The Definitive NCLB Post

The Education Reformation of NCLB and the Crusade to Kill Public Schools

From October 1, 2005

Choosing the language that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross used to describe the process of dying, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings told the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on September 28 that “I think we have gone in to all the phases with ‘No Child Left Behind,’ –we’re into acceptance, if you will.” Whether “we will” or “will not” remains to be seen, but Spellings had one thing right: the American public school that has been the institutional bulwark for democratic aspirations for nearly 200 years is in the fight of its life. Ironically, it has been the corporate socialists who now control the federal government that reached the “acceptance stage” long before any of us knew that a sickness had set in. The campaign for acceptance of the imminent death of the public schools and the rise of privatized corporate welfare schools has been a concerted and continuing campaign, whose outcome is, indeed, certain unless changes are demanded by the American public in federal education policy now. How did we get to this stage?
It should come as no surprise that many of us grew up with the belief that the public school was the institution through which we as Americans come to realize the promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. After all, that is what we were taught in school, and what our teachers were taught, and their teachers before them. It is one of our cherished chestnuts that goes all the way back to Horace Mann, who masterfully pitched his case for public schools to a wary public in the early19th Century. What we were not taught in school, and therefore less likely to know, is that Mann’s plea for financial support to the skeptical industrialists and business owners of his day focused on, instead of liberty, providing a morally-prepared work force that would offer the factory owner the best kind of property insurance for his valuable investments. Workers educated in the new common schools would show up on time, take orders, and not vandalize the equipment. Though the liberty pitch to the common man was important in garnering widespread support, Mann’s idealistic salesmanship actually prevailed on the strength of this latter argument, even if the system that Mann inspired was unable to ever fully deliver on either of his promises. What would be left in the wake of those unfulfilled promises to the Boston Brahmin as well as the Massachusetts country farmer are the relics of reform efforts that now scatter the historical path that lead up to the door of the 21st Century schoolhouse.

Our modern history, then, is strewn with examples of efforts to exorcise the perceived mediocrity of the public schools that resulted from that initial over-promising by Mann and other promoters of Common School Crusade. Systematic reform goes back at least to the beginning of the 20th Century, when progressives sought to emulate the new science of efficiency and scientific management that brought us the assembly line and mass production. Having taken charge of the management of public education under the leadership of academics such as Stanford University’s Elwood Cubberley, the efficiency crowd sought to make the American school a smooth running and efficient business that could sustain the unending production of knowledgeable and malleable workers for what seemed to be America’s unquenchable industrial engine. The case that the efficiency reformers made for turning schools away from the classical goals of education centered upon the need to counter the economic threat of the German industrial machine just after the turn of the 20th Century. It was essentially an economic and national security argument based on fear that made it possible to turn “failing schools” into sorting machines that would use the new efficient science of the primitive IQ tests to decide children’s future work slots in a carefully-engineered society for which the zealots for efficiency campaigned heavily.

The disgruntled and displaced educational traditionalists, who had enjoyed centuries of dominance based on an unremitting system of memorizing, reciting, and strict discipline, lay in wait for an opportunity to attack the new social efficiency and utility-driven schools. They got their first big break in 1957, when the Soviets were first to launch the man-made satellite, Sputnik. Traditionalists like Arthur Bestor and Hyman Rickover quickly took advantage of the opening, scoring big with a receptive and gullible mass media by railing against the flabby school curriculum that had given the knowledge advantage to the Russians, thus placing American national security in jeopardy. Not mentioned were the intelligence and economic policy failures that allowed the Soviets to move ahead, and not mentioned was the complacency of American business to embrace the emerging technologies of the time. Not mentioned, either, was the fear that schools had lost control of the young, who seemed more fascinated with rock-n-roll than they did with those 3 Rs.

