The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

So what would you tell the Congressman?

Congressman Mark Souder's staffers called yesterday seeking three school district representatives to attend a meeting discussing the No Child Left Behind re authorization.

Here are a few talking points that we intend to share:

1. NCLB was a noble idea. (But...do all noble ideas make good laws?)

2. Schools should be accountable for the growth of their students but that accountability should take into consideration where the students are performing before the teachers receive them. In others words, move the accountability system to a growth model but still report the percentages of students meeting overall proficiency.

3. Someone at the federal decision-making level needs to spend some time IN the classrooms of today and see if this level of "accountability" is worth it. This is a hugely important national discussion. It is easy to chart changes in the test scores and call it "improvement." It's not so easy to chart what is NOT being taught now. A recent commenter mentioned the difference between teaching rote history dates versus teaching/discussing/debating sociological changes.) Well, guess which one will be taught if it's "on the test?"

4. How fair is it to hold an entire school's reputation (under current NCLB rules) based on the performance of a sub population of 12 students? This is what is happening now.

5. Special Education students have been doing well considering the circumstances. But some changes in the testing expectations for some types of students in this population HAVE to be considered.

So....what would YOU respectfully tell the Congressman if you had the chance?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the points you made are all great! One little joke we have is that "no child left behind" also means "many children kept back". What we mean is that so many of the above average children (even some of the average) are "kept back" from achieving and learning beyond the baseline requirement. Unfortunately even the best teachers have to focus so much on making sure everyone masters what will be on the test, that there is little time to go beyond and challenge the others. Teachers are having to teach kids to pass a test rather than teach so kids can learn. There is certainly no incentive for learning beyond what is required. There also is no grace given to children who are just learning English or who have disabilities.

mattsn01 said...

All of your points are very positive. The one that needs the most push is to move the accountability to the "growth" model. There is nothing you can identify where we all learned at the same age. Riding a bike, reading, multiplication facts, history, etc. Not even our Senators and Representatives all learned to read by the same age. Therefore, measure PROGRESS and growth. Hold the schools accountable for the growth and improvement of the students who come into the schools in kindergarten.

Wawasee Parent said...

Dr. Stock.

As a parent of two children, I will say that each of my children have different talents. The NCLB seems to imply that every child should attain to the same standards. That is not reasonable. One of my children can read at a level 2-3 years above her grade. The other can memorize things that the average population wouldn't even think of yet has difficulty with the "normal" everyday things most of us take for granted.

I believe the idea of mainstreaming a special education child does enrich the experience of all children and teachers. I do not believe that you should try to fit every child into the same education program. It does not help the child with special needs, the other children in the class or the teachers.

Let's give each child the help they need to develop their unique talents and contribute to society as best they can.

Superintendent Mark Stock said...

Wawasee Parent:

Well said!

Fram said...

I would offer the Congressman the following quote from Rothstein, Jacobsen and Wilder in their paper entitled " 'Proficiency for All' - An Oxymoron." To read the paper, google "Proficiency for All."

"We show that by ignoring the inevitable and natural variation amongst individuals, the conceptual basis of NCLB is deeply flawed; no goal can simultaneously be challenging to and achievable by all students across the entire achievement distribution. A standard can either be a minimal standard which presents no challenge to typical and advanced students, or it can be a challenging standard which is unachievable by most below-average students. No standard can serve both purposes-this is why we call 'proficiency for all' an oxymoron - but this is what NCLB requires." (page 2)

Vanessa said...

I think the points you made were all very good, but I'd like to know why all the accountability burden appears to be placed on the schools and none of the accountability burden appears to be placed on the students.

Anonymous said...

I think the first thing to tell them is to read their constitutions -- which I had to do in my 11th grade English class a few years ago. When I memorized the preamble and studied that important piece of literature, I never saw anything that gave the federal government responsibility, or even rights, to education. As a matter of fact, it says that the rights not specifically delegated to the feds are reserved to the states and individuals. (Thanks Mr. Waltz I did learn something.)

Anonymous said...

In addition to pointing out that education should be a state and local issue, I suggest clarifying point 2 -- the growth model makes sense. I believe some states are using it. I also agree with point 4 -- schools should not be measured on the progress of a small cell group. It is even interesting to note that one of the cell groups is most unfair. No, I don't mean special education -- it is true that special education students carry that designation because they cannot achieve at the same level as others, BUT I am referring to those who are new to our country and are called ESL, ELL, ENL, etc. It seems to me that the students only count in that category until they become proficient -- in other words, once a student CAN achieve, they don't count any more -- which inherently means that no one with an ESL population will ever make AYP as the standards go up.

Anonymous said...

I would like that not only both governing bodies but also political parties take a look at why the idea was first conceived, and then tackle the deficiencies of NCLB. I take many issues with how the entire situation is handled. I agree the idea behind education accountability is needed, I think a look every few years into educational standards and teaching markers is a good guideline. However, I do not agree with how the demands of the government put sole accountability on educators who are operating as a whole, at near capacity.

