at "grade level" or above!

Here's a piece you might appreciate:

Paul R Getto 6 years, 11 months ago

"That teacher had been moved from building to building each year. When we approached the principal about the possibility of termination, the comment was, "Why should I stick my neck out, I didn't hire (that teacher)!" The teacher was in a different building the following year." === Buffalo: This is known as the "dance of the lemons." Courageous boards and skilled administrators can solve these issues, if they are allowed to do so.

Synjyn Smythe 6 years, 11 months ago

PRG: Your remedy would require a board and superintendent with common sense and reason, in addition to courage. That is sorely lacking with the present cast of characters!

gr3sam 6 years, 10 months ago

Fagan: Huffington Post is a "progressive" publication. As co-author of the now-disgraced taskforce subcommittee report on class sizes, don't you think an interview of the "progressive" Ms. Shannon Kimble would be appropriate??

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 10 months ago

I'm just glad to see a researched article, albiet after the fact,attempting to show both sides of the issue. It's very refreshing after a steady stream of Politburo news blurbs from the ESDC.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Reply to jafs

"If the standards are set well, then the vast majority of students, especially if you take out the dd or otherwise impaired population, should be able to meet them."

I don't know what you mean by just taking them out. What do we do with them if we just "take them out?"

"Are you really saying that a high percentage of kids are never going to be able to be educated to basic standards through high school?"

"High percentage" is a relative term. But clearly, many people believe we currently have a high percentage who don't meet basic standards. I would say that a high percentage of those people are meeting the standards because of factors well outside the control of schools or teachers, particularly in areas of high poverty. We should do all we can to improve schools in those areas, but blaming them for the shortcomings of society will get us nowhere.

"Thinking of schools as daycare is a big mistake, and/or if we think of them that way, we're paying way too much for the daycare."

You can think about them however you like, but they serve that purpose, as well, and parents who work really have no choice but to look at them that way. That doesn't mean that education should be secondary one, largely de facto, function that they fill.

"What's your conclusion - we should just let kids graduate without being educated to basic standards?"

I think that kids should be required to meet basic standards in order to graduate. If they can't do that, there needs to be a plan B, which for the most part doesn't exist.

"The point of education is to educate children - why shouldn't we demand that system function as it should?"

We should demand all that is reasonable, but no more than we are willing to pay for. To demand what's unreasonable won't satisfy anyone, or lead to a better educated populace.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Sorry about the couple of poorly edited sentences above, but I think you can catch my drift.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

I mean that one doesn't demand that a child with a developmental disability perform at normal grade level. We could set lower more reasonable standards for them, I suppose, or come up with a different system entirely. But it is clearly not reasonable to demand that schools produce the same results from that population as from the "normal" one.

What kind of plan B would you suggest?

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

In many cases, students with a developmental disability are capable of reaching the standards of a high school diploma, and I'd hate to see a system that writes them off or even a separate system. They're part of our world and should be mainstreamed and accepted, no matter what their ultimate abilities turn out to be.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

My wife works with the dd population, and I like them quite a lot. One of them told me that I should work with them, because I treated her "like a person", which was very touching, but also bothered me - I guess most people don't do that?

But it makes no sense to claim that they are capable of the same intellectual level of learning that folks without a disability are.

The meaning of the term is that their IQ is below a certain level, and in most, if not all, cases, there are physiological reasons for that.

Whether they should be "mainstreamed" or not is a complex question, and I understand the arguments on both sides. You yourself argued for different treatment for them in an above post.

I'm just saying that it makes no sense to require schools to achieve the same results with the dd population as with the rest of the population.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.