Thus the successful strategy of blaming the schools from the early century came to be used once more, this time against those who used it first. Blaming the schools worked to create an effective scapegoat that sold newspapers, which, in turn made the need for reform widely talked about and eventually accepted, thus ushering in an ideological solution desperate for educational problems to fix. Thus became the pattern for the large education reform movements in public education. It must be noted, too, that in 1969 when the USA was first to land a man on the moon, credit for that national victory did not go to the immediate turnaround in the failing American school system, but to the ingenuity and can-do spirit that coalesced in a cooperative venture by American business, government, and the investment communities. Never mind that the schools were not to blame in the first place.

The same pattern would be repeated in 1983, when “dumbed-down schools” were blamed for the economic threat by the Japanese and other Asian economies, whose schools were obviously much better than ours. American schools were so bad, said A Nation at Risk, that they had taken the United States to the brink of “unilateral educational disarmament.” Not mentioned in this analysis was the failure of America’s automakers and other industries to re-tool and re-invest to keep pace with energy and environmental conditions, and never mind the accumulating evidence for needed economic policy changes that the U. S. government had failed to acknowledge or to make a priority. This time, however, reform of the public schools would not be enough for reformers: the situation would require an alternative to the “public school monopoly,” as the first President Bush would call the school situation during a summit at Charlottesville, Virginia in 1989 with corporate CEOs and the nation’s governors. By the early 1990s, however, when the USA’s economy began an unprecedented surge that left Japan and others in the economic dust, it is worth noting that credit, once again, did not go to the immediate turnaround of the American schools, but to sound economic policy and to an entrepreneurial exploitation of technological advances. Never mind that the schools had not produced the crisis in the first place, just as they had not effected the solution.

Now, fifteen years later and well advanced into an era of testing hysteria that has left America’s children and parents edgy and anxious and our educators demoralized and exhausted, comes another education summit in February 2005, again in Virginia, and this time with the world’s top technocrat, Bill Gates, delivering the keynote. In the sights of the test-based reformers now is the American high school, as flabby it would seem as America’s school children and totally unprepared to insure the continuance of America’s economic predominance in the world. The high schools are so bad, it would seem, that students are leaving in droves, creating an embarrassing dropout rate for the world’s bastion of equal opportunity and economic success.

Those that are not leaving, according to the now-familiar narrative, are entering college without the basics that will assure their success in the high-tech jobs of the future. These students are so unprepared, says the familiar refrain, that corporations are looking to other countries to fill the need. Not mentioned is the fact that those high-tech and low-tech jobs are being funneled offshore into foreign job markets by people like Mr. Gates and the other CEOs at the Virginia summit who are unwilling to pay American workers a fair wage. Not mentioned, either, by the reform-by-testing crowd is the sad fact that, of the ten states with the lowest graduation rates, all ten already have high school exit exams. And nine of them have had exit exams for more than 10 years. The solution, nonetheless, is clear: higher standards and more high-stakes tests.

The great diversion continues unabated, this time, however, with some built-in solutions to that public school monopoly that Reagan and GHW Bush could not crack.

No Child Left Behind is different from all the other educational reforms that have preceded it—this time the reformers are assured of a win, regardless of the outcome. If schools are able to achieve the impossible and attain the 100 percent math and reading proficiency by 2014 that the legislation requires, then the reformers will have threatened, bullied, and shamed their way to educational success by having rendered our schools into scripted testing factories. If the more probable scenario develops (psychometricians say certain), however, and a large majority of American schools are clear failures or on the “Federal watch-list” before or by 2014, then the road to school privatization will be clear sailing. By then, American parents will be shell-shocked and willing to try anything to avoid another one of those Federally-mandated letters telling them that their children are failing because their schools are failing. And state legislatures, broken financially and in spirit by then from the under-funded burdens of NCLB implementation, will be desperate enough to turn the whole effort over to the EMOs of an education industry that will be ramped up, ready, and waiting to pounce.