I really wish school systems would downsize, over-population runs rampant and I feel is the first reason most educators are taken from inspiring a classroom of 18-20 kids to rise above to grabbing the attention of 25+ just to memorize certain requirements.

The whole idea either needs scrapped and replaced with something more conducive to the current educational environment, or cut to the ‘bare bones’ and worked into something salvageable. Overall, I just haven’t liked it from day one.

Anonymous said...

I have been teaching for awhile now and I am reminded of a time when I was purchasing a house when it comes to these issues. When we would walk through a house with "issues," she would say, "Remember, you can do anything for money. Whatever you want to do can be done for a price." Sometimes I feel that our legislators are crying out, "Let's fix education!" but instead of giving schools what they really need to fix it, they create a law to pacify the general public so it seems that something is being done. What we need as teachers is more money for smaller classrooms, additional materials, additional teachers, more paraprofessionals, and better programs. Our legislators can avoid this uncomfortable fact by creating all the laws they want, but until they realize this most basic need for money, none of it will be a real help to anyone. I'm not saying that money is the only answer, but it's a start. If I'm sitting at a parking meter in need of change to leave my car, I don't want someone giving me a piece of paper stating the "new rules" for parking that will be effective and better very soon. Give me the quarter!

bill said...

Whenever the federal government enters our schools, problems are going to ocur. No effort is without setbacks and problems. However, let's be honest. This program would never have been necessary if school administrators, some teachers and the union were really interested in teaching our kids.

Just look at Wawasee's statistics. How many teachers since NCLB have been terminated for poor teaching or lack of preparation? None as far as I know. It is inconceivable to me that in any organization, over a 5 year period, that no one has been fired for not doing their job. Remember, when we "point a finger" 3 of them point basck at the pointer.

Please respond with the number of teachers who have been terminated for non performance.

Bill

libby said...

Bill, In keeping with the rules of the blog, your question is a good one to ask directly of Dr. Stock. The topic of this post has to do with what you would communicate with Congressman Souder.

lisa g said...

As a parent & volunteer I would tell Mr. Souder that while I'm not a fan of all the testing associated with NCLB, my biggest concerns relate to money. As stated above, class sizes are a concern; my third grader has an excellent teacher but there are 27 children in his room. Being able to hire more teachers to bring down class sizes should be a top priority if the state is serious about improving learning. And there needs to be more money for supplies in the classrooms. I know teachers often spend out of their own pockets for supplies, which essentially amounts to a paycut. In light of the ever larger class sizes & increasing standards that strikes me as totally unfair.

Chris said...

Before you read this, please note that these words are of my own research and in no represent the opinions of the schools, state, representatives or anyone other than myself. The stories I share here are my own and are an account of my own schooling.

That being said, it seems that in the process of trying to protect the whole picture, smaller pieces of the puzzle have begun to erode away.

The entire premise behind the No Child Left Behind Act was to ensure that all students, especially those who have historically been deemed "at risk," are given the opportunities and supports they need to achieve academic success.

As a student currently studying to become an educator, we are charged to be objective. Believing on good faith (as some of us tend to do at times) that all things are created and enacted for a reason, I find it difficult to remain objective. Now, you will have your beliefs from every possible aspect of the spectrum on this topic. Starting with the praise-filled citizens who are biased behind a political party, who will believe that every utterance from the mouths of the party members they have elected are golden and treated as if from God Himself, you can go all the way down the scale to those who are convinced that our entire government structure exists for no other reason that to give us the latest “cover-up” to talk about. I exist somewhere near the middle of this scale, personally, occasionally sliding from one side briefly to the other and back to center.

When I was a child growing up in this very school corporation, there were programs in place that praised the accelerated growth of a child. Gifted and Talented programs and "advanced" classes were a regular part of upper elementary school. Later, I graduated from Wawasee High School as a part of the class of 2001. As a part of my senior year, I was a part of a pilot program of student-teaching internships. I went back to the same school in-which I learned and was instructed by so many caring and passionate teachers. (keep these adjectives in mind for later…) I taught in a myriad of capacities in this program from 2nd grade music and after school choir for 4th and 5th grade, to 3rd grade science and skills testing. The sad truth that I soon learned that out of the 20 or so children in my 3rd grade class, only a small handful of them could identify a nickel out of a handful of coins on the desk, nor could all of the children say their alphabet without losing a letter, nor could they count by 2’s, 5’s, etc. without losing or forgetting what might comes next. These simple tasks were mastered by the then children in the kindergarten class to which I was a part of. Slowly, each year the standard for what was allowed to be taught were changed, styles of teaching were cast aside to accommodate what a few politicians thought *might* be better for the state. Notice that their intentions were for the betterment of the state rather than of the children. If you take care of the individual children, theory goes to prove that you will never have to worry about the condition of the state.

