Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is NCLB About to Be Replaced?

As reported in the AJC education blog, "Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the No Child Left Behind Act failed to produce the radical changes necessary to improve the nation’s lowest-performing schools. He intends to change that with an aggressive $3.5 billion school improvement aid plan that demands striking changes."

Duncan said the federal government was determined to raise the “bottom on the bottom,” the 5,000 lowest performing schools in the nation, half of which were urban, 30 percent were rural and 20 percent were suburban.

“In those schools, tinkering around the edges is not sufficient,” Duncan said. “Those children are being poorly served in chronically underachieving schools and marginal incremental change is not the answer.”

The AJC posting continues, "Under his plan, systems must discard scalpels and take chainsaws to failing schools. Systems can close them, restaff them and reopen them under new leadership or as charters. They can shutter the schools and transfer students elsewhere. Or they can make deep, “transformative” changes, including replacing the leadership, adopting comprehensive reforms including performance pay for teachers and extending learning time."

Duncan says, “If we are to put an end to stubborn cycles of poverty and social failure, and put our country on track for long-term economic prosperity, we must address the needs of children who have long been ignored and marginalized in chronically low-achieving schools,” said Duncan, who made the announcement with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid at Harley Harmon Elementary School in Las Vegas. “States and school districts have an opportunity to put unprecedented resources toward reforms that would increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and improve teacher quality for all students, and particularly for children who most need good teaching in order to catch up.”

“The large investment in school improvement funds made possible by the Recovery Act presents a historic opportunity to attack education's most intractable challenge -- turning around or closing down chronically low-achieving schools,” Duncan said. “Our goal is to turn around the 5,000 lowest-performing schools over the next five years, as part of our overall strategy for dramatically reducing the drop-out rate, improving high school graduation rates and increasing the number of students who graduate prepared for success in college and the workplace.”

The secretary would require states to identify three tiers of schools:

Tier I - The lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in a state, or the five lowest-performing Title I schools, whichever number is greater.

Tier II – Equally low-achieving secondary schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds. The secretary proposes targeting some of these extremely low-achieving high schools and their feeder middle schools. There are close to 2,000 high schools in this country in which graduation is at best a 50/50 proposition. U.S. Department of Education data indicates that fewer than half of these schools currently receive Title I Part A funds. If the provisions proposed become final, school districts would not be required to include Tier II schools in proposals. However, including Tier II schools would enhance a school district's likelihood for funding because states would be required to give priority to districts that commit to serve both Tier I and Tier II schools.

Tier III – The remaining Title I schools in improvement, corrective action or restructuring that are not Tier I schools in the state. "

To read about Duncan's entire plan, check it out at the US DOE website.


Cerebration said...

To read opposing viewpoints on Duncan's plans - check out a couple of these blogs

Fred Klonsky's Blog


Schools Matter

Anonymous said...

I can only speak on NCLB, but I am an educator and have been a special education teacher. NCLB has mandates that do not support the needs of students or parents that have special needs students. In traditional classes, it has put pressure on teachers to "teach the test.' In whatever plan comes next, please consult educators, parents of all children and students. Unfunded mandates like much of NCLB, put pressures on everyone and there are no true proven results.

Cerebration said...

Just to give you a clue as to how many jobs could be affected by this new approach - I found this:

How many teachers are there?
2009 AUGUST 29
by jd2718

In the US, as of five years ago, 6.2 million.

Overall, 83% white. 8% Black. 5% Hispanic (any country of origin). 3% Asian. One half of one per cent Alaskan Native or Pacific Islander.

It’s still women’s work: 71% female. And the lower the grade level, the smaller the proportion of men.

level women men % female
PreK/K 430k 8k 98%
elementary/middle 2.45M 0.65M 79%
secondary 460k 310k 59%
post-secondary 500k 600k 46%
special ed 150k 25k 87%
level 375k 185k 67%

Cerebration said...

Another interesting story from Chicago -- it could sound familiar very soon ---

Cerebration said...

