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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » American teachers (& students) - thoughts on NCLB? (Page 2)

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Author Topic: American teachers (& students) - thoughts on NCLB?
FlyingCow
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quote:
If the only reason why students are doing poorly on the tests is because they don't know how to take them, then shouldn't we teach them how?
This right here is a major underlying problem of NCLB.

That's exactly what we end up doing - teaching them how to take standardized tests, instead of teaching them to understand the concepts that the tests are supposed to be evaluating.

There is a lot to learn - and more, a lot of repetition of learning needed to solidify concepts. Taking time away from needed concepts to teach standardized testtaking skills is not helping student learning in any way.

It is possible to teach strategy that will improve test scores without improving student understanding of the concepts being tested.

Because test scores are more important than student learning, more and more schools are requiring their teachers to spend a large percentage of their time on test preparation rather than the basic concepts of their subject.

When I was teaching middle school math last year, the year broke down like this:

182 school days in the year

5 days of state testing
6 days of "benchmark" testing designed to improve scores
6 days going over the benchmark assessments
8 days of "mandatory tasks" designed like state testing questions
8 days going over the mandatory tasks
20 days (estimate) of graded tests (one every other week, which were supposed to be written in the style of the standardized tests)
10 days (estimate) going over said tests (half a period for each)

That's 53 days where students were either being tested, or reviewing tests. This does not include scattered quizzes throughout the year.

That's a full 30% of the year where new subject matter is not being taught.

Add in the quizzes, assemblies, field trips, presentations, fire drills, etc, and you're talking 40% or more of the year with no new subject matter being presented.

Take out the 35 days devoted to standardized testing and test preparation, and you give 20% of the year back to the teacher - or one day in every five, one day a week.

Eliminating standardized testing and the need for standardized test preparation gives you an extra day every week.

I know I sure could have used that extra day trying to cover our math curriculum.

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katharina
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That's a great list, Shan. Thank you for posting it.

quote:
3. Recognize that not all learners are the same, nor will they learn the same ways, test the same ways, respond to teaching techniques the same ways -- and give teachers the right, the responsibility, and the incentive to teach the student, not teach to a mandatory test.
What incentive are you thinking of? Probably money, but what makes the incentive. Simply increasing salary is good step, but maybe not complete.

The most concrete suggestion is the local control, but that local control does not include a way to be sure that students don't fall through the cracks.

Maybe it's a matter of freedom. More freedom to do whatever can be great, but it also leaves more students in the lurch if things aren't going well. Is there a way to allow freedom while still making sure that students are not continually shortchanged? Some students ARE perenially shafted - what room does the local control leave for overseeing and helping those students?

Some of the other suggestions also seem quite nebulous. It's great to put in bold that society should figure out a way to make every student happy, but "cure all poverty and put every child in a situation with one primary caregiver" is great, but hardly an actionable step the local school district is able to accomplish.

What does that mean? Penalizing parents who put their kids in child care? Make it a crime for both parents to work when their kids are younger than five?

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Belle
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quote:
The most concrete suggestion is the local control, but that local control does not include a way to be sure that students don't fall through the cracks.

How does it not? If the local school board is in charge of my kids' education and I don't think they are doing their job I have power. I elect those people, I keep them in office - I can go to the board meetings and voice my opinion and at some level they have to listen to me because it's me and parents like me that determine whether or not they get and keep their jobs. If they are failing our kids we can get rid of them and get someone else who will (presumably) do a better job.

If there is no local control then my voice hasn't got near the power to influence or change - because the people in Montgomery and Washington don't care what parents in St Clair County think near as much as the St Clair County superintendent and school board members who depend on our votes care.

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katharina
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What if the entire area is a mess?

I am thinking of the schools in Detroit. I really loved Detroit, but there's no question that the cycle of an poor, half-empty city with no tax base and a lousy education system wasn't going to fix itself.

Leaving it all to local control assumes that local control is the best solution in all cases. It isn't. It may be the best in some or even most cases, but not all, and I am not willing to write off those students as NIMBY, too bad for them.

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DarkKnight
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quote:
That's exactly what we end up doing - teaching them how to take standardized tests, instead of teaching them to understand the concepts that the tests are supposed to be evaluating.
quote:
That's 53 days where students were either being tested, or reviewing tests. This does not include scattered quizzes throughout the year.
If I am understanding you correctly, your first statement is that it takes too long to teach a student how to take a test, but your second statement is that there is too much testing? My guess is that the problem you really want to address is that you believe there is too much testing, not too much time spent teaching a student how to take a test. They are two different issues.
Again, most of those test days seem to be set by either your state or your local school district, not NCLB. Your district made the decision to have so many testing days, not NCLB.

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Belle
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I'm sure Detroit inner city is similar to Birmingham's. It IS a problem, no denying that - because you may be dealing with parents who just plain don't care what their kids are being taught and look at the education system as glorified babysitters.

That's where the state oversight I mentioned would come in. If the whole system is obviously failing the students and the local boards and parents won't do anything about it then the state does have an obligation to those kids to step in and make changes and try to address the problems. But it should be a last resort and it shouldn't be automatically assumed that every school needs strict oversight and every school is treated as if it is failing its students. Because quite a large number of school systems are doing their jobs, and I think would do better ones if they weren't so wrapped up in trying to turn the kids into performers for the tests.

I mean, just look at what Flying Cow is talking about, and my example where kids who obviously have mastered math basics are forced to go back and review them because that's what's on the test. Never mind that these kids really would benefit from learning algebra because that would help them accomplish academic goals in the long run, no let's drill them on fractions so we can meet our testing goals. After all, we know some kids won't be among the highest scorers, so these advanced math kids will help pull up the average. Do you know that I got phone calls and notes home from the school administration encouraging me to make sure my daughter attended school and was well rested and had a good breakfast on testing day? Not every parent got such reminders, I checked. No, those parents of honor students did.

Which makes you wonder, were they tacitly hoping some kids wouldn't come to school that day? And it makes me wonder, as the parent of an honor student, is she valued for who she is at that school or because she boosts their averages?

