"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Research: Achievement slows after implementation of NCLB

by Jim Horn - Schools Matter

If these damning research findings just published in AERA's Educational Researcher do not torpedo the reauthorization of the NCLB war on public schools, then nothing will--short of torches in the streets:
New Research on Achievement
Test Scores Slow Under No Child Left Behind Reforms, Gauged by States and the Federal Assessment

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 30, 2007 – As Congress reviews federal efforts to boost student performance, new research published in Educational Researcher (ER) reports that progress in raising test scores was stronger before No Child Left Behind was approved in 2002, compared with the four years following enactment of the law.

The article “Gauging Growth: How to Judge No Child Left Behind?” is authored by Bruce Fuller, Joseph Wright, Kathryn Gesicki, and Erin Kang, and is one of four featured works published in the current issue of ER—a peer-reviewed scholarly journal of the American Educational Research Association.

Bruce Fuller, lead author and professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that the strong advances in narrowing racial and income-based achievement gaps seen in the 1990s have faded since passage of ‘No Child’. “The slowing of achievement gains, even declines in reading, since 2002 suggests that state-led accountability efforts—well underway by the mid-1990s—packed more of a punch in raising student performance, compared with the flattening-out of scores during the ‘No Child’ era,” he observed.

“We are not suggesting that ‘No Child’ has dampened the earlier progress made by the states,” Fuller said. “But we find no consistent evidence that federal reforms have rekindled the states’ earlier gains. Federal activism may have helped to sustain the buoyancy in children’s math scores at the fourth-grade level, seen throughout the prior decade.”

The researchers pushed beyond earlier studies by tracking progress in both state and federal test scores in 12 diverse states, going back to 1992 in many cases. This approach captured the generally positive effects of maturing state-led accountability programs in both reading and math, gauged by state officials and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Using this longer time span as the baseline, annual changes in student performance generally slowed after 2002, as gauged by state and federal testing agencies, and the earlier narrowing of achievement gaps ground to a halt (NAEP results), according to the study.

The university team focused on 12 states, including Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington. They selected these states because they are demographically diverse, geographically dispersed, and were able to provide comparable test score data over time. Following passage of the ‘No Child’ law, federal reading scores among elementary school students declined in the 12 states tracked by the researchers – after climbing steadily during the 1990s.

The share of fourth-graders proficient in reading, based on federal NAEP results, climbed by one-half a percentage point each year, on average, between the mid-1990s and 2002. But over the four years after the legislation was passed, the share of students deemed proficient declined by about one percent.

The annual rise in the percentage of fourth-graders proficient in mathematics improved slightly in the
same 12 states, moving up from 1.6 percent per year before ‘No Child’ was signed to a yearly growth rate of 2.5 percent following enactment of the law. This is the one out of six federal gauges where a post- NCLB gain was observed by the research team, tracking NAEP results.

The researchers simultaneously tracked achievement trends gauged by state and federal testing agencies
over the 14-year period. “The correlation between the two barometers was close to zero,” Fuller said. “We worry about the capacity of states to report unbiased test score results over time. But even state results generally confirm the more reliable NAEP pattern showing that progress in raising achievement has largely faded since 2002.”

The authors urged Congress to improve the capacity of states to reliably track the performance of their students over time. “The fundamental principles of transparency and simplicity might guide state and congressional leaders,” Fuller said. “The hurdles defining basic and proficient student performance between federal and state assessments should become more consistent.”

Fuller added that “state and NAEP officials could do more to inform the public on how student demographics are changing, and achievement trends should be interpreted in this context.”

The article is based on studies of accountability policies that Fuller directs with grant support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Noyce Foundation.
Editor’s Note: The full text of Fuller’s study, “Gauging Growth: How to Judge No Child Left Behind?” is posted on the AERA Web site: www.aera.net (pdf).

To interview Professor Fuller, call (510) 643-5362 or (415) 595-4320.

To reach AERA Communications, call (202) 238-3200; Helaine Patterson (hpatterson@aera.net) or Lucy Cunningham (lcunningham@aera.net).

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the national interdisciplinary research association for approximately 25,000 scholars who undertake research in education. Founded in 1916, AERA aims to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.
Read the Declaration of Independence From High Stakes Testing

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Spellings: A liar, or just below average?

The most important qualification that Margaret Spellings brings to her position as Secretary of Education, according to her bio on the Department of Ed web site, is the fact that she's a mom. She's had kids in school...and cares so much about the children of the USA. It says that she has been involved in all levels of education policy making. For what it's worth, she does have a college degree - in political science.