Now, we live in an age of even tighter restrictions and government control over what our children learn. *My interpretation* of the parts of the NCLB that I have studied for my own schooling, are as follows. In order for a school to continue to receive certain levels of funding, they have to perform to the levels set for them by the state. This means that the curriculum that used to be set by the administration, teachers and board of directors is now set by the same politicians who can withhold funding from schools who choose to be deviant and not follow these instruction OR who simply don’t have the students that are performing to these *standardized* levels.

To wrap it all up, those adjectives I asked you to remember in the beginning are the only things that are going to save our education system. Until we return the ability to use your heart in the teaching field, we are going to continue to see results that are unpleasing. Schools were designed to be administered by the staff, not by politicians hundreds to thousands of miles away.

Robin Williams stared in the role of Doctor Hunter “Patch” Adams, in the movie Patch Adams. If you have never seen this movie, I strongly urge you to do so. It is one of Williams’ most brilliant roles. Towards the end of the movie, Hunter is being reviewed by the state medical boards because of his “excessive happiness” and ways of practice. In this interview-style interrogation, Hunter had to answer to questions of his conduct as well as the possibility of one of his patients dying. He responds with “…Gentlemen, if we are going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the worst diseases known to man…indifference. I have sat in your classes and listened to your lectures on transference and professional distance. Transference is inevitable, sir. Every human being has an impact on another.”

What I want you to see with this rather lengthy commentary is that as this piece of legislature is up for re-adoption, I strongly urge you to get involved. As I stated in the beginning in the process of protecting the whole picture, the fringe pieces of the puzzle start to chip and fall away. Don’t let the politicians who are merely looking at the big picture numbers continue to control the safety and welfare of our future, when all that has occurred to date is the unattended erosion of our public education system, ONE child at a time.

It seems that in through this legislation the irony of itself comes out where this is called the “No Child Left Behind Act” it turns out that “EVERY Child Has Been Left Behind” in the pursuit of numbers, test scores, and ultimately money.

Anonymous said...

Here are a few things you might say:

1) A growth model would be very good. Unfortunately, our State Superintendent and her staff do not understand this idea well enough to propose a plan under the flexibility that USDOE has already provided on this topic. Also, it seems clear that many educators do not understand that will actually be harder to meet standards under a growth model than it is now under the "safe harbor" provision. More education is needed on all this. Meanwhile, full steam ahead on the growth model approaches that the USDOE has already started.

2) It remains a problem that so many people think that NCLB requires some high level of performance. In many states, including Indiana, the standards and cut scores on our tests are truly minimal. Clearly, we need more education so that educators and members of the public will understand this fact.

3) It remains a problem that schools continue to portray the sanctions under NCLB as so intrusive. It would really help if the public understood better the tiny amount of money that must be turned over to parent direction when schools fail repeatedly to show progress. Frankly, the public would probably view these "sanctions" as the least that should occur in those situations.

4) It would be helpful to parents and the media if they understand better what is meant by three standard deviations. Schools continue to talk as if they will face trouble if they miss a pass rate by one single student. In reality, the Indiana DOE (along with many other states) has created a cushion that is three standard deviations wide.

5) Thank goodness that someone is finally forcing our schools to look at individual sub-groups - no matter how small they are - rather than pushing them aside while focusing on the average.

These are just a few thoughts. Maybe more to come later.

Superintendent Mark Stock said...

I actually find little to disagree with from the last commenter.

1. I will agree that the standards under the "safe harbor" aren't all that difficult - yet. But you realize that the entire model is based on a utopian concept with no basis in reality. Right? Eventually all must fail because it will be difficult to reach 100% proficiency in every sub group by 2000anything much less 2013-2014. Yet a growth model makes more sense in that it at least looks at how far students come even if they aren't at proficiency. And just as important - it holds schools accountable for the growth in good students as well - something the current model doesn't do very well.

2. You say the cut scores are minimal. I'll let the teachers speak to that. I know the Indiana curriculum standards are NOT viewed by many as minimal - but where the cut scores are is a different question of course.

3. I agree with you. The sanctions are pointless unless you count the loss of public confidence and continual degrading of schools as a problem. The sanctions are not painful except for politically. The funding issues referred to by other commenters is just simply wrong. There are virtually no funding sanctions that are overly onerous to Wawasee. I cannot speak to an urban environment where the possible loss of students to other schools not under NCLB sanctions could occur.

4. The "safe harbor" provision means that the state department will not say your school FAILED unless you fail a statistical test that rules out your failure as a random occurrence. In other words, if your results are 3 standard deviations from "the norm" then your schools test results were not likely to be a random occurence. While the commenter may think this is being too easy on schools - the state is just using the standard t-tests at the .05 level like virtually all behavioral sciences are required to do in peer reviewed research. The goal is to make sure before you label a school a "failing school" under NCLB that you make sure it wasn't a random set of scores.

5. I actually agree with the last commenter about looking at the sub groups. But I still believe that special education students in some categories such should be treated differently. As far as gender, poverty and ethnicity - no problems there. I think the non-English speaking students are a little difficult to treat the same as everyone else but handling that fairly can be problematic.

My .02.