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katharina
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quote:
you may be dealing with parents who just plain don't care what their kids are being taught and look at the education system as glorified babysitters.
Or, you may be dealing with parents who were failed by the school system already and so don't know how to change it for the better. I am not comfortable with blaming the parents in this situation. I'd rather assume that everyone is doing their best but sometimes an outside perspective is needed.

Okay, I REALLY don't like blaming the parents when they don't know how to demand help for their kids. That's why it's called a cycle of poverty.

How would you measure whether a school needs the state to step in? Does it take one bad teacher? A year of weird grades? What signs signal a need for the state? Does it have to be failure across the board or does the calvalry get called in to put a tiny fire instead of rebuild from ashes?

For the reminders, that's not NCLB - that's the school. Encouraging some students to come and hoping some students wouldn't - if that's what happened - came from that vaunted local decision-making. Most of the horror stories (although not all) in this thread are the results of local decision-making. That's not making a persuasive case.

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DaisyMae
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I don't really have anything new to add except to agree that I don't think it's an effective program. My best friend is a Special Ed. teacher. Her school offers better Special Ed. classes than others in her district so their school (this is elementary) has a higher percentage of Special Ed. kids than others in the district. Because those kids are not meeting grade level standards the school is actually losing money.

I'm sure it sounded like a good idea when they implemented it, but there are just too many specifics and individuals to be tailored to for a blanket program to work.

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Belle
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quote:
For the reminders, that's not NCLB - that's the school. Encouraging some students to come and hoping some students wouldn't - if that's what happened - came from that vaunted local decision-making. Most of the horror stories (although not all) in this thread are the results of local decision-making. That's not making a persuasive case.
But the pressure to perform on tests would not be there without NCLB - that's the case I'm making. The school would not resort to this if there were not such an emphasis placed on the standardized test scores due to NCLB. Before NCLB the school didn't do these types of things, at least my kids' school didn't. I know that as a parent who's had kids in this same system for nine years and also because of what I've been told by friends who teach in the system.

All the horror stories you say are because of local control are due to local officials trying to find ways to accomodate NCLB requirements. So how are they not related to NCLB?

That's not to say there were no standardized tests at our school before NCLB or that they weren't important, there were and they did encourage kids to do well on them. but they didn't push them so hard and didn't spend so much class time preparing for them - they were part of the educational process not the supposed culmination of it. More important were the grades you achieved and mastering concepts that would be needed for you to be promoted to the next grade.

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FlyingCow
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quote:
My guess is that the problem you really want to address is that you believe there is too much testing, not too much time spent teaching a student how to take a test. They are two different issues.
Cause: There is too much emphasis placed on testing by NCLB.

Effects:
1. There is too much time spent on testing by districts trying to reflect this emphasis.
3. There is too much time spent on preparation for testing to ensure the school isn't sanctioned under NCLB.
4. There is too little learning going on, because of such an increased emphasis on testing.

quote:
Again, most of those test days seem to be set by either your state or your local school district, not NCLB. Your district made the decision to have so many testing days, not NCLB.
Exactly. The states and school districts are desperately trying to find a way to satisfy the requirements laid forth in NCLB.

If you fail to meet your adequate yearly progress, based on test scores, you lose funding. If you fail to meet them repeatedly, there are increasing sanctions.

How do you meet your test score requirements? That's up to the school, of course.

But, because of the emphasis on the test, the all important test scores, the school has to keep their eye on the prize (standardized testing success) or be sanctioned.

All in all, truly failing school districts have improved under NCLB. Truly successful school districts have been stifled by NCLB. Middle of the road school districts are continually frustrated by NCLB.

It is a one-size-fits-all program. Just like everything else with that descriptor, one size never fits all.

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katharina
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quote:
More important were the grades you achieved and mastering concepts that would be needed for you to be promoted to the next grade.
Do the tests NOT test the concepts that would be needed to be promoted to the next grade? Do the tests cover subjects that are unnecessary?

I think that grades are practically useless in elementary school. Grades seem like a poor measurement of what a child knows and a better measurement of how well they fit the profile of an ideal student. Of all the life skills we shouldn't be spending time on, shutting up, raising your hand, and working on concepts long after they've been mastered top the list. "A for Effort" is a social engineering tool, not an assessment.

I think I like the tests because at least it measures what kids know (in an occasionally poor way) rather than how well they play the school game.

Does anyone know about the tests themselves? Teaching the test is only bad if the concepts covered on the test are irrelevant. It was my understanding that the tests covered the concepts needed to pass to the next grade. Does someone have specific criticism of the test?

Thank you, Flying Cow. That has been my impression - that NCLB has succeeded greatly in its title activity - failing school districts have gotten better, and sometimes much better. If NCLB is to be abolished, I'd like to see how those school districts would still be addressed and helped. I'm not willing to write them off.

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Bokonon
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kat, I would just say that to me, NCLB is a net negative system, so going back to the same old, same old would be an improvement in and of itself, and perhaps a better place to introduce new improvements. I gave some general thoughts on how to change it, but you didn't seem to consider them alternatives. How detailed do I need to be before you'd at least consider it an alternative? I say, cut the bureaucracy, and use more limited federal funding to equalize gross imbalances in school funding. If you want strings attached, I'm not against such things, but I'd like to know more about the strings involved. I don't have One True ideal in my head, I'm willing to compromise on many details.

---
Of course, while the education system in the US had issues before NCLB, it wasn't the cesspool, in toto, that a lot of NCLB supporters and other reformers would have you think. So I don't buy the fact that the NCLB was good because it was a change, and we needed a change.

kat, why do you think we should continue NCLB, as it is constituted now? I think it'd be instructive to those who would liek to change to know how supporters (even tentative ones like you) feel NCLB is getting things right, in their eyes.

Personally, I think kids who are disabled should be judged on how well they progress from the beginning to the end of the year, with an eye being kept on what should be a reasonable ceiling, as it were, for their academic pursuits, and that should be factored in. Which isn't to say you only teach them what you think they can handle, but rather keep in mind when determining how well they have done, what was to be expected.