What separates the current reform efforts from all others in American history is the degree to which millions of American children are suffering, are dropping out, or are being labeled as failures at an early age in ways that will forever leave them behind in a world of disenfranchisement or poverty that no standard or test can touch. Beyond this utter tragedy that is concealed under a cynical and hollow rhetoric that would make Horace Mann blush, there is a deeper tragedy still: for were we to achieve the impossible as required by NCLB with its 100 percent testing proficiency requirement, we will have by then narrowed the focus of the school curriculum and teaching to the narrow confines of that which is tested. Regardless of how valid those tests are likely to be, and experts like James Popham says that 90% of them are junk, this will tragically, perhaps, leave us even more unprepared to deal with the changing world events and challenges that will assuredly come, more unaware and unappreciative of our own diversity and the democratic adaptation that a healthy future requires, and more blinded to our imaginative and critical capacities that have thus far assured America’s cultural and scientific eminence in the world of nations. Is this the educational success to which we aspire? If so, then what should we call failure?

To those who continue to support an educational policy of false promises that threatens psychological and intellectual genocide against our children, and thus our future, let me ask you to go into the schools and see what has already happened there before you continue down this road. Ask elementary teachers and students about what has happened to the joy of teaching, learning , and of coming to school. Ask principals about what has happened to recess and field trips and civic purpose. Ask curriculum coordinators what has happened to the social studies, health, and the arts. Ask counselors about student behavior and teacher morale. Ask the public what it means when their local schools’ Title I dollars are used to pay private tutoring firms who are accountable to no one except their own Washington lobbyists and the insiders at US DOE that shovel them their millions. Ask parents about what it means when their children pass their subjects and are left behind because they did not pass a test. Ask them and listen, and you will begin to hear a rumble, steady and getting stronger, moving upward—signaling that the American public will not go so gentle into that night of the corporate socialists.

Jim Horn

Biden The Gaffe Machine

Obama is a no bullshit POTUS. Just look at how he effortlessly makes Biden's comment about "doing this again" a moment to remember, if you are Joe Biden. No smile, no acknowledgment of the joke. Nothing. He, in effect, said "shut up" Joe. I think I'm going to like this Obama guy.

h/t Democratic Strategist

ObamaTube Jan. 24 2009

"Lemon Socialism"

Bob Reich explains how citizens will get screwed and the corporations will get rich.

How America Embraced Lemon Socialism

America has embraced Lemon Socialism.

The federal government -- that is, you and I and every other taxpayer -- has taken ownership of giant home mortgagors Fannie and Freddie, which are by now basket cases. We've also put hundreds of millions into Wall Street banks, which are still flowing red ink and seem everyday to be in worse shape. We've bailed out the giant insurer AIG, which is failing. We've given GM and Chrysler the first installments of what are likely to turn into big bailouts. It's hard to find anyone who will place a big bet on the future of these two.

It gets worse. While Washington debates TARP II, the Federal Reserve Board continues to buy or guarantee or provide loans for a vast and growing pile of questionable financial and corporate assets, much of which are likely to be worth far less than the Fed has paid or guaranteed or accepted as collateral. We're talking big money here -- so far over $2.4 trillion. (The entire TARP -- parts I and II -- in combination with the proposed stimulus package come to just over $1.5 trillion.)

Taxpayers are on the hook for this Fed bailout money, too, of course. We have to pay the interest on the ever-growing debt used to make these payments or guarantees and loans. Yet while TARP II and the upcoming stimulus package are receiving a great deal of attention, this much larger public commitment by the Fed is not. That's partly because the media doesn't much of understand it, but also because the Fed is doing it in secret, using provisions of its charter never before utilized, and avoiding discussion before the full Board of Governors for fear such meetings would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Put it all together and at this rate, the government -- that is, taxpayers -- will own much of the housing, auto, and financial sectors of the economy, those sectors that are failing fastest.

Consider too that the government already finances much of the aerospace industry, which is still doing reasonably well but depends on a foreign policy that itself has been a dismal failure. And a large portion of the pharmaceutical industry and health care sector (through the Medicare and Medicaid, the Medicare drug benefit, and support of basic research). These are in bad shape as well, and it seems likely the Obama administration will try to reorganize much of them.