And then, for more input, head out west to find a San Francisco blogger's take on charter programs like Edison, etc - this blog also covers the same issue in Detroit schools -


The repetitive story I'm seeing in this "saving failing schools" approach is the following -

Schools are deemed failures - then closed - then reopened as a privately run charter ($$$ to corporate investors - always keep that in mind - this is a Multi-Billion dollar business) - and then the charter is allowed to pick and choose students, teachers, class size, school size, program, length of day, etc -- until viola! Improvement occurs! (for the usually more privileged who are allowed to stay in the school) and the program is proclaimed successful -- as the corporate investors trot off with their pockets full... while the poor, usually minority students who were originally in the failing school have moved - into another school which will soon be labeled failing - closed - reopened as a charter - labeled a success - $$$ -

Only in America! Think about it...

Anonymous said...

Cere, I believe one factor in closing chronically failing schools and reopening then as charter schools (often run by non-profits like KIPP) is to avoid the labor issues with teachers' unions. Many of the states you are referencing (NY, Calif.) have unions. I am neither pro or anti teacher unions, but this does present another difficult layer of negotiation and significant legal expense.

However, I also understand that Duncan is trying to extend an olive branch to the unionized teachers.

Cerebration said...

Yes - and contrary to the other opinions, here it is from the horse's mouth --

from Arne Duncan:

"In the last two decades, those immortal institutions of the past have become more open to innovation and entrepreneurship. In 1996, the nation had about 250 charter schools—today, more than a million students attend over 4,000 charter schools.

The best charters today are models of innovation--and the worst charters should be closed. But authorizers have waited too long to intervene in low performers. And districts have not done enough to understand and apply more broadly the lessons of what works from the top performers.

In half-a-dozen cities today, charter schools now account for more than 20 percent of all students. Good charter schools increase the number of quality educational options available to parents who previously had no choice where to send their children.

My challenge to those cities is to take the next step and perfect this model of innovation—close those charter schools that are failing, and systematically replicate and learn from those that are succeeding."

Cerebration said...

I believe Dr Lewis was (is?) also a speaker at this same America's Choice event - along with Duncan. I don't have Lewis' speech - does anyone know what he said? (Plans to say?)

Cerebration said...

And then there are people saying that charters are not providing services for special education --

When we were at the 5 city conference in LA a few weeks ago, we heard an excellent presentation from our colleagues in Washington DC, one of the heaviest hit cities by charter schools. Candi Peterson told us of the number of charter schools that make sure NOT to have a special ed teacher on the staff so they can tell parents with kids with IEPs they will not be able to serve their child adequately and wouldn't they be better off in a public school?

Can't you see the future?

Cerebration said...

And if you're interested in what they think of "chartering" in NYC - you can download a free PDF book of essays -

Educators, parents, and scholars challenge the Bloomberg administration’s claims of progress in the New York City public schools. Seventeen writers argue that under Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein NYC schools have stagnated or lost ground in achievement, class size, curriculum and instruction, overcrowding, transparency, and equity.

As you all can see - this is no small issue. The Obama/Duncan plan for schools may end up being pretty wildly radical... we'll see!

Anonymous said...

Let's See. DCSS has 11 middle schools and 15 high schools that failed AYP in 2009. Some of these schools have not made AYP in years - like McNair, Avondale and Towers. Aren't some of these schools way past the 4 year deadline? I thought under the existing NCLB that DCSS was required to close down or completely restructure these schools. I presumed if DCSS did not do this they would lose their federal funding or risk having the feds take over the entire school system. Does anyone know the answer?

Maybe it is time to try something radically different...

Cerebration said...

So --- what happened??

Dr Lewis was supposed to be a speaker at the America's Choice Symposium Aug 20-21 in Washington, and was listed as a featured speaker along with Arne Duncan... but we haven't heard how it went - anyone know?

Here's the pre-event press release in its entirety.

DeKalb Superintendent to Attend America’s Choice Symposium DeKalb County School System’s Superintendent, Dr. Crawford Lewis will attend America’s Choice and ACT’s Superintendents’ Symposiums this week on August 20-21, 2009 in Washington, DC. Dr. Lewis will also join Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the list of featured speakers for the symposiums.

Secretary Duncan, the event’s keynote speaker, will share with the superintendents President Obama’s agenda and the Department of Education’s plans for making it a reality, while Dr. Lewis will later speak on the topic of Aligning the National Agenda to Local Needs: Rigor & Readiness Initiative. In this address, Dr. Lewis will share the background of the DeKalb school district, major priorities, why America’s Choice is a good fit for the school system, and some of the start-up highlights of DeKalb’s partnership with America’s Choice.