-Bok

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FlyingCow
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quote:
Do the tests NOT test the concepts that would be needed to be promoted to the next grade? Do the tests cover subjects that are unnecessary?
At times, yes. As an example: Stem and Leaf plots. This is a favorite on standardized tests and in textbooks in middle school, but it is not a needed skill to move on to secondary school (nor is it on secondary tests). With all the other data analysis that is used more often (line plots, box and whisker plots, line graphs, etc), this is just another process for students to memorize that is only ever used on standardized tests.

quote:
I think that grades are practically useless in elementary school.
Many elementary schools have done away with grades, especially in the early grades. For instance, they use terms like "Early Emerging Reader" in first grade, instead of giving a grade for reading. It doesn't help you gauge anything unless you know that the "Early Emerging Reader" is the lowest rung on the ladder and is about the same as saying "Child views book as food".

quote:
Of all the life skills we shouldn't be spending time on, shutting up, raising your hand, and working on concepts long after they've been mastered top the list.
I don't know - having the ability to sit without interrupting, and raising your hand to be recognized can have a lot of value. It becomes apparent when you are with people who can't stop talking or moving for extended periods of time, and talk or shout during movies. [Big Grin]

quote:
I think I like the tests because at least it measures what kids know (in an occasionally poor way) rather than how well they play the school game.
But it's not. It's measuring how well they play the standardized test game. Plenty of my students understood the concepts, they just didn't understand the way the questions were constructed on the standardized test - or misunderstood the way the test wanted the answers presented.

quote:
Does anyone know about the tests themselves?
For the GEPA (Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment in NJ), we weren't allowed to. Teachers were not allowed to view the test, or to look over students' shoulders while they took the test, or to ask students about the test afterwards. For a teacher to know what was on the test was verboten.

So, we all spent loads of time going over what we thought *might* be on the test, as there was no definitive list of the topics that would or would not be covered. It also hurt kids a lot that some topics on the test wouldn't be covered until the months after the test but before the end of the year.

quote:
If NCLB is to be abolished, I'd like to see how those school districts would still be addressed and helped. I'm not willing to write them off.
Nor am I. But NCLB is almost like Harrison Bergeron. It's hurting everyone to level the playing field.

I am all in favor of identifying poorly performing schools and putting in standards and practices to help them improve. But what works in Mississippi doesn't work in Massachusetts.

We had a program run by a guy from Michigan, whose school district improved 17% on their standardized tests. Because of his success, he became a consultant, and our school district adopted his practices.

Unfortunately, he improved his schools from 40% to 57%... whereas our school was already at 78%. There's a BIG difference between improving from 40-57 than there is improving from 78 to 95. Totally different strategies are needed.

But administrators is stoopid sometimes.

More on the tests themselves later - have things to do for work.

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katharina
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I think whether or NCLB was good or not depends on where you are standing. Flying Cow seems to be saying it's been great for some, stifling for others, and an irritating wash for most.

I think metrics for performance is a good idea. I think giving more money to schools that are improving rather than schools that are doing worse rewards schools that improve rather than schools that don't. I like competition among schools and the power of the students to choose where they attend regardless of where they live.

I don't like going back to whatever was going before. Something had to happen, and more of the same simply reinforces and perpetuates the status quo. Under that status quo, a whole lot of students were being failed. That's not okay.

I like your idea for how disabled kids should be treated. A separate system used, but not drop out of the accountability altogether.

---

Flying Cow, thank you.

1. Make better tests. Have the tests match what the students really need to know. There was a great article in the Washington Post that decried the laundry list of math concepts third-graders were expected to know which resulted in lots of breadth but no depth. I'm fine with teaching to the test if the test actually covers what is necessary. So that's the first step.

quote:
I am all in favor of identifying poorly performing schools and putting in standards and practices to help them improve.
How would you identify the poorly performing schools?

I still think shutting up and completing endless busy work is among the world's most useless life skills. I know it is necessary because of the sheer logistics of one teacher and 30 students, but I don't like it and I don't like grading on anything that doesn't measure mastery of the concept and the ability to execute it.

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FlyingCow
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quote:
Flying Cow seems to be saying it's been great for some, stifling for others, and an irritating wash for most.
Any structured system is an improvement over chaos. Schools that are failing need structure, just like students who are failing need structure.

While one student may be able to intuitively understand which factors of 24 they need, another may need to write out every factor pair to be sure they choose the right one. Is one method any more correct than the other? No - NCLB is making all schools/teachers list out all the factor pairs, rather than just those who would benefit from that method.

It's pretty much become a basic understanding of education: students learn in different ways. Some are linear, others are tactile, some are visual, and still others do best with the spoken word.

There is no one way that all students will learn, and there is no one way that all students can be equally evaluated. That's why we train teachers - to be able to find the ways that work for both learning and evaluation.

In a failing school, sometimes it takes a mandatory regimented structure to get the whole school back on track. In a mostly-succeeding school, that would only make the situation worse. Contrarily, the small tweaks a successful school can make to do better will not work in a failing school.

quote:
How would you identify the poorly performing schools?
Observation by experienced teachers coming in from the outside. Which is how teachers should be evaluated, too, in my opinion. It should be random, unannounced, and impartial.
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Bokonon
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kat if it's irritating, it's at least a minor negative, it just doesn't affect the end result. And how much is that "some"? Would you feel the same way if it was 5%? 15%? Neither of us know for sure, I think (do you know? I honestly haven't done that much research).

I guess I think at some point you have to say, "At this point, it's up to the parents AND citizens in the local school system to care. We've provided reasonable and equitable funding for obvious imbalances in budgets, but beyond that it's up to you." And in the case of urban areas, like Detroit, it's still better to let it be the state's responsibility, not the federal government's.

BTW, I also dispute that a "whole lot of students" were being failed... I also don't see how that has changed in any real systematic way with NCLB. I accept that there are sparkling successes, and resounding failures, but those are outliers (and existed in the old way too). how is the middle 80% doing? If no better, but NCLB requirements are causing grief to current and would-be teachers, thus creating a disincentive to enter the field, why not change back to the old system?

