Monday, February 13, 2012

NCLB Waiver Request Continues Failure Trap

Superintendent White's request for a waiver of the US Dept. of Education mandates of the No Child Left Behind law has serious basic flaws. Even so, such flaws will probably have no affect on its approval by Arne Duncan.  Since Duncan campaigned for White to be appointed, he will obviously approve anything White submits. The proposal amounts to a guaranteed failure trap for Louisiana public schools. The 120 page document linked here will institute major changes in Louisiana education policy.

The most basic flaw in the Louisiana waiver application is that it would keep the original requirement of bringing all students and all schools up to "proficiency" in ELA and math by the year 2014. (see page 59 & 60 of the application) This is the exact same false assumption about education attainment that has caused the collapse of the NCLB structure! To put it simply, you cannot force all students to perform at average or above levels. There will always be a distribution of students above and below grade level. All educators can reasonably do is improve overall performance. This is the crazy mandate that is forcing the need for the waivers in the first place! This so called "bold goal" of total proficiency for all is either dishonest or evidence of a staggering ignorance about the facts on the ground by our new state superintendent. (The application waiver form requires ambitious but achievable goals)White claims in his proposal that the state will require the continued acceleration of  school performance scores as we approach 2014. He apparently believes that the new value added system will somehow magically cause every single low performing student to move up to grade level.  All the state's low performing schools will be mandated to produce proficiency for all students in a little over two years. Boy is he in for a big shock! Just take a look at the chart on student performance history he included with his waiver application (on page 56). Notice how the slope flattens out in the last two years. White and his staff may need some remedial work in math and data analysis if they think this curve will tilt upward dramatically in two years.

The only thing I can figure is that White believes his scheme for giving extra points to schools for accelerated growth will somehow correct or compensate for the overall lack of student performance. White has not yet disclosed the formula he will use for the bonus point system. Or Maybe White and Duncan believe that it is a good idea to set unreasonable goals for student achievement because this allows these non-educator "leaders" to keep the real educators under constant pressure of failure.

White proposes that the creation of a new super subgroup of low performers will allow local systems to provide better services to boost their performance. That may be a helpful idea but the projection for progress is unrealistic.

Another major concern, is that White proposes to eliminate student attendance and dropouts in grades K though 8 as a factor in awarding SPS points. There was already too little emphasis on factors that reflect parent responsibility. This change totally removes all parent responsibility factors. We are creating a system where parents are led to believe that they have no responsibility to produce responsible behavior in students. Everything is now the responsibility of educators. This poisonous attitude will only cause a further deterioration of parental support and assistance in education. In addition, the change may encourage more dropouts before 9th grade. I believe there are already a large number of dropouts that are being improperly recorded as transfers.

The waiver proposal drastically changes the SPS system for high schools. 50% of the SPS would be determined by the graduation rate, and 50% would be determined by the average ACT score for all students. This removes the end of course testing as a factor in determining SPS. All students would be required to take the ACT. Any school with an average ACT score less than 18 would get zero points for this component. (see page 52) This means that White believes that our high schools should be converted totally into college prep institutions. It totally neglects the need for good vocational-technical programs and for career prep. One lesson White as a non-educator has not yet learned: forcing all students to take college prep is counterproductive. All this does is water down the rigor of true college prep courses while depriving the majority of students of career training of any kind. It winds up hurting all students.

This ESEA waiver is pretty important. It completely changes the focus of our school systems with minimal input from the real educators. It will be submitted to the feds before the end of February without so much as a vote of BESE. BESE has become irrelevant.


Bryan Alleman said...

Excellent point Mike! No country on the planet has ever had 100% proficiency, ever. The goal sounds too good to be true....and it is.

It is insanity to try the same thing and expect different results.

Lee Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT said...

There is no doubt that White's ego has short circuited and he is simply shortening the route to total destruction of public education. Who will pull the plug on this guy?

Our legislators can no longer sit back and act like they don't know any better or haven't been informed. They need to step up to the plate and do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Once again the rules are changing. Educators can't get hook into what exactly we are being held accountable for! Never mind that all of it is impossible since we don't hold the reins on the lives of children; parents do. Nowhere is any accountability being shared by parents in any of these models of destruction that the reforms call reforms. And neither will they ever. Why? Because those parents are the voters and the backers of their campaigns. No one wants to say that education is a political shell game, but that is what it has become. I wonder what parents will think when they are forced by the state public school system to pay for ACT testing, time after time after time to satisfy the requirements of this NCLB waiver? Want ot bet they refuse? Thanks, Mike. I hope that you will seek to publish this blog as an editorial. The public is in need of understanding. Debbie Meaux, LAE Vice-president

Anonymous said...

Corrections to my post:

Nowhere is any accountability being shared by parents in any of these models of destruction that the reformers call reforms. And neither will they ever.

Want to bet they refuse?

The English teacher in me couldn't let these typos go uncorrected. ;-)

Debbie Meaux, LAE Vice-president

Anonymous said...

Every educator and parent in our state needs to read this. While some of us have been reading and researching this too, we are afraid to speak out as our administrators are telling us that we will be okay. We know better. What can we do?

Anonymous said...

This is not happening in just one place. It is happening across the board everywhere.

Every bit of this was outlined in Obama's Blueprint for Education several years ago. It is just now trickeling into effect all over.

I took a course on the Blueprint. Our jaws were dropped as we studied through it- 100% accountability of schools and ZERO responsibility placed on families. EVERY CHILD is expected to perform at level, graduate, and go on to college, while at the same time, the standards are being raised (by 2014 everything we're teaching to seniors will be taught in 10th grade and so on down the line).

Meanwhile, as a 504 coordinator, I'm faced with crying children and parents every week because they feel the child must be "disabled" if they are performing "average", which just isn't good enough anymore... so UP the DOSAGE! It's education at its best.

Anonymous said...

I hope districts are reading that ESEA waiver and raising the red flag about that ACT requirement! This is ripe for the failure of more schools which means more state takeover (i.e., charter schools)!

Bryan Alleman said...

If accountability & yearly testing were replaced with ensuring students can play an instrument and learn a second language...imagine what that must be like.

Anonymous said...

Where is the accountability on school attendance? It is apparent that no one is taking into consideration that there are state laws that require students to attend school. Who's enforcing the laws? As is stands right now, charters have zero accountability for attendance but receive 100% of the dollars. We will be educating empty chairs. Attendance and Dropout rates should be considered in school funding like in other states. If I went to work only 50%of the time, I would get 50% of my paycheck. With this model, schools will recieve full funding with educating our children half of the time. Charters have been given a free pass to undemine State law.