The goal of the Superintendents’ Symposium is to give the educators an inside track on what is happening with education nationally. The symposiums also detail for the superintendents ways in which to tap into stimulus funds and other funding resources that support programs to help students graduate on-time, college and career-ready.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers will brief the symposium attendees on progress toward creating common academic standards for the country. The attendees will also have the opportunity to interact with their peers and presenters and will also have the opportunity to raise issues that most concern them and their school districts.

DeKalb County School System will implement the America’s Choice comprehensive school reform program into 40 of its elementary, middle and high schools this school year. America’s Choice is a research-based, instructional improvement program that addresses low student achievement in literacy and mathematics.

Related Links

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to know what Dr. Lewis considers to be "highlights" of the current America's Choice implementation. It ranks right up there with eSIS in terms of incompetent rollouts.

Ella Smith said...

One misconception here is that Charters Schools are always outside of the school system. This is not always the case. Charter schools are also opened inside the school systems across the country.

I teach at North Springs Science and Performing Arts Charter School. I work for Fulton County School System. Charter Schools are big business but the business individuals need to know how to take the money from the school system or state and spend it correctly. I had one horrible experience working a few months at a Charter School as a Director of Special Education. I went back to Fulton County Schools and took a job the first of November that year at Northview High School because I found out the Charter was not paying my insurance premiums in a timely manner that I was paying them.

As a teacher, I will be real careful about leaving a school system again. The promotion for me was great and the pay was excellent but not having insurance when I needed it brought my attention to what was really important.

NCLB is going to have some major changes or is going to be replaced with hopefully a better fit for children in rural, city and the burbs.

We are leaving many children behind. We need to fix this. As far as Special Education students are concerned NCLB has been wonderful for these children. Administrators now care that students with SLD, EBD, ASD, MID, OHI, TBI and many other students continue to make progress.

If you have a child with special needs the public schools is the best location to get the maximum services for the child unless you have the child served in a high priced private school but them the child does not have contact with typical individuals that they will have contact with the rest of their lives.

Anonymous said...

Anyone mention the parents' obligations to make sure their children are prepared and willing to learn?
Almost every child I've worked with that was not successful had a parent or parents at home that weren't involved in their education. Either because they were too busy supporting the family financially or because they just did not care.

In high school, attention needs to be paid to interest levels and whether or not that child should be given the opportunity to succeed in other ways through job training or learning lucrative skills that interest them. Not everyone is interested in college. Some very bright kids just want to work on cars.

Fix those two things, home environment and more opportunity to succeed financially outside of four more years of college, and you'll fix the "education" problem.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:29 p.m.

I am a parent of a high school student and agree with both of your points. Yes, our schools should be offering more meaningful and high quality vocational tracks for the non-college bound student. That is something government can fix.

Engaged and involved parents? I also agree that is a big problem but how does the goverment fix that one? All the parents on this blog are engaged and concerned. But what is a public school system supposed to do with parents who do not engage in their child's learning? Or kids who live in awful home environments?

Anonymous said...

oops. I meant Anon 9:24 p.m.

Anonymous said...

We could spend our tax dollars this way:
Give the kids and families in these situations some sort of real and lasting outreach, be it a good afterschool program, nutritional and parenting classes, providing hard working lower income parents with enough realistic supplemental income or housing assistance to allow them to retain time and energy to parent, involving a "big brother or sister" tutoring program for those that need the extra academics and plain old fashioned love and attention, and pushing much harder for parental involvement in NEIGHBORHOOD schools which would instill a sense of pride that is sorely lacking in some areas.

Oh and ditch the tests. :) Nobody likes them but the companies that sell them. Teaching could be fun again, for almost everyone.

I think that would cover about 90% of the problem once and for all rather than this oh so serious, wordy, elitist. political pandering that goes off in a new "researched based" direction every two years.

Square Peg said...

If you want "research based", read economist James Heckman, a Nobel laureate, an expert on this topic.

Scroll way down and you'll get to a heading called Policy Analysis, with links to a couple of papers, one of which is supposed to communicate to a general audience. I confess I haven't really digested them yet, but take a look for yourself.

"The best way to improve the schools is to improve the early environments of the children sent to them." (pp 21-22 of the 2007 paper) "Early skills breed later skills because early learning begets later learning... Returns are highest for investments made at younger ages and remedial investments are often prohibitively costly." (p. 24) "If early investments are made, the returns to later investments will rise. Investment in the preschool years raises the productivity of schooling and post-school job training."