-Bok

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Primal Curve
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Testing is less useful than grading. Period.

Why? Subjective or not, good teachers that care about their kids will grade based upon the factors they see. Did a child who is struggling really improve on the last test? Great! Bump up the grade a bit. Did a child who can do better slack off and only get by? Well fine, you don't get as good a grade because you can do better.

Whatever it is, a grade has the human touch in it. The human mind, however many its flaws, is better than a machines. It will be able to draw on all of the shortcomings of all of their students and, in the end, make a better decision about what is going on with each one and how well they are doing.

Testing does not prove that a person is intelligent or that they grasp the concepts. The NASD examinations for registered representatives DON'T weed out useless morons. If anything, they prevent people who would be a blessing to the industry from ever getting their foot in the door by creating a false requirement for entry.

This is mostly anecdotal, but I've seen so many incredibly intelligent people fail the Series 6 and 63 exams since I started working for a retirement services company that I've come to see the test and all testing in a cynical light. I've made friends with new people who are bright and interesting and who have really great skill-sets who have to find a new job because this stupid test kicks their butt.

There is no way that testing is better than grading in my mind. So long as the grader makes a concerted effort to be fair and balanced, then it just doesn't compare.

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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quote:
1. Make better tests. Have the tests match what the students really need to know. There was a great article in the Washington Post that decried the laundry list of math concepts third-graders were expected to know which resulted in lots of breadth but no depth. I'm fine with teaching to the test if the test actually covers what is necessary. So that's the first step.
I agree and disagree, and I'm a worried now that testing puts in inappropriate priority on Math. I wonder if that's because math is the most clearly testable subject. If we exalt tests, then test only what is easily testable, then I think we may do a disservice to education.

I'm worried about tests that only test what is necessary and fail to test what is appropriate. I'm talking about engineers raping kids, ya'll. I'm talking about tests which Ken Lay would have failed. We can talk all we want about how to raise math scores, but if that's where our priorities are in our school system, I think we have lost our way.

A major problem with tying everything to a the welfare of a scantron is that this effort distracts from the teacher's main duty to teach our children the responsibilities of being a human.

We want to teach marketable skills to students so that poor districts produce employable workers, not criminals. I'd rather teach character so that all districts teach character such that the students wouldn't be criminals, even if they were poor.

(keeps his mouth shut about all these white people, drunk on science and accountability, and missing the point the whole point.)

[ December 07, 2006, 06:29 PM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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Valentine014
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I don't think you'll find many teachers in favor of this program (my father included). I've heard too many negative things about it. Many teachers on Hatrack have expressed their frustration. Basically, it sounds great on paper but isn't practical.
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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Actually, Valentine, I think it works fine if you willing to sell out the dignity of education for better math skills. I'm not saying that the failing schools were doing well at teaching the higher virtues before NCLB, I am saying that this lexicon of tests, efficiency, and accountability shifts the dialogue away from schools even trying.
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Shan
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"What incentive are you thinking of? Probably money, but what makes the incentive. Simply increasing salary is good step, but maybe not complete."

Well, no, actually I wasn;t thinking of money.If I was, I would have said so. The incentive I was thinking about has actually been mentioned by others. Give teachers back the time to actually teach. Concepts, ideas, basic skills. So much of their precious time is spent on things other than that. The amount of administrative paperwork and numbers totting is incredible -- and even more so when you consider how much administration there already is. Paper seems to breed paper rather indiscriminantly.

"The most concrete suggestion is the local control, but that local control does not include a way to be sure that students don't fall through the cracks."

When we give parents, caregivers, teachers back the opportunity to act as teams, as partners, rather than to react to blanket rules and tests, then I think we'll see some changes. Teachers simply can't afford to work side-by-side with parents or community members at this point. Too much riding on the stakes.

"Maybe it's a matter of freedom. More freedom to do whatever can be great, but it also leaves more students in the lurch if things aren't going well. Is there a way to allow freedom while still making sure that students are not continually shortchanged? Some students ARE perenially shafted - what room does the local control leave for overseeing and helping those students?"

Freedom includes the right to be responsible and the right to both succeed and fail. We simply have to stop insisting that everyone meet the same standards of mediocrity. Those famous bell-curves? They aren't allowed to exist in NCLB. Everyone has to be the same. And that will never happen. I personally believe that by empowering individuals and communities to take charge, we'll see less of those "perennially shafted" students.

"Some of the other suggestions also seem quite nebulous. It's great to put in bold that society should figure out a way to make every student happy, but "cure all poverty and put every child in a situation with one primary caregiver" is great, but hardly an actionable step the local school district is able to accomplish."

First, I didn't put in bold that society needs to make every student happy. I put in bold that society needs to honor, encourage, support children being raised and nurtured by one primary caregiver -- particularly in the early years. I also said very clearly it didn't matter to me who the primary caregiver was -- I am interested in the infant/young child experiencing the stability of a primary, known caregiver -- which helps the child to build tose beginning neural networks. Through that safe, healthy relationship. There's sound neurological/developmental reasons behind that.

Second, of course the local school district can't fix that. Nowhere did I say that they should. That's why I talked about and continued to emphasizr throughout my ramblings the "community-based" actions I see needing to happen in order to affect the sort of change people seem to want to see in the schools.

"What does that mean? Penalizing parents who put their kids in child care? Make it a crime for both parents to work when their kids are younger than five?"

I don't know, I could be wrong, but it seems like you are deliberately trying to pick a fight. [Eek!] [Wink] I never said, nor implied, those things, either. When I say I want a society that honors the needs of young children, that's what I mean. If I wanted parents punished for some nebulous thing, I'd say that.

I think as a society we are expecting schools to do far more than "educate", and that as a society we are mostly not set up to encourage, support, nurture, honor the rearing of our young -- by anyone.