What's left? Most of high-tech, entertainment, hospitality, retail, and commodities. So far, at least, we taxpayers are not propping them up. And when the economy turns up -- perhaps as soon as next year, most likely later -- these sectors have a good chance of rebounding.

But the others -- the ones the government is coming to own or manage -- are less likely to rebound as quickly, if ever. If anyone has a good argument for why the shareholders of these losers should not be cleaned out first, and their creditors and executives and directors second -- before taxpayers get stuck with the astonishingly-large bill -- I would like to hear it.

It's called Lemon Socialism. Taxpayers support the lemons. Capitalism is reserved for the winners.

The Rug Is Too Ugly!

Isn't there an Ikea in DC where Obama could buy a cheap, yet infinitely more attractive, rug?


War Crimes Trials Ahead?

It sure is beginning to look like there could be...
Yoo, Addington and the Reich Ministry Justice case

By Cernig

I've been thinking a bit more about Obama's historic Executive Order banning torture yesterday and in particular this bit:
"From this day forward, unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance, officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government may, in conducting interrogations, act in reliance upon Army Field Manual 2 22.3, but may not, in conducting interrogations, rely upon any interpretation of the law governing interrogation -- including interpretations of Federal criminal laws, the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3, Army Field Manual 2 22.3, and its predecessor document, Army Field Manual 34 52 issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009."
Did Obama just put Yoo et al on notice that they're open to war crimes charges and let those in the CIA, Justice Dept. etc. who didn't speak out against their orders know that there's no legal cover in any of the Bush legal team's judgements?

The relevant case history and precedent would be the Justice Trial at Nuremberg - which raised the issue of what responsibility judges and posecutors might have for enforcing grossly unjust but arguably binding laws - and especially Nuremberg's United States v. Altstoetter, also called the Reich Justice Ministry case.
That case stands for some simple propositions. One of them is that lawyers who dispense bad advice about law of armed conflict, and whose advice predictably leads to the death or mistreatment of prisoners, are war criminals, chargeable with potentially capital offenses. Another is that cute lawyerly evasions and gimmicks, so commonly indulged in other areas of the law, will not be tolerated on fundamental questions of law of armed conflict relating to the protection of civilians and detainees. In other words, lawyers are not permitted to get it wrong.
That quote from the linked explanation of the Reich Ministry Case and how it would apply to John Yoo, David Addington and others is by Scott Horton and appears on "Balkanization" blog. His co-blogger there, Marty Lederman, has recently been appointed to be Obama's Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel. Two guest bloggers at balkanization have also accepted senior postions in Obama's OLC.

1,474 Megapixel Inauguration Photo: Very Cool

This is a very cool photo and story:
I made a panoramic image showing the nearly two million people who watched President Obama’s inaugural address. To do so, I clamped a Gigapan Imager to the railing on the north media platform about six feet from my photo position. The Gigapan is a robotic camera mount that allows me to take multiple images and stitch them together, creating a massive image file.


Close Gitmo And Secret Black CIA Sites

From the Washington Post:
White House counsel Gregory B. Craig, who has spent the past several weeks drafting the orders, and discussed them with senior Democratic lawmakers in recent days, briefed House Republicans on Capitol Hill yesterday. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) said Craig told members of Congress to expect "several" executive orders on Guantanamo Bay, including closure of the prison, but did not provide specific language.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that "there are important questions that must be answered before the terrorist detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay can be closed. The key question is where do you put these terrorists?"

Sources familiar with the briefings said Obama also will sign two executive orders altering CIA detention and interrogation rules, limiting interrogation standards in all U.S. facilities worldwide to those outlined in the Army Field Manual, and prohibiting the agency from secretly holding terrorist detainees in third-country prisons.

They Spied On Everyone. EVERYONE!!

