No Child Left Behind Opposition

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Laura Ascione offers a composite description about “growing opposition” to the Federal No Child Left Behind legislation. She uses the recent Connecticut legal action against the U.S. Department of Education as her hook for focusing on opposition to the legislation in her lead eSchool News story.

She cites the recently released report by the Civil Society Institute (CSI) for Results America campaign:

The two most prevalent (complaints of those opposing NCLB), according the CSI, are (a) that NCLB relies too heavily on standardized testing, causing valuable teaching time to be wasted on test preparation, and (b) that it is under-funded.

These complaints appear generic, not specific to fixing the apparent lack of competitiveness of U.S. students compared with students in other parts of the industrialized world.

Inferred fix for Complaint A: Stop standardized testing. OK, and then what will teachers do in exchange for that accommodation in order to insure that their students increase their world competitiveness status? Or is it that educators, parents, et al. oppose preparing students so they are world competitive?

Test, teach, test, teach … is a fundamental conventional schooling formula. The idea is that a teacher cannot know what to teach without testing to determine what students know and what they do not know.

Standardized tests intentionally discriminate among students’ academic performances. Teachers may use these results to change instructional emphases, and thus to allow students to perform better on the next test.

Another option is for a teacher to teach to the top of a class rather than to the middle or lowest performing. These students already get it; they’re curve busters. Let them learn more. Others will pick up the challenge and increase their performance also. Try it. Many (statistically, probably at least a third of all teachers) make it work. (Don’t think so? Then test the null hypothesis.)

Some educators and legal authorities have suggested in professional education literature that educators (especially administrators, not necessarily individual teachers) who do not insure that teachers use efficient, scientifically based instructional procedures should be found guilty of professional malpractice. Others argue such administrators should be considered and treated as “child abusers.”

Standardized testing appears as a way to avoid such chiding.

Inferred fix for Complaint B: give us more money. Educators use this argument the way the boy called wolf.

We were taught (informally) in graduate school to figure out a real budget for a project, double it, then run out of money before we finished the project, so fund raisers and legislatures could justify increasing education funding authorization for the next fiscal year. Actuall, most of school budgets money goes to faculty and staff salaries, so why wouldn’t educators ask for more money?

Educators appear still to use the same budget preparation procedure.

But OK, how much more will money make any one student world competitive? How much does it cost for your students now to learn to identify the letter A consistently? How much will it cost if we give you more money to spend teaching A? What will teachers do differently in each classroom, if we give you more money?

CSI says they monitor news reports about opposition. It makes sense then that opposition appears growing. Opposition is news; if it bleeds, it leads, we were taught by journalists. It’s hard to tell from such sources what’s real, rumor and codified rumor.

I am amazed at the creativity of humans to oppose something. My father used to chide me when I’d complain about something: “Any fool can criticize, and most fools do.” I remember Dr. Samuel A. Kirk, one of my mentors, leveling a young education faculty member (whose dissertation at the University of Chicago won the highest award available) in a departmental meeting with that same line after he played the victim role about something.

I don’t think that these complainers want to look foolish. Their argument just seems incomplete.

I wonder which children opposers want to leave behind? Who’s child do they want not to be competitive as CSI asserts? How will anyone know which teachers must change their behavior, if someone does not test their students to determine what they know as compared to what other students of similar ages know against specific criteria?

Here’s an interesting point from another source: How one of Ohio’s lowest-performing elementary schools raised its third-grade reading test scores by a whopping 124 percent.

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Robert Heiny
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in [I]The Encyclopedia of Education [/I](1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for [I]TuxReports[/I].com.