Stay-at-home parents feel dishonored and that their personal integrity is in doubt because they have chosen to focus on the important task of rearing the next generation. The economics of our society makes it damn near impossible for folks to get by on one income -- especialy if that income does not come with medical and dental benefits for the whole family. Child care workers are among the lowest paid in our nation. The field has one of the highest turn-over rates, and the lowest education and training requirements. And yet, over half our children under 5 are left in out-of-home care. In my state, it's over 60%. Most parents are overworked and dog-tired simply trying to make ends meet (whether that's for basics or extras, doesn't matter) and so the litle childlets don't get as much as they need during the limited time they are with their parents, either. They get fast-food, TVs,videos, etc. Not hands-on, face-to-face, interaction time. Do I say this to "blame" the parent? Hell, no. Our society is set up to support a certain kind of economy -- which in no way supports the rearing and nurturing of young children.

And then we wonder why little Johnny or Sue enter kindergarten without the basic social skills to be able to learn what the teacher has to teach, never mind the other needed development that sets the stage for later cognitive growth.

For an example of how kids learn from play, check out this website:

Some play-based learning and links to cognitive development

Anyways. Those are some more of my thoughts.

[Smile]

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blacwolve
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NCLB makes me want to keep my children out of the public school system. I want them to get a real education, not just a 12 year course on test taking strategies. With NCLB public schools no longer appear capable of giving children the former.
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Elizabeth
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What I see every day of the 180 days I teach since NCLB is this:

Children do not get a chance to know the "basics," because everyone is so worried about the test they move too quickly through the curriculum because they have to "get through" the standards.

I have kids in fifth grade, smart kids, who, when asked to round to the nearest ten ask, "Which ten?"

It is easy for me to teach the process of multiplication or addition. It takes mroe time to make sure they understand multiplication.

My problem is not with the standards, or even the test. My problem is what we are doing with them.

A school which does not meet AYP for three or four years in a row is labelled a school district in need of improvement, and its funding for extra services are taken away. In a severe case, the state is supposed to come in and take over the school, replace the administration, and replace the teachers.

With whom?

We are facing a teacher shortage. So far, it is only apparent in the inner city schools, and at higher levels in math and science, but it is coming fast. Do you teach? Do you have kids in school? How many teachers retired last year? The baby boomers are moving out.

A fellow teacher said something that I took to heart. He is British, and said that until we as a country start making the children responsible for their own learning, we are screwed. Teachers jump through hoops. Parents jump through hoops. Administrators jum p through hoops and build hoops for their teachers to jump through.

What I see now is that if you are a student, and you fail, you get lots of extra stuff.

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Belle
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quote:
We are facing a teacher shortage. So far, it is only apparent in the inner city schools, and at higher levels in math and science, but it is coming fast.
Just to lend some weight to what Elizabeth is saying, I have a book in front of me called Teachers Have It Easy by Daniel Moulthrop, Ninive Clements Calegari and Dave Eggers. Here's a quote from it:

quote:
A recent study by University of Pennsylvania sociology professor Richard Ingersoll found that 33 percent of teachers leave within the first three years of beginning their careers, and 46 percent leave within the first five. (2)

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Nathan2006
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My mom teaches in drop-out prevention, and she doesn't like NCLB. It's a nice thought, but (And I am being presumpteous enough to both speak for her, and use the word 'presumpteous' while spelling it incorrectly) it's idealistic.

My mom homeschooled us until my dad went blind and she had to start working (My dad teaches me now), and she really appreciates the fact that different children learn at different rates. My brother couldn't read past a 1st grade level until his was 10, and now he has tested in the 99th percentile in the TABE tests. I, on the other hand, have always been a good reader (A good speller too, until I topped off at a 12.3 grade level according to the TABE).

Anyway, children learn at different levels, at different speeds. Some really are having trouble, and some just aren't applying themselves.

But now, because of NCLB, my mom works frantically trying to get credits for all of these kids, some of which do *not* do the work necessary to earn the credit. But, there's a constant 'greater good' attitude. Pretty much, if the kids do not get their credits, the school does not get money, and the drop-out prevention program is shut down, thus, future kids, who might actually do the work for their credits would not be able to benefit from the program.

I'm not exactly clear of the mechanics, but this problem is directly tied in with NCLB. Bad schools get worse, and better schools can get better because of the money that they clearly do *not* need.

I mean, I understand that it is an unfair punishment to reward schools for doing a bad job of teaching, thus rewarding kids who may not be applying themselves, or kids who simply are over their head because they couldn't be left behind in middle school.

But, NCLB isn't working either.

I wish that there would be different highschools for visual, audio, and kinsthetic learners, but this is idealistic. Who has the money?

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pH
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quote:
It doesn't help you gauge anything unless you know that the "Early Emerging Reader" is the lowest rung on the ladder and is about the same as saying "Child views book as food".
[ROFL]

-pH

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Elizabeth
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"I wish that there would be different highschools for visual, audio, and kinsthetic learners, but this is idealistic. Who has the money?"

There are tech schools, but they tend to be viewed as a lesser option.

As much as I do not like the tracking approach as a general philosphy, I see the sense of it as I get older and less idealistic. (sad, but true)

In many countries, kids have to pass into an academic track, or are funneled elsewhere. Twenty years ago, this idea horrified me. After working with kids for so long, I realize how much more successful they would be if they only had other options to pursue.

NCLB says everyone can learn. It also assumes that everyone wants to learn a specific set of skills, and that is just not true.

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Mathematician
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quote:
Originally posted by Irami Osei-Frimpong:
[QUOTE]I agree and disagree, and I'm a worried now that testing puts in inappropriate priority on Math.

The only "inappropriate priority" on math is not having enough of it. I say teach ONLY math. Once students get math down, they can work on less neccesary skills, like social interaction and communicating coherently.

Of course, I could be biased (Math > reality !) :)

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Eisenoxyde
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Whenever I hear people talking about this, I try to bite my tounge. When I started kindergarten, my teacher immediately started teaching us how to read. Within a month I was reading indepenently on my own. My teacher recognized this and kept pushing me to do more.

Early in 1st grade, my family moved to a different school district. I was placed in the highest reading group and quickly discovered that the class was going over stuff that I had learned the year before. I complained about this to my mom and she complained about it to the school, but it fell on deaf ears as they were afraid I wouldn't get along socially with the second graders.