Olbermann had an interview with Russel Tice, and NSA whistle blower. Here is the scariest part:
TICE: The National Security Agency had access to all Americans’ communications — faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And it didn’t matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made any foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications. […] But an organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.

OLBERMANN: To what purpose? I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every e-mail sent by all the reporters at the “New York Times?” Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York? Is it like that?

TICE: If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything. Yes. It would be everything.

h/t TP


The Revolution Starts Now!

Good news:
In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration.

The instruction came in a motion filed with a military court in the case of five defendants accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The motion called for "a continuance of the proceedings" until May 20 so that "the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."

The same motion was filed in another case scheduled to resume Wednesday, involving a Canadian detainee, and will be filed in all other pending matters.

Monday Cartoon Fun: Inauguration Edition


Roberts Screwed Up The Oath

Yes, it was Chief Justice John Roberts who screwed up the Oath of Office, not the President of The United States, Barack Obama (that felt good to write!), according to Ann Althouse.
The Chief Justice in fact screwed up the oath. The Constitution requires:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Roberts left out the word "faithfully." (He also said "President to the United State.") Obama saw the mistake and stopped himself to gave Roberts a chance to fix it. Roberts redid the line, remembering to throw in "faithfully," but putting it in the wrong place — after President of the United States — and, this time, Obama went along with the wording. Close enough, I guess he figured. I wonder what Barack Obama was thinking. Maybe: Some textualist you turned out to be!
Sully , however, says:
The highlight so far: a quartet that looks like the America we love, a score as deep and as meditative as this moment demands. And an oath bungled by both Justice and President, as the moment simply overwhelmed their human capacity to grasp it. But we are all grasping it now. And, as it happens, it is beyond our grasping.
I think Obama and Roberts both kinda screwed up, but let's blame Roberts, okay?

Michael Phelps Owes Everything To Coach (Not Mom, Not Genetics, Just Coaches!)

This is a comment by reader "Pondoora" from eduwonkette about this post. The post posits that policy should not be made based on the achievements of statistical outliers. I agree, and the comment below shows the stupidity of the blame-the-teacher corps, led by Michelle Rhee:
It's very clear to me that Michael Phelps' coaches were practicing their craft to perfection and that they were 100% responsible for his achievements.

The fact that his mother had the insight to firmly guide Phelps to the sport of swimming, made tremendous sacrifices herself and didn't ruin him emotionally, had little effect on his outcome. Phelps' success had nothing to do with his intense competitive drive and sense of discipline, nor his unique set of physical gifts. His sustained, daily access to high-end swimming facilities didn't play a part in developing his speed, either.

It's obvious that the other swim coaches in the world are just clinging to the status quo and don't truly believe that any of their trainees can succeed. Most of them are lazy and ineffective, and all they want is to collect pay and benefits from rec centers and swim clubs.

Our nation's swim coaches are also responsible for the swim gap (a study in 5/08 showed that 58% of African American children can't swim, for whites it's 31%). The intolerable truth is that most pools where young people swim are simply "failure factories."

We are way overdue for reforming them.


The HBO Concert Videoized

You can watch the whole HBO inauguration concert, "We Are One", here. Now they need to make the video embeddable!

The Inauguration Cost Myth Debunked

Ignoramuses on the right are trying to claim the the $160 Million figure for the cost of Obama's inaugural is four times the cost of Bush's 2005 inaugural event. But, as usual, the Right is wrong...
However, buried in a recent New York Times article published one week before the controversy erupted over the cost of Obama's inauguration, the newspaper reported that in 2005, "the federal government and the District of Columbia spent a combined $115.5 million, most of it for security, the swearing-in ceremony, cleanup and for a holiday for federal workers" [emphasis added].

You read that correctly. The federal government spent $115 million dollars for the 2005 inauguration. Keep in mind, that $115 million price tag was separate from the money Bush backers bundled to put on the inauguration festivities. For that, they raised $42 million. So the bottom line for Bush's 2005 inauguration, including the cost of security? That's right, $157 million.

