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September 26, 2007


It's a friggin' bind that NCLB has put us in. If we don't get the test scores up, schools are sanctioned.

I agree with you that teaching to the test is a horrible development in our schools, but what should we do? Seriously, we can't just pretend NCLB doesn't exist. Aren't we stuck teaching to the test until we can get rid of (or modify) NCLB?

(I'm not asking to be argumentative; I'm honestly trying to figure this out.)

I've advocated that Portland refuse Title I money until NCLB is fixed. I figure that federal money accounts for about 8% of the total budget for schools. It just might be worth the financial hit to take a stand on such a lousy piece of legislation.

Actually, the entire state should forgo federal money until NCLB is either fixed or abolished.

More practically, I've urged people to sign the petition urging Congress not to reauthorize NCLB. I think the vote is coming up next year.

Literacy integrated throughout the curriculum is a way to get the reading scores up. Teach reading in music, PE etc. and this helps the scores. I am not sure this is a good idea. I kind of favor teaching music in music and PE in PE. Probably doesn't hurt too much, but it certainly doesn't qualify as reform.

Same goes for the professional learning communities. Often they work on making sure the curriculum is aligned with the state standards which are the ones tested and doing things to increase test scores. Probably helps some to have teacher leadership and involvement, but to what end is the question -- often this stuff gets abused big time. So I wouldn't call it reform either unless the teachers really have autonomy to go in directions that make sense to them and aren't test driven (fat chance).

Another problem is that a lot of young teachers have been force fed the testing and really believe in it.

For what it's worth, Steve, you can teach music in music and still do plenty to reinforce literacy. WHen I was choir director at a SE middle school (back when they HAD choirs!), the vice principal urged every ESL student in the school to sign up for choir as a way to improve their English. Many of them did, with the added bonus of making friends outside their ESL classes.

The quote from Linda Alvarez vindicates a fellow parent and teacher from Texas, who told me that NCLB had the unanticipated result of schools putting the bulk of their resources into 2nd quartile achievers. They knew kids in the top quartile could already pass the tests, and they just gave up on the kids in the bottom half. Helluva way to run public education.

Wow Terry, that would be very bold to refuse Title I. Wouldn't we also lose Dept. of Ed. grants, too, like the $5.1 million, er, excuse me, $4 million Ockley Green grant?

I'd support refusing fed money if we had a state revenue stream we could count on to make up the difference. And of course I support the repeal of NCLB.

I like what Steve B. and Zarwen are saying about integrating literacy across the board.

I'd be interested to know if any districts or schools have developed specific plans to help with the test scores without explicitly teaching to the test. Seems like this could work in theory.

We are definitely in the race to the bottom in Portland. And the new literacy program is another indicator of this ....Scripted...that's it....but then that is all part of the neoliberal away with the teacher as human/thinking/creative being and replace with in the assembly line model....No thinking necessary...just read the script...Why, pretty soon we won't even require a college degree...And we have been told that the higher ups will be checking to make sure we are following the script by sending people out to the building to question kids about what they learned that week...GOD! If we don't follow the script..will they fire us all??? And if we do follow the script and reading scores fall....who is to blame? Well...the teachers of course....Scott Foresman (the new PPS adoption) is also one of the few mega publishers allowed to qualify for the Federal Stamp of Approval....even though (at least in the primary grades) it appears whoever wrote it must have never actually have stepped foot inside a classroom... I think I will stop teaching and start a publishing company.

Wait, I said I think it is just a trick to do literacy across the board. And Zarwen, good idea getting ELL (that's what we say in Washington)kids into your choir class. (I wonder if we do it in our choir, marching band, jazz band, and string programs. I always love saying that stuff.) The trick is to take time from other classes and other things to put more time into tested subjects.

And for a long time I have said the rush to test scores takes resources and time away from kids who are truly struggling to learn to read, mainly for the reasons you state, Zarwen.