The next year I was placed in a 1st/2nd grade combination class, for the slower learners. My mom fought as hard as she could to get me into the normal class without any luck. I spent the whole year putting very little effort into school and was getting extremely bored.

In 3rd grade things started to get worse. My brother and I were responsible for our city banning all firecrackers because we were lighting them off on the way to/from school and storing them at school to prevent our parents from finding them. This was also the first time I started having contempt for my teachers. The 2 3rd grade classes at my school split up for math with one for the slower learners. I was placed in the easier class and never had any problems with the math given to me and was more than bored with it. I was hurt and a little angry when I overheard the 3rd grade teachers talking about me one day, with one saying that while I was in the easy math class and didn't have any problems with the material, she was afraid I might struggle in the harder one!!!!

Finally in 4th grade I had enough. I had seen a flyer about a g/t program that the county offerend and I asked my mom to apply for me to get into it. To be accepted, I had to take a battery of tests. My scores ranged from the 96th - 99th percentile and I was immediately moved to a different school, to be in the g/t program full time. Suddenly I started enjoying school for the first time since my family moved.

Things went well until I moved to junior high and there wasn't a g/t program anymore. At this point I was getting very tired of school. Almost all my teachers were incompetent in junior high, with the exception of 2. My math teacher couldn't even do basic math - I had a 86% in the class and turned in extra credit and somehow my grade dropped to an 83%. It wasn't until I complained and *proved* her wrong that she gave me the correct grade of 92%.

Things finally came to a head in 9th grade where I simply stopped caring about any class other than math. Towards the beginning of the year I begged my parents to let me get a GED and move on to college early. Unfortunately the law said I needed to be 16 before I could take it, so I gave up on school and started doing my own independent study to learn about stuff I found interesting. I finished the year with at 1.5 GPA and it took my parents a lot of effort to convince me to put for at least a little effort to get decent grades so I could get accepted into good universities.

I still have a bitter hatred of public schools and probably always will. I wish my crappy teachers would go DIAF. I will never let my future children ever set foot in one.

One last thing - my older brother and younger sister both went to the same kindergarten class and could both read independently in less than a semester while my 3 youngest siblings went to my new elementary school and none of them could read independently before 3rd grade. Some schools deserve to be shut down or severely reorganized.

(Edited to fix typos.)

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Eisenoxyde
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FlyingCow - I don't mean to dispute your numbers but I am curious about a couple things.

5 days of state testing
6 days of "benchmark" testing designed to improve scores
6 days going over the benchmark assessments
8 days of "mandatory tasks" designed like state testing questions
8 days going over the mandatory tasks
20 days (estimate) of graded tests (one every other week, which were supposed to be written in the style of the standardized tests)
10 days (estimate) going over said tests (half a period for each)

That's 53 days where students...

5+6+6+8+8+20+10*.5=58 days

Shouldn't the "35 days devoted to standardized testing and test preparation" be included in the above figure?

---

Also for others complaining that teachers are taking time out of teaching algebra to review fractions - I volunteer at my local high school tutoring math and science. A large portion of the kids I help with algebra struggle with fractions. Part of why they're having problems with algebra is because they still don't fully understand the basics.

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Dan_raven
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St. Louis is another big city with major problems, going possibly to state-take-over. The internal politics is quite disgusting. (One ex-board member was arrested for public urination. She was trying to filibuster some move on the boards behalf, and had to go. Her staff put up some coats to cover her as she watered a waste can. Her insane ramblings later got her expelled from the board, and sent to an institution.)

I wonder if going small may be a solution. Limit the size of a school board to something that is small enough to have local control. Instead of these uber-districts with these uber-schools, we limit a district to 10,000 students or something.

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FlyingCow
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Couple things.

quote:
20 days (estimate) of graded tests (one every other week, which were supposed to be written in the style of the standardized tests)
10 days (estimate) going over said tests (half a period for each)

20 days of tests. Half a day each going over them, for a total of 10 days. You took that 10 days and cut it in half again.

So, 63 days, not 58.

quote:
Shouldn't the "35 days devoted to standardized testing and test preparation" be included in the above figure?
It was - though I seem to have mistyped. It's 33 days. (The days of standardized tests, benchmark tests, and mandatory tasks... along with review). All I did was take out the teacher-designed tests and review (30 days).

Again, though, this was one specific school district. Granted, it was a highly functioning suburban school district in NJ that averaged in the high 70th percentile on standardized tests... but it was considered a district "at risk" because its high number of special education students weren't performing at the same rate as the non-classified students. [Roll Eyes]

So, to raise test scores across the board, they instituted this absurd "test them to death" policy that worked so well in... a Michigan school district that had a sub-50 percentile standardized test rate. [Wall Bash]

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Eisenoxyde
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Ok, I see what you're saying now.

The reason why I was asking if the 35 (33) days was included because you accidently double counted them.

63/182=0.3462=34.62% If you raise the amount to 40%, that would include an additional 10 days of misc. stuff - leaving 109 days (60%) for regular instruction, not 36 days (20%).

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BaoQingTian
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Irami-

Just an offhand observation, but after reading your comments in several education threads over a period of time, I think you view education as some people view religion. You are as more scandalized that Ken Lay was educated than you are that he is Christian. No matter how good your education system, no matter how much emphasis you place on humanities, you'll still get people that make poor moral choices, just like with any religion.

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FlyingCow
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quote:
If you raise the amount to 40%, that would include an additional 10 days of misc. stuff - leaving 109 days (60%) for regular instruction, not 36 days (20%).
Please note that the context of the 40% number is this:

quote:
Add in the quizzes, assemblies, field trips, presentations, fire drills, etc, and you're talking 40% or more of the year with no new subject matter being presented.
Actually, if you add in all of those extraneous factors, you're probably dealing with 50% of the year or so that is not spent on instructin.

And the 20% number was the percent of the year *given back* to the teacher - 33 days (originally mistyped as 35) out of 182 is 18% of the year. That's 18% of the year that once was testing/review, and can now be education.