Unless the Obama inauguration tab (including security) ends up costing $630 million, we can safely say it certainly won't cost four times what the Bush bash did in 2005. And unless the Obama inauguration tab (including security) runs to $257 million, we can safely say the event won't cost $100 million more than Bush's, as Fox & Friends claimed.

So, for now, can the press and partisans please stop peddling this malignant myth?

I Have A Dream

Slow Motion

h/t Sully

Obamicons: Great Time Waster

Go to Obamicon.Me and make your own!

Monday Cartoon Fun: "Finally!" Edition


Sunday Cartoon Fun: Bush Legacy Tour Edition

Kiwis Know: Education Reform Is A Sham!

New Zealand Study Rocks Education Critics
Posted January 16th, 2009 by Peter Henry

Where to start with this one? You have to check this out.

How about one of the largest education studies of all time--83 million students across the world.

How about flying directly into the teeth of the notion that if we just get tougher, just assign more homework, just ratchet the standards/requirements a little higher, that we will get better results from kids.

How about showing clearly that taking standardized test after standardized test will not produce the kind of academic outcomes that lead to motivated, successful and fulfilled learners.

How about the radical notion that student "self-analysis" and reflection on their own learning is the best correlative for academic success.

Or, that teacher "feedback", immediate and detailed, is one of the most important inputs a student can get from school.

You have to check this out:
So Hattie advises parents to fret less about which school their child attends, and worry much more about the quality of individual teachers, especially their ability to give useful feedback.

"Ask your kids constantly what feedback have you got from your teachers? Don't ask `what have you learned?' Encourage them to look for feedback."

And teachers, Hattie says, should ask themselves, "how many of the kids in your classroom are prepared to say, in front of the class, `we need help', `we don't know what's going on' or `we need to have this retaught'?"

He says that sort of trust is too rare which is why he wants to work out a way of paying teachers extra for excellence, rather than experience.

"It's a lot easier to throw money at smaller classes, more equipment, more funding, to worry about the curriculum, to worry about the exams. "It's a hell of a lot harder to differentiate between good and bad teaching... I think we need to spend a lot more policies on worrying about this."
Teaching is a human profession. Learning is even more personal than that. Unless and until we are willing to acknowledge that it is much more about "working with" instead of "expecting more" we will not make any meaningful progress in the way we work with children.

I hear that Arne Duncan, Education Secretary Designate, is looking at bringing in some of the big "test and punish" thinkers from Washington think-tanks, like Andrew Rotherham, and the very chilly, Wendy Kopp. More testing, more standards, more threats, more punishment, more "accountability" for everyone.

But, as this New Zealand study shows, all this will accomplish is to push us further out to sea on an ocean of ignorance about what learning really is and how young people can get engaged in it.

Sad. Truly sad.
This is the kind of study that reinforces what good teachers already know; good teachers know how to reach kids, and the relationships students and teachers have has more impact on student learning than anything else. That is why the zeitgeist always seems to indicate that the public has a deep love for the greatness and personableness of teachers, and that teachers' personalities play a large part in the satisfaction and success of any given students' time in a school, but because we teachers are so fucking altruistic, we don't need money. The proceeding sentence is correct, except for the money part.

Knowing a subject well is necessary if one is going to teach it. Knowing how to excite children, and how to relate to children is far more important than knowledge in a subject area if you plan on imparting that knowledge to kids. Of course, if one doesn't know the subject, one shouldn't teach it. But the qualities that make a good teacher are not limited to subject knowledge. Indeed, subject knowledge should be the only given; the prerequisite. The interview for the teacher should focus on how the teacher will relate to kids.

My students know that asking questions is the sign of a good student. They know that knowing what they don't know is also very important. How the hell else can they improve unless they know these things?

Sometimes I read these studies, or hear researchers say things, and think to myself that if they had spent any time in a classroom, they wouldn't need the research; they would just know it. Let teachers teach. When students struggle and fail because of lack of funds, resources, and parents, don't fire the teachers!

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