Barone Connects The Dots

Charlie Barone makes the obvious link about today’s NYT story on urban high school reform and the hysterics around No Child Left Behind. I had the same thought when the US News high school rankings came out, those schools are not all NCLB test factories…the teachers in them, you know, teach.

Update: At Core Knowledge Blog Robert Pondiscio objects to the above. But I think he misreads the post. Sure drill and kill and dumbing happens, it happens too much and is not effective anyway, but there is a lot of hyperbole about all of this. Recall, for instance, the “race to the bottom” crisis that upon closer examination turns out to be a walk to the middle… And, as always, worth pointing out that educational history didn’t start in 2001…These problems predate the law.

Update II: Eduwonkette weighs-in:

Schools get no credit for teaching science and social studies, and schools that cut back on untested subjects and do lots of test prep are playing by NCLB’s implicit rules.

Actually they are not. The evidence is pretty clear that those strategies don’t give you the sustained improvement you need to stay ahead of NCLB’s requirements. In any event, however, because the best way to boost your reading scores is to teach kids to read and give them engaging material to read, I don’t buy the argument that cutting other subjects, especially social studies, is an incentive problem here. Rather, it’s a capacity problem. Too few schools are able to deliver a really powerful instructional program today and in the absence of that they do a lot of counterproductive things.

That’s a human capital problem, a systems one, etc…Next time someone complains about the time being cut, ask them what specific measures the school has taken to analyze how they spend time now. Not how much time, but how it’s actually used. In the 1990s at the First in the World Consortium, Paul Kimmelman led some work on that score using assessment data (pdf). That sort of diligence is too rare.

Also, in the context of Pondiscio, it is worth noting that Core Knowledge schools, which don’t teach to any particular state test, tend to do pretty well on them…wonder why that is? Couldn’t possibly be a good curriculum coupled with good teaching…

7 Replies to “Barone Connects The Dots”

  1. NCLB focuses on elementary and middle schools. Grades 3-8 test every year while high schools test once. So the pressures are very different at different levels.

  2. I don’t understand your logic. You agree with us in criticizing counterproductive approachs to meeting NCLB. We all agree that they predate NCLB and you write that inappropiate approaches were “generally predictable.” Yet you want to strengthen NCLB, as if the results wouldn’t be more predictable? You criticize “mobilized opposition,”
    but surely you realize that we aren’t going away.

    The underwhelming (positive) results just increase the power of NCLB opponents, and since we’re the ones who teach the kids, that is huge. You can say that the billions of dollars produced “a walk to the middle,” or that “never before has so much effort produced so little,” or that student improvement has largely slowed since NCLB, or you can say that its caused more harm than good. We can’t devise a better approach than that?

    The first step is to focus on the core problem, like Pondiscio explains. The damage is caused by the “testing culure,” that increases the problem of “kids who decode but not comprehend.”

    Focus on the real problems, then see how good of an accountability system you can devise.
    John Thompson

  3. It’s amusing that the citation that accompanies “evidence shows” is a report written by none other than eduwonk himself, published by (who else) the Education Sector.

    It’s sure easy to make an argument when you have your own published opinion to back you up!

  4. So, let’s see…getting rid of the NCLB accountability scheme will result in all those inner city schools suddenly offering rich social studies and science teaching, while ensuring that every kid can read well and knows math.

    That’s a joke, right?

  5. What effect does NCLB have on the schools who are under-performing and struggling to attain the performing label? My school has been under-performing for 2 years. It is a K-8 school in Arizona, where most of our learners are of hispanic origin and 94% are ELL. They are cutting special classes (art, music, etc) and have implemented rigourous programs like Reading First (in grades 1-3) where, during this 2 1/2 hour block, the students are not even allowed to go to the bathroom. I think the students themselves are overwhelmed. And then add the AZ AIMS testing (on all 2nd-8th graders) on top of all that. And then, for all of our efforts, as teachers, we are punished for not achieving a label, when we are working just as hard, if not harder, than other schools due to our unique student population. Where is the fairness in that? Where is the success of NCLB? Where is this “evidence” you have mentioned. NCLB is a great IDEA. But all it is is an idea. Not all schools have the means, or the student population to succeed under NCLB.

  6. I still don’t understand people who seek a “guarantee” that ANY reforms will succeed. I don’t understand why we can’t rectify a mistake because a better approach would not result in “inner city schools suddenly offering rich social studies and science teaching, while ensuring that every kid can read well and knows math.”

    Its better to light a candle than curse the darkness. What so we want, a better educational system or the non-stop blame game?

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