I'll quote what I said again for you:
quote:
Take out the 35 [edit: should be 33] days devoted to standardized testing and test preparation, and you give 20% of the year back to the teacher - or one day in every five, one day a week.
Instead of just trying to crunch numbers, please try to understand the context in which they are used.
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Belle
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quote:
Also for others complaining that teachers are taking time out of teaching algebra to review fractions - I volunteer at my local high school tutoring math and science. A large portion of the kids I help with algebra struggle with fractions. Part of why they're having problems with algebra is because they still don't fully understand the basics.
If you are tutoring them, then by definition they are struggling. When I brought this up, I was talking about an ADVANCED mathematics class - not everyone was in this class only those students who exhibited command of the basics you mention. The whole point is these students don't need to review fractions, they already mastered fractions or they wouldn't be in the class. And yet, the teacher was forced by policy to review them because of an upcoming standardized test. Now, I would be fine with spending a class period or two on reviewing concepts, review is never a bad thing - but these kids have spent more than a week so far without cracking their algebra books while the teacher reviews things they already know. They've lost a week of instruction and I know this for a fact because my daughter's algebra textbook is here in my library beside me - the teacher said don't bother bringing it back until the standardized testing is over. And they won't be doing it until next week. So in all, two weeks of instruction, at the minimum, lost and wasted on students that didnt' even need it.
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FlyingCow
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quote:
The whole point is these students don't need to review fractions, they already mastered fractions or they wouldn't be in the class.
In my experience, this isn't the case. The fastest way to drop a high honors algebra class's test average from 90 to 80 (or below) is to put in all fractional coefficients and constants.

The problem is that, quite often, once students leave seventh grade they don't see a lot of fractions anymore. Many high school math teachers don't want to bother with fractions, so they make the number crunching easy - instead focusing on the algebraic concepts at play.

Not saying that is the case with your daughter's particular class or particular teacher, just what I've seen covering for high school math teachers and teaching honors courses myself.

Also, to address another point:
quote:
not everyone was in this class only those students who exhibited command of the basics you mention.
I also didn't find this to be the case, but I think (hope) northern NJ is a unique situation. While merit is the stated qualifier to put a student in honors, it was often overruled.

For instance, if a parent wants her dear Timmy in honors, even though Timmy gets C's in regular math, she can make enough noise to get him there - where he will likely earn D's. Also, because honors classes are not often very diverse (due to the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students), efforts were made to include minority students whose scores didn't actually qualify them.

So, in any given honors class, you had plenty of students who weren't quite up to the calibre of the rest of the class... which unfortunately slowed down how quickly material could be covered.

I do hope that is unique to my area of the country, but I fear it is not.

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Belle
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You may be right Flying Cow, but I still think spending more than two weeks on things these kids already mastered is crazy. For one thing, this is 8th grade, they're only one grade removed from studying fractions anyway, and for another - no one is put in there to diversify the class, because, frankly, it isn't possible. There is no one you can move into the class to make it less than 98% white because the district is 98% white as it is.
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FlyingCow
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LOL.

Yeah, well, that will certainly affect your diversity. [Smile]

If you look, though, the sixth grade, seventh grade, and eighth grade textbooks are all variations on the same theme. Three years of repetition, and many students still don't master the concepts.

When I taught 8th grade, I spent a single day on basic standardized test review with my Honors Algebra kids (that was before I moved to the insane school with ridiculous standardized test policies). They did great. I spent weeks with standard level kids - they didn't do so great.

Then again, a lot of the reason those 8th graders were picked for algebra was based on their 7th grade standardized test scores... so these were kids who already proved they test well.

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Eisenoxyde
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FlyingCow, I'm just trying to make sense of your post. From the original post it sounded to me that you were saying that you could only teach new material 20% of the time with the rest being devoted to standardized testing and misc stuff, which didn't make any sense to me. I never doubted what you said was true, I was trying to crunch the numbers and hopefully have you point out where I was wrong. [Smile]
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FlyingCow
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Points of my post:

- Tests of some sort (and pre/post review) took up 30% of the year. 18-20% of the year (most of that 30%) was spent on standardized testing.
- Quizzes and days spent out of the classroom can be 10-20% of the year on top of that.
- Adding all of that together, it ends up with actual instruction taking place only half of the days of the year.
- Take out standardized testing, and you regain the 20% of the year lost - getting one day back out of every week, on average.
- So, instead of being able to teach content 5 out of every 10 days, it would become 7 out of every 10 days without any form of standardized testing or testing review.

That more clear?

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Eisenoxyde
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Yeah, that's a lot clearer now. Thank you.
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FlyingCow
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Cool. [Cool]
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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That only becomes a problem if the the tests are not germane to the curriculum.

I don't mind testing, in reasonble amounts. I mind the content of the test.

quote:
You are as more scandalized that Ken Lay was educated than you are that he is Christian. You are as more scandalized that Ken Lay was educated than you are that he is Christian. No matter how good your education system, no matter how much emphasis you place on humanities, you'll still get people that make poor moral choices, just like with any religion. No matter how good your education system, no matter how much emphasis you place on humanities, you'll still get people that make poor moral choices, just like with any religion.
At least religion baldly addresses the issue. Public education, in emphasizing math, worldly science, and job skills, all neatly testable areas, ignores these issues making itself irrelevant to people who aren't driven by math, science, and money.

quote:

You are as more scandalized that Ken Lay was educated than you are that he is Christian. No matter how good your education system, no matter how much emphasis you place on humanities, you'll still get people that make poor moral choices, just like with any religion.

What bothers me is the degree to which poor moral choices are accepted and propagated by the absence of the humanities and the substitution of "behavioral science" in their stead.

[ December 08, 2006, 04:40 PM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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FlyingCow
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I mind overtesting.

In that year with all that madness, there was a two week period where the students did nothing but have tests or go over tests. None of these counted toward their grade or were part of the current curriculum - they were just standardized tests that were meant to cover a general range of grade-level topics.