So, when she talks about No Child Left Behind is she purposely misleading the American people or is she just so uninformed as to be delusional? Either way, she has not changed her tune from the mistaken statement that NCLB is "working" to the belief that the goal of 100% grade level proficiency is actually possible.

Spellings, July 23:
. . . .We still have far to go to reach the goal of grade-level success for all students by 2014. But it's achievable, and it's what this nation ought to expect from our schools and students.

Despite successes we're seeing after five years under No Child Left Behind, some would have us believe the goal of grade-level success is unattainable ― that it's unreasonable to think all of our poor and minority students can achieve at grade level. I flatly reject this notion. . . .

So who are you going to believe, the mom in charge of the US DOE who has no experience as an educator, or the former President of the American Education Research Association, Bob Linn:

"There is a zero percent chance that we will ever reach a 100 percent target," said Robert L. Linn, co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. "But because the title of the law is so rhetorically brilliant, politicians are afraid to change this completely unrealistic standard. They don't want to be accused of leaving some children behind."
Or here:

"One hundred percent proficient becomes increasingly unrealistic as we get closer to 2014," said Robert Linn, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado at Boulder. "NCLB's accountability system undermines its strengths. We are likely to see all schools failing to meet AYP by 2014."

Or here:

"It's fail now or fail later," said Teri Moblo, Director of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. "Under the current system, schools are destined to be labeled as failing and there is no way around it. The question isn't will schools fail, it's when will they fail.

"Without increased flexibility in the AYP requirements and a focus on the underlying reasons why students do not perform well on such tests, we will continue to invest huge amounts of time and money in a system where failure is guaranteed."

Here's a little lesson in statistics for Ms. Spellings: "Reading Grade Level" is the average reading level of a group at a particular grade. Average, by definition, means that half the children are below that number and half are above. It is impossible, statistically for everyone in a group from which an average is taken, to be at or above the average. As students in a group being studied by researchers improve their reading ability the average achievement increases, however, 50% of them are still below the average!

Obviously Ms. Spellings is below average in math.

Read the Declaration of Independence From High Stakes Testing

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Dismantle NCLB!
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Neuroscience of Joyful Education

By Judy Willis, neurologist and teacher, writing for Educational Leadership:

Brain research tells us that when the fun stops, learning often stops too.

Most children can't wait to start kindergarten and approach the beginning of school with awe and anticipation. Kindergartners and 1st graders often talk passionately about what they learn and do in school. Unfortunately, the current emphasis on standardized testing and rote learning encroaches upon many students' joy. In their zeal to raise test scores, too many policymakers wrongly assume that students who are laughing, interacting in groups, or being creative with art, music, or dance are not doing real academic work. The result is that some teachers feel pressure to preside over more sedate classrooms with students on the same page in the same book, sitting in straight rows, facing straight ahead.

Supporting Good Teaching Practices with Neuroscience

The truth is that when we scrub joy and comfort from the classroom, we distance our students from effective information processing and long-term memory storage. Instead of taking pleasure from learning, students become bored, anxious, and anything but engaged. They ultimately learn to feel bad about school and lose the joy they once felt.

My own experience as a neurologist and classroom teacher has shown me the benefits of joy in the classroom. Neuroimaging studies and measurement of brain chemical transmitters reveal that students' comfort level can influence information transmission and storage in the brain (Thanos et al., 1999). When students are engaged and motivated and feel minimal stress, information flows freely through the affective filter in the amygdala and they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience “aha” moments. Such learning comes not from quiet classrooms and directed lectures, but from classrooms with an atmosphere of exuberant discovery (Kohn, 2004).

The Brain-Based Research

Neuroimaging and neurochemical research support an education model in which stress and anxiety are not pervasive (Chugani, 1998; Pawlak, Magarinos, Melchor, McEwan, & Strickland, 2003). This research suggests that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are enjoyable and relevant to students' lives, interests, and experiences.

Many education theorists (Dulay & Burt, 1977; Krashen, 1982) have proposed that students retain what they learn when the learning is associated with strong positive emotion. Cognitive psychology studies provide clinical evidence that stress, boredom, confusion, low motivation, and anxiety can individually, and more profoundly in combination, interfere with learning (Christianson, 1992)...

Read the entire article...

Read the Declaration of Independence From High Stakes Testing

No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the side.
More than 30,000 signatures so far...