Guest Column

So the stars aligned for Margaret Spelling!

May 23, 2005

“Stars aligned???”

 Are we depending on astrology now to guide our educational policy? This doesn’t sound too scientific to me. Oops, I forgot science no longer has any credibility these days.  Educational reform is a progressive thing and has a history based on scholarly efforts of both educational researchers and school administrators and teachers. No one has been waiting for star to “align”. And besides, by my math, Mr. Bush in into his fifth year in office and things aligned in three years?

“The American people decided?”

 After President Bush was “selected by the Supreme Court” and there remained serious questions about why citizens had to stand for hours after dark in order to vote on voting machines that didn’t produce proof of the vote for the second term.  He pushed policies in that in Texas were a failure and full of deceit as evidenced in the “Texas miracle”.   This is where in Houston schools, dropouts were classified as transfers by the same Rod Paige whose NCLB efforts are here described as being in the “learning to crawl” stage.

What actually has been accomplished? To paraphrase Jerry Maguire line, SHOW ME THE DATA?

“The message was heard at the highest levels??”   It is clear from the opposition to NCLB that stakeholders in the educational process were NOT consulted prior to the development of this piece of legislation. Thing were predetermined, just as in the planning agreement between Bush and Blair to “fix the intelligence” to justify the war.  Well, just because you call yourself the education president doesn’t mean you had actually done anything about education any more than calling yourself a war president means you actually have been successful in waging a justified war. Just saying something doesn’t make it so.

 “All 50 states now have accountability plans in place that have laid the foundation for continuous school improvement and student achievement from year to year”

     No. We had accountability plans for school improvement BEFORE NCLB. A fact she alludes to later on in her letter where she states,

“Most of the objections to the law have focused on the testing provisions, but most states already have the testing infrastructure in place.”  See…. by her own words, we were already testing for accountability.

    She also names Utah and Connecticut for trying to get federal dollars without testing, but fails to mention that Texas was one of the first states to “not follow the law” especially with respect to special education students.  So President Bush’s “miracle” is NOT going down well there either. Does Texas know something the rest of us don’t?

“Connecticut is suing so it can continue to receive “federal dollars for annual student testing without — you guessed it — testing all students every year.””

     Students are tested at the end of every unit of instruction or are assessed for their progress as they work through a unit of study. On top of that most states have end of year state tests for each main subject testing the material taught and are designed to that state’s curriculum standards.   Standardized tests are designed to test a certain grade level without consideration to the curriculum of any particular state. So standardized test items are a hit and miss as to whether or not that topic was taught that year, in that grade, in that state. The data comes back well after the child has moved on to another teacher. So what are they testing and to what end?

“The only way to achieve that goal is to adhere to the law's bright lines of annual testing and breakdown of data by student subgroups. Without that information, parents will not know how their children are doing, and educators won't know what to adjust to best help their students.”

     But this testing information does NOT get back to the parents or educators in time.  It gets back in time for the school administrators to see that perhaps some kids should be “pushed” out next year so they can demonstrate “progress”.  This results in the practice of neglecting kids at risk, potential dropouts and finding the kids that don’t belong in that school’s district and ejecting them just before the test is administered. Not to mention, just flat out cheating on the part of administrators.

“What gets measured, gets done.”

     Yes, but why does this apply to schools and not to the NCLB Act.  So children should be tested, but there should be no critical review of the effects of NCLB by educators who are the closest to the situation.

    The National Education Association is called a special interest group.  True enough, but no more suspect than any association for the police or firemen, etc. Oh yea, I forgot, unions are bad. 

     But what about Sandy Kress?   He was one of the contributors to NCLB but now a registered lobbyist with several test publishers and testing software companies?  See the article by Emily Pyle describing a rather unscrupulous relationship between a “special corporate interest” and NCLB. Talk about special interest!

http://www.mollyivins.com/showArticle.asp?ArticleID=1947

     “The NEA has finally settled on a handful of school districts. It is interesting to note that six of the nine districts in the suit successfully met their accountability targets under the law — goals that are set by the state, not the federal government — and the ninth district in the suit apparently received no rating whatsoever. In other words, students have already benefited and their education is improving, thanks to the law. “

Why then if things are so good for those districts why would they pursue this route if all things are so great!  Frankly, this spin on the issue does not ring true. Just think, if a law were benefiting you, would you sue to change it?  And as for those studies from the Government of Accountability office, she did not give the reference or link to the report. Why not? Because she thought we would go look at them or she thought we weren’t smart enough to want to see these reports?

References! References! Show me the data! Why wouldn't she give us real information? Change my mind, prove me wrong!   The Bush administration had no regard when the Government of Accountability Office told them to stop putting out government propaganda as news videos and secretly paying journalists $240,000 to promote NCLB.  No, his administration said,  ”Executive Branch agencies are not bound by GAO's legal advice”.

“As a nation, we spend more than $530 billion for K-12 education, which is more than the gross domestic product of Russia. Of that amount, less than 1% is devoted to student assessment.”