At the end of it, they were exhausted, frustrated, and confused about the point of it all. I didn't have the heart to give them the graded test I had planned for the following week, so I postponed it - which ended up giving them one less grade for the marking period.

Even if the tests are based on subject matter, you can't just test kids all the live long day. Testing is meant to periodically evaluate learning - not to be the focus of the year.

And for the special education students, who received 50% more time than everyone else, it was almost unbearable.

Pause for two unrelated anecdotes regarding special education students and standardized testing:

- One specific student had a problem interpreting information when presented in two dimensions. I knew that he had difficulty understanding what I wrote on the board and what was written on tests. However, when something was explained to him out loud, he understood very readily.

Often I would quiz him verbally after a test or quiz to gauge his understanding instead of relying on the test paper alone. During tests (and especially standardized tests) he had a support teacher with him to read aloud any sections that confused him. Even so, standardized tests frustrated him immensely, and he always scored very poorly - even though he understood the concepts.

- Another student was an algebra-machine. The other kids in the class looked up to him for always just "getting it" and asked him for help constantly. They didn't know he was classified because of severe anxiety problems and would never have believed that the A+ student scored consistently in the 40th percentile on standardized math tests - simply because he froze up during the examination periods.

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Shanna
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If there was ever a sentence that summed up the problem for me, this is it:

quote:
Testing is meant to periodically evaluate learning - not to be the focus of the year.
Exactly, FlyingCow!

When an evaluation tool supercedes the teaching of the material and the learning that it is meant to evaluate, we have a problem.

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Elizabeth
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One thing I am doing more regularly this year is PRE-testing.

Sadly, not many kids this year are passing through the pre-tests, but there are some. What I like about the pretesting plan is that I can see the progress a student made in the course of the unit. We break down the tests by skill, and it is really interesting to see, even though I am NOT a number-cruncher by nature.

What I have noticed is that the kids can learn the algorithms just fine. But if I scratch the surface, I can quickly discover a horrid pit of doom when it comes to basic number sense. They can be taught to multiply, but do not understand what they are doing. So, they leave fourth grade and fifth grade, where they can get away woth this, and land in sixth grade and beyond and are clueless, because it has all been going too fast.

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FlyingCow
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Yep. They can bash numbers together, a lot of the time, but have no idea why they're doing it, or when they should do it.

I've seen plenty of students who could add, multiply and divide fractions... but couldn't compare them to know which is bigger, or roughly estimate the amount of a whole they are (and I'm talking about bigger or smaller than a half, bigger or smaller than a quarter, etc).

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DarkKnight
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quote:
If you fail to meet your adequate yearly progress, based on test scores, you lose funding. If you fail to meet them repeatedly, there are increasing sanctions
See this is exactly the kind of myth I am talking about. NCLB is blamed for everything and so many things are said about that are not true.
Ed.gov
"NCLB does not label any school as“failing.” In fact,states are responsible for identifying schools as “in need of improvement”if they do not reach the state-defined standards for two consecutive years. And far from losing federal funds, schools in need of improvement actually qualify for additional support to help them get back ontrack. Federal funds have steadily increased to support schools in need of improvement. These schools have increased funds targeted for professional development,and are specifically required to work with parents, school staff,district and outside experts to develop an improvement plan."
"States and local school districts are now receiving more federal funds than ever before for programs under No Child Left Behind: $24.3 billion, most of which will be used during the 2004–05 school year."
Schools funding increase and if you do not meet the requirements than you qualify for more money and assistance.
As far as 'punishment' goes....
"What happens when a school does not make adequate yearly progress (AYP)?"
"Second Year: A Title I school that has not made AYP, as defined by the state, for two consecutive school years will be identified by the district as needing improvement before the beginning of the next school year. School officials will develop a two-year plan to turn around the school. The district will ensure that the school receives needed technical assistance as it develops and implements its improvement plan. Students must be offered the option of transferring to another public school in the district—which may include a public charter school—that has not been identified as needing school improvement.
Third Year: If the school does not make AYP for three years, the school remains in school-improvement status, and the district must continue to offer public school
choice to all students. In addition, students from low-income families are eligible to receive supplemental educational services, such as tutoring or remedial classes, froma provider who is approved by the state and selected by parents.
Fourth Year:If the school does not make AYP for four years, the district must implement certain corrective actions to improve the school, such as replacing certain staff or fully implementing a new curriculum, while continuing to offer public schoolchoice for all, as well as supplemental educational services for low-income students.
Fifth Year: If the school does not make AYP for a fifth year, the district must initiate plans for restructuring the school. This may include reopening the school as a charter school, replacing all or most of the school staff, or turning over school operations either to the state or to a private company with a demonstrated record of effectiveness."

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FlyingCow
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Second Year: Develop a two year plan. Increase training for teachers, bring in outside consultants, find ways to improve test scores - this is where you get crazy ideas like focusing more on test strategies instead of focusing on content. This all costs money. The "district" will ensure the school receives assistance... but the district gets money from tax dollars, not the government.

So, from a budget that was voted upon and passed, you have to rechannel funding away from programs it was slotted for. What happens to those other programs? The lose funding.

Often this results in woodshops, mechanics shops, home economics, music, art, and gym to be cut back. Why? Because they are expensive, and not tested.

Third Year - School choice. The district has to pay for bussing to the other schools, should a child want to go to a different school. Moreover, that school becomes more crowded and has lower performing students. Class sizes go up, test scores go down. Low-income families get tutoring and remediated classes - which requires more teachers to be hired.

Fourth Year - This is actually the most productive for truly failing schools. Total system reform. However, if your special education students can't make the grade for four years, then a school performing at 85% can have its staff replaced and new curriculum put into place. It's called throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Fifth Year - More restructuring, more teachers, more money. And it could happen if only one segment of your school population (for instance, special education students) is having trouble performing on standardized tests.

This has led to schools going out of their way NOT to offer special education services to failing students who need them, because to add that student would be to drop SpEd test scores immediately.

Yeah, great program.

And the AYP is all based on test scores, which are english/math only. Wonderful program.

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