Posts Tagged ‘NCLB’

Paul’s Case

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

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In Willa Cather’s great short story “Paul’s Case” we meet a kid who’s crapping out in school. Why is Paul doing so poorly, driving his teachers nuts?  School is boring. He wants bright lights and glamour in his life. His drawing master tries to understand him:

…he declared there was something about the boy which none of them understood. He added: “I don’t really believe that smile of his comes altogether from insolence; there’s something sort of haunted about it. The boy is not strong, for one thing. I happen to know that he was born in Colorado, only a few months before his mother died out there of a long illness. There is something wrong about the fellow.”

But of course this isn’t true. There is nothing wrong with the fellow. Paul just knows the score. After a check-forging binge that gets him a great room at the Waldorf he has a revelation:

The flowers, the white linen, the many-colored wineglasses, the gay toilettes of the women, the low popping of corks, the undulating repetitions of the Blue Danube from the orchestra, all flooded Paul’s dream with bewildering radiance. When the roseate tinge of his champagne was added–that cold, precious, bubbling stuff that creamed and foamed in his glass–Paul wondered that there were honest men in the world at all.

Now Paul would probably wonder a lot harder. At least in his day schools offered art. As Diane Ravitch in a recent interview said:

The biggest downside of NCLB is that it has promoted false, anti-educational values. Certainly high test scores are better than low test scores, but that is not all that matters in education. What about science, the arts, history, literature, foreign languages? My hunch is that NCLB is doing nothing to reverse the dumbing down of our children and our society, and may even be accelerating it.

Should that dumbing down worry us or are kids so dazed by “bewildering radiance” that for them schools have become a joke. Don’t ask Paul. He threw himself in front of a train:

He felt something strike his chest, and that his body was being thrown swiftly through the air, on and on, immeasurably far and fast, while his limbs were gently relaxed. Then, because the picture-making mechanism was crushed, the disturbing visions flashed into black, and Paul dropped back into the immense design of things.

Pulling Teeth

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

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Okay, indulge me on this.

There’s this thing called Title I. Has to do with funding schools that have disadvantaged students. Under No Child Left Behind, these funds are supposed to provide tutoring to these kids if their schools “underperform.” They’re also supposed to provide money to bus them to higher performing schools. I think NCLB stinks. I think schools underperform because their students are impoverished. I also know through countless meetings with parents who sign up for free tutoring that many of the district funded agencies that provide it do shoddy, fly-by-night work. But I digress. Because even if free tutoring and busing aren’t the answer, at least they give the parent a little power. And who knows?  Maybe sometimes these programs do benefit kids. So why does Secretary Duncan now want to get rid of them? As Edweek’s Christina A. Samuels writes:

The U.S. Department of Education has released draft guidance to states and school districts on how to apply for waivers that would give them more flexibility in spending economic-stimulus money tied to Title I, the federal program for schools with high numbers of students in poverty.
The guidance also includes proposed waivers that follow up on an earlier promise made by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to revisit some Title I regulations that were passed last October by the Bush administration.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing a $10 billion infusion of Title I money to the states. By allowing waivers, the department is saying that states, districts, and schools don’t have to follow all of the same rules when spending the stimulus Title I money as they would have to when using their regular Title I federal appropriation.
For example, schools that are in “in need of improvement” status based on their test scores under the No Child Left Behind Act must now spend 10 percent of their Title I funds on professional development. The Education Department will allow schools to apply for waivers of that requirement for their stimulus Title I funds.
Also, districts are required to set aside up to 20 percent of their Title I dollars to pay for students in low-performing schools to receive tutoring outside the regular school day, referred to as “supplemental educational services,” or transportation to higher-performing schools if students choose to transfer. Under the guidance released last week by the department, districts can apply for a waiver from that requirement for their stimulus dollars.

You remember Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer? My wife makes me watch it every year. Well, in it there’s a wanabe dentist named Hermey. His claim to fame? Defanging the stupid, vaguely malevolent Abominable Snowman. See where I’m going with this? Arne Duncan is the oddball dentist. No Child Left Behind is the big guy with the gums. His teeth? Those would be tutoring, busing, class size reduction–anything that might actually work. Why does Secretary Duncan want to nix them?  To save for merit pay and charters is my guess. Of course, he will tell you that his waiver only applies to stimulus money. But as he must know, getting the school districts to see that distinction will be like pulling teeth.

Some Things Never Change

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

I found this NYT clipping researching a novel about a Depression-era school.  It was written in 1939 but the wisdom of  this quote by Dr. G.D. Strayer of Columbia’s Teacher’s College is timeless.  I will post these interesting tidbits as I come upon them…

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And Another Thing…

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

And since I have waved the white flag as a blogger I will simply let other people express my opinions.  This gentleman does so solidly in reply to Nicholas Kristof’s union bashing post:

Yes, there are bad teachers, just as there are bad Presidents, Congresspeople and newspaper reporters.

Bad teachers should not be teaching. Period. I am a teacher and a member of the United Federation of Teachers and I do not want to work with bad teachers. I just want to be sure that the definition of a bad teacher and designation of a person as being a bad teacher is done on a fair and consistent basis,

Are we going to define a bad teacher as someone whose students don’t do well on standardized tests? If that’s the criteria, how are we going to find all the bad art, music or gym teachers? Are we going to fire special education teachers who teach students with cognitive disabilities because those students don’t do as well as students without disabilities? If so, how are we going to replace them?

Shouldn’t we also fire the principals who hire those bad teachers? How about cutting off funds to the colleges that turn them out with teaching degrees? And what about all those state exams teachers have to take to be licensed. I had to take five. Shouldn’t they be able to screen out the bad teachers? If not, why did I have to take them?

Sure, we have to start somewhere, and teachers and teacher unions are an easy target. But blaming teacher unions for the education problems that exist is like blaming the auto workers union for Chrysler going broke.

— Deven Black

A New Day

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

It’s a new day. My son was sick yesterday but is better now. He and my wife and I watched the inauguration, and now it all seems like a dream or a Disney movie, one of the vintage ones with the handsome prince, earthy princess and rascally daughters. A really good movie that you don’t want to end. A co-worker at school said, “Now I can be an American,” which I thought was a lovely sentiment. Yup, we can all be Americans now. But Obama also says that the challenges are great. They are and I hope in some way I can help meet them. I am against so much in No Child Left Behind, maybe even its core: the idea that you can improve student performance by decree. I’m proud of the school I teach at. I don’t think of it as “failing” even though it’s a “Program Improvement” school. I don’t think that the students are failures and I don’t think that the teachers are failures either. I think that there other things to blame: poverty being the main culprit. But what of similar schools that are out-performing us? What of impoverished people who lift themselves up? What of Barack Obama? I was watching a sports show a couple of days ago and the black co-hosts joked that the angry black man thing is over. I think the complaining teacher thing is also over, the helpless dad of an autistic kid thing. The hopeless thing, the regretful thing–they’re all so ‘08. It’s time for Obama. It’s time for a new day.