So what! What does than have to do with anything! Pick a number and compare it to something in another country. Most people know Russia is not doing too well, so why does this factoid/number matter?

For some real interesting numbers,  go to the National Priorities site and see how much the cost of the war in Iraq is and what the interest on the debt is!  But noooo, if a child fails a test TAKE THE FUNDING AWAY!

http://www.nationalpriorities.org/TaxDay2005/pdf/us.pdf

The cost of the war!

http://costofwar.com/

“In spite of a few state politicians who insist it can't be done, teachers and students in classrooms across America say it can. This is a case of show and tell: Student achievement is up under NCLB, and the nation's stubborn achievement gap is finally starting to close. Our children and teachers are meeting the high expectations we've set.”

What? Which teachers? Which students have said this? I haven’t seen any reports from educational organizations saying this.  Please give references! Just because you say so?  And wmd’s were in Iraq??? John Bolton is a great diplomat?  We are not recalling more than half of the roughly 10,000 vests given to troops deployed in Iraq because they aren’t safe, but because the media  “sow seeds of doubt??? Huh?

Educated persons cite evidence collected, research done, surveys administered. What surveys have been done to indicate that teachers feel that way?

“The contrary actions of a couple of states and one teachers lobby do not constitute a "grass-roots rebellion."”  Well, then what does?

"Here we go again"  More spin, lets call up successful words by Ronald Reagan because it worked for him and she thinks we are too stupid to notice that Bush isn’t Reagan!

“For example, New Mexico opted out of the Education of the Handicapped Act (now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) for six years. As a result, the state forfeited about $23 million in federal funds for its disabled children. And five states initially chose not to participate in 1994's education reform act, called Goals 2000.”

Oooo states bad, NCLB good. But again she did not say explain why these state opted out. Why would a state forfeit federal education funds?

“Never before have we, or any other nation, attempted to give every single child — regardless of his or her background, skin color or neighborhood — a quality education.”

Never before? What a glorious statement, what does that say about education under Mr. Bush’s father? Come on, we have been ATTEMPTING plenty to give a quality education but have never received enough funding to achieve it.   Attempting is a weasel word! Trying is not the same as doing and attempting is just another word for trying.

“One teachers lobby do not constitute a "grass-roots rebellion.”

 Oops, grammar alert, she appears to indicate that only one single teacher is against this, but I will give her a pass on that cause it happens.  What I won’t let pass is the one lobby part.  “NEA is the nation's largest professional employee organization and is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 2.7 million members work at every level of education, from pre-school to university graduate programs.” See the site that explains their position.

http://www.nea.org/esea/index.html

 The other teachers’ union, The American Federation of Teachers challenges NCLB on the “notion of proficiency”

http://www.aft.org/news/2004/proficiency.htm

The AFT has more than 1.3 million members.

Combined that is 4 million teachers!

See the response of the National Association of Secondary School Principals – NASSP- to Bush’s budget called

PRESIDENT'S BUDGET FULL OF CUT, BAIT, AND SWITCH

Fiscal Shell Game Continues

http://www.principals.org/s_nassp/sec.asp?CID=35&DID=49329

And on the page devoted to NCLB they state,  “While we have strong reservations regarding many of its one-size-fits-all approaches, we’ve repeatedly said that NCLB is well-intentioned legislation.”

This is hardly a ringing endorsement of NCLB!

Look at the site for the Association of School district Administrators on NCLB. Where you find help to implement the NCLB act, but there are certain issues detailed as well.

http://www.aasa.org/NCLB/

and the funding issue is discussed at.

http://www.aasa.org/NCLB/funding.htm

“The bottom line is that most respected, national education organizations are working with us to continue the unprecedented national progress that No Child Left Behind has begun.”

Given the details from the teachers and school administrator organization web sites, again I say WHAT most respected national education organizations?

And her qualification for Secretary of education, have two kids. She graduated from the University of Houston in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in POLITICAL SCIENCE and JOURNALISM.  See for yourself her credentials at the U. S. dept of Education.

http://www.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/spellings.html

      No where, in my search of her credentials do I see ANYTHING remotely showing an formal understanding of American schools, how tests are written, how children learn, what are really good teaching methods, etc.  Spellings been described as President George W. Bush's top domestic policy advisor and one of the principal authors of the No Child Left Behind Act. She was responsible for the development and implementation of White House policy on health, labor, transportation, justice, housing, and other elements of President Bush's domestic agenda. She advised Mr. Bush on educational policy in Texas as well.  Well that explains everything. We call that in Texas a jack of all trades and master of none.

    Well, I would have thought that a Secretary of Education would  have know something about how children learn, how schools work, how teachers are trained.  Expert knowledge, who needs that.  Looks like instead of voodoo economics, we now have to swallow voodoo educational policy. Oh well, back to the dark ages.  But the Bush administration should know while they may force certain decisions upon us while they control the congress, the presidency and the judicial system, it doesn't mean we don't see through the fog.  Being of an American of Hispanic origin does not make us stupid, we know when we are being fed the "spin".

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Elsa Salazar Cade ecade@telusplanet.net

 

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