But all is not lost after the preschool window closes. Anon 10:27 talks about mentoring and plain old fashioned love and attention. The 2006 paper points out that while current systems of evaluating educational reforms are based predominantly on changes in scores on cognitive tests, these tests capture only one of the many skills required for a successful life. There is substantial evidence that that mentoring, etc., can be effective in helping disadvantaged teenagers to become more successful by developing noncognitive traits such as motivation and persistence. (see page 9)

My interpretation is that diverting an enormous amount of our schools' resources to the futile goal of meeting AYP is an incredible national waste of money and effort. And testmania crowds out love and attention.

What struck me was that the Perry Preschool project described by Heckman cost about $9,785 a year in 2004 dollars. According to a posting today on another thread on this blog, that's about what Dekalb spends per student anyway.

Cerebration said...

Great, great input, Square Peg - thanks!!

I just love this - and couldn't agree more -

"The best way to improve the schools is to improve the early environments of the children sent to them." (pp 21-22 of the 2007 paper) "Early skills breed later skills because early learning begets later learning... Returns are highest for investments made at younger ages and remedial investments are often prohibitively costly." (p. 24) "If early investments are made, the returns to later investments will rise. Investment in the preschool years raises the productivity of schooling and post-school job training."

There seem to be two arenas of opinion - that students are completely responsible for their "motivation" to learn and if they have uninvolved parents (or worse), there really just isn't much we can do.

The other camp thinks we can still do a lot. Teachers don't need to fight this - they need to support these kinds of initiatives - mentors, after-school programs & camps - tutoring, etc - as it will only serve to embellish what they are doing during the school day.

Personally, I am of the opinion that we have nearly lost a generation due to drugs, the breakdown of the family and poverty. We absolutely have to do whatever we can to lift people out of this hole - it is almost an emergency. It's really a decision to "pay now or pay later" in terms of criminal justice, jails, homelessness, poverty, out of wedlock childbirth, welfare, etc...

Anonymous said...

I'd love to just toss in here a comment that we need to be teaching and getting our adolescents on birth control in order to start breaking the cycle of teens having babies....

Square Peg said...

I hope you have time to look at Heckman's articles for yourselves, as I can hardly presume that my two paragraphs are an accurate summary of his research. He puts data behind Cere's remark about paying now or paying later, and offers hope that early childhood interventions can have an impact on teenage pregnancy by strengthening noncognitive skills such as motivation and persistence. Can the success of the Perry project be replicated widely? I don't know, but it seems more "research-based" to try than to pour vast quantities of energy into NCLB.

Cerebration said...

This is good. This is very, very good!

DeKalb County School System joined 13 other metropolitan Atlanta school districts this week in launching the Be There campaign. Representing more than 600,000 students, educational leaders from the 13 school systems gathered at WSB-TV’s Atlanta office to kick-off the campaign not only in schools across Georgia, but also throughout the Atlanta metro media market. ...

Be There is a researched-based, multimedia campaign designed to inspire parents to become more involved in their children's education. Through compelling images and words, the campaign suggests that parents connect with their children every day during the ordinary moments in life. The campaign is given to school districts at no charge, except for optional printing of their personalized materials.

Georgia's State Superintendent Kathy Cox offered more reasons for her support. "We have all the tools to stay connected with people at work and families across the country, but it's hard to stay connected to our children, especially as they grow into teenagers. Be There reminds us that parenting is our number one job. We're not just our children's first teacher, we're their lifelong teacher."

Sloan Roach of Gwinnett County represented the Georgia School Public Relations Association, another partner in the campaign. She expressed how important it is to communicate to parents the necessity of being there for their children. “Research shows that the number one factor in a child's academic success is the parent's involvement in his or her education,” she said. “By connecting with their child daily during the everyday moments of life, student achievement will rise.”

To read the whole press release go here.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I read this today. It made me smile.
I hope they keep it up long enough to give it a chance to show results.

Anonymous said...

Although I'd like them to use the words "common sense" rather than research based.

Cerebration said...

The Schools Matter blog has now coined a word for the folks who stand to profit from converting public schools to charters -- "edupreneurs" -- interesting!