And this just in my e-mail...hope the link works: NCLB Reauthorization Proposal Ties Teacher Pay to Student Test Scores

Please sign the petition to let Congress know this is not acceptable.

oops link doesn't work...Forget it...Here's the article

OEA Newsflash
September 26, 2007

NCLB Reauthorization Proposal Ties Teacher Pay to Student Test Scores

OEA wants to make you aware of one of the troubling components included in the current reauthorization draft of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) - formerly the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller's proposal, which Congress is currently considering, includes two new programs that tie teacher pay to student test results.

OEA joins the National Education Association in opposing federal requirements for a pay system that mandates teacher pay based on student performance or student test scores. Any program that requires that student test scores or learning gains be a mandatory element would undermine teachers' collective bargaining rights. To learn more about the proposal visit NEA's website at

Tell Congress: SLOW DOWN and Take the Time to Get NCLB Reauthorization Right!
In addition to the concerns about teacher pay for student performance, OEA and NEA are very concerned with a number of other components of the reauthorization draft. The draft under discussion:

- Continues to measure school success overwhelmingly on just two (reading and math) low-quality statewide standardized tests;

- Fails to take into account adequately the unique needs of English Language Learners and students with disabilities for educationally appropriate assessments;

- Ignores the critical issues of class size reduction, access to quality early childhood education, and adequate resources for school facilities and materials;

- Eliminates the High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE) through which teachers can demonstrate that they are "highly qualified;" and

- Imposes many additional mandates and requirements on schools without any guarantee of additional funding.

Instead of rushing to pass legislation that will offer more bureaucracy, more mandates, and less help for students and educators, Congress should take the time to craft a bill that will truly help ensure great public schools for every child!

Have any of you noticed any reduction in class time to make more time for test prep in your kids' classrooms?

Are you doing anything to track this?

Any indication that kids are being assessed and then tracked according to the likelihood of passing the state test (i.e., "the bubble kids")?

Bottom line - of course the school is going to say one thing. But how do we know for sure what's happening?

BTW - this applies to all public schools, including (of course) the charters. Not sure what the charters are doing and saying about this. But it seems to me that, since most of them (to my knowledge) don't receive Title 1 funds, they don't have to worry about federal sanctions. They might get their wrists slapped if test scores don't go up and if they fail to make AYP. But if the parents like the school and continue to support it, what difference does a little wrist slapping make? The feds don't approve of my school?? Great! I don't approve of the feds!

The perverted thing here is that schools with greater socioeconomic diversity are more likely to receive Title 1 funds and, therefore, are subject to sanctions. Ergo, schools with more socioeconomic diversity are more likely to teach to the test in order to avoid sanctions. Ergo schools with greater socioeconomic diversity are more likely to have dumbed-down, test-centric curricula that involves a concentration on students at or near the cut score while ignoring struggling students and students who are way above the cut score.

The only scripted program I know of is SRA's Direct Instruction curriculum, including Reading Mastery. I was designed about 40 years ago. The state standards are designed by, um, the state. In actuality, the two do not really intersect. In other words, the curriculum and the state standards (on which the test is based on) are not well aligned.

So for a school to do well on Oregon standards testing using SRA curriculum is pretty darn good in my book.

And what is wrong with a national curriculum? Is it a good thing for a student to move to different states only to find him or herself behind or ahead? I really haven't heard a rational response to date on that one.

The problem I have always had with a national curriculum is who knows what needs to be taught -- aren't we better off with some students getting a certain type of education and some students getting a slightly different one? I feel the same way with teachers -- aren't we better off with students being exposed to different styles, learning to deal with different types of approaches and people? Certainly within a range that seems to be true.

Maybe we could have BASIC curriculum that was national. All students need to know at least these things ...... But it should be pretty darn basic.

Can't help but think we are getting distracted by fighting over crumbs.
The war in Iraq rages on. The military budget is staggering, education and social services are cut to the bone. In the meantime corporations step in to help "improve" public education and make profits. Poorer children are treated as cannon fodder and richer children are supposed to step in line to be corporate automatons.
In the meantime we argue over BS like TAG kids getting less than Special Ed. kids. We are being starved to death, all of us who are not super rich, and the sooner we recognize that and unite with all the parents, teachers and other workers who are dissatisfied with the education system ( and the war, and the increasingly outrageous tax breaks, and the decreasing standard of living of most people) the better.

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