I disagree with The New York Times.
In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified.
On Friday, the Department of Education plans to announce that it has granted waivers releasing two more states, Washington and Wisconsin, from some of the most onerous conditions of the signature Bush-era legislation. With this latest round, 26 states are now relieved from meeting the lofty — and controversial — goal of making all students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Additional waivers are pending in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
The title of this article was “‘No Child’ Law Whittled Down by White House.”
The New York Times has it wrong.
Although it’s true that these waivers mean that states no long have to make all students proficient in reading and math by 2014 (a ridiculously impossible goal), the central focus on standardized tests as the means to evaluate students is still present.
Teachers, parents and administrators nationwide have been protesting the use of standardized tests as the sole measure of achievement ever since the No Child Left Behind act became law, in 2002.
And yet, under Obama, it is still the centerpiece of federal education policy.
The New York Times does acknowledge this in part:
Mr. Starr (superintendent of Montgomery County Schools in Maryland) said he believed that education reform should focus on incentives to help teachers collaborate and help students learn skills that could not simply be measured by tests.
“It is another example to me of how we’re not focused on the right things in the American education conversation today,” Mr. Starr said. “I have a lot of respect for Arne Duncan,” he added, referring to the secretary of education, “but it’s just sort of moving around the chairs on the Titanic.”
But it gets worse.
With the NCLB waivers, schools and districts must now tether evaluations of teachers and schools in part to student achievement on standardized tests. The use of tests to judge teacher effectiveness is a departure from No Child Left Behind, which used test scores to rate schools and districts.
As the Perdido Street School blog explains:
Instead of labeling schools “failing,” the administration wants states to test their students throughout the year and label the teachers of those students who don’t “add value” to their test scores as measured by a value-added algorithm “failing”.
And the administration wants those teachers fired – just the way they wanted all those teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island fired.
Doesn’t matter what other challenges teachers and schools face, doesn’t matter if even conservative columnist George Will recognizes that there are mitigating outside circumstances that can make a teacher’s job very, very difficult – to Barack Obama and Arne Duncan there are “no excuses!”
Teachers MUST raise test scores or be fired.
President Obama’s education policies rely on standardized testing as the primary mechanism to measure who gets punished, exactly as President Bush’s did. Only now the burden has moved from schools to teachers.
So while I support our President in many ways, I am deeply disappointed in his education policies.
Do you agree? What do you think?
Photo Credit: James Brauer