Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Post lifted from Betsy Newmark

The New York Times has a story about the efforts that schools across the nation have been making to reduce the gap between white and minority students since the passage of No Child Left Behind.

"People all over the country are suddenly scrambling around trying to find ways to close this gap," said Ronald Ferguson, a Harvard professor who for more than a decade has been researching school practices that could help improve minority achievement. He said he recently has received many requests for advice. "Superintendents are calling and saying, 'Can you help us?' "

No Child Left Behind requires schools to bring all students to grade level over the next decade. The law has aroused a backlash from teachers' unions and state lawmakers, who call some of its provisions unreasonable, like one that punishes schools where test scores of disabled students remain lower than other students'. But even critics acknowledge that the requirement that schools release scores categorized by students' race and ethnic group has obliged educators to work harder to narrow the achievement gap.

"I've been very critical of N.C.L.B. on other grounds," said Robert L. Linn, a co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing. But he called the law's insistence that test scores be made public by race and ethnic group "one of the things that's been good."

The new stress on raising minority achievement is a direct result on the NCLB requirments on accountability for raising all student groups' performance. Just as advertised.

This has been my own experience. North Carolina was ahead of the nation on accountability requirements. In the 90s NC passed requirements that tied teacher bonuses to student achievement on End of Grade tests in reading and math. There is a complicated formula that measures how students did in a previous year and then measures their improvement. Schools can achieve the bonuses for all their teachers if the students improve by a certain amount. Before these requirements were put in, we'd have faculty meetings that I distinctly remember where we would sit around and brainstorm all sorts of ideas for improving test scores and helping kids with their basic skills. We'd produce a long list, but, as far as I could tell, little of that was ever implemented. We'd talk about all teachers including reading and writing in their curriculum but it was left up to us to carry this out. So, teachers would come up with something that they were already doing and then claim that that was related to reading and writing skills. So, basically, we didn't change anything we actually did. We just changed how we labeled it. Well, if you don't change anything, you're not going to see much improvement.

But after the new law was passed tying bonuses to improvement, things really changed. Suddenly, we implemented some real changes. I was teaching in a magnet school where middle school students could take three electives a quarter. We had talked for years about requiring kids with low reading and writing skills to take targeted electives. Now, finally, this was put into place. The principal moved some money around to hire a couple of teachers whose sole job was to work with those students. We tried new computer-teaching programs that targeted specific weaknesses in reading. We began new math electives to reteach basic skills. An afterschool tutoring program and even some Saturday classes began. And, guess what, our school, which had a mix of academically gifted students and neighborhood kids who had low skills, started to see some nice improvement in the basic reading and math skills of those lower-achieving students. What was so noticeable to me was the difference in the administration's actions from the period of time when the state was just setting goals for improvement with no teeth behind those requirements, and afterwards when a carrot-and-stick approach was implemented. We wanted those bonuses for showing substantial improvement. And the stick was the threat that schools that didn't show improvement would have to have state officials come in and oversee every aspect of our school if we didn't improve.

So, that is why I supported No Child Left Behind. I abhor the idea of the national government getting involved in local issues like education. However, now that NCLB has been implemented, schools across the nation are discovering the inspiration that the carrot-and-stick approach to accountability can have to force administrators to focus on raising the achievement levels of those students who previously were getting left behind.


As it should be

As many as one in four teenagers from single-parent families are deterred from thoughts of university by the prospect of getting into debt, a study has found. White working-class boys are worst affected. More than 2,700 schoolchildren aged 11 to 16 from London to Wales and the West Midlands were questioned over two days by Mori pollsters about their desire to go to university. The findings, which come ahead of the introduction of university top-up fees next year, highlight the challenge to the Government and universities in seeking to widen participation in higher education among the worst-off.

Tessa Stone, the director of the education charity the Sutton Trust, said that the findings were significant because while youngsters often aspired to getting a job they were not often aware of the concept of getting into debt. She said that she expected the figure of those not applying to university because of debt to be even higher for 18 year olds, “because for younger children debt is not that meaningful, so the fact that they are worried about it is significant”. She added: “But of course, this is the group (children of single-parent families) for whom debt and financial insecurity will be most real and who will see daily the impact of a constricted budget and lifestyle.”

Seven in ten pupils said that they were likely to go into higher education and, as in previous years, more girls than boys saw themselves studying for a degree. Young people living in cities were more likely to try for university than those in rural areas. Between the ages of 11 and 16, the percentage that said they were unlikely to go to university grew from 9 to 19 per cent. Of those, 48 per cent said that they wanted “to start earning money as soon as possible” and 35 per cent felt that they could get a well-paid job without a degree. For children from single-parent families, earning a crust was key to turning their backs on higher education.

The overall proportion of young people who said that they were unlikely to go into higher education because they were worried about getting into debt remained relatively low at 17 per cent. That figure dropped to 15 per cent in a two-parent household but rose to 25 per cent for those in a single-parent household. At the same time, while 48 per cent of young people declared that they wanted to “start earning money as soon as possible”, that figure climbed to 59 per cent among children from one-parent families.

The figures showed that although degrees were likely to earn a graduate more money in the longer term, that message had failed to get across to the less well-off, Dr Stone said. “This is the group of students that are making important choices at 16 that will affect their futures and have a catastrophically high dropout rate at that age,” she said.

The Sutton Trust survey also disclosed that 79 per cent of ethnic minorities compared with 69 per cent of white teenagers thought it “likely” that they would get a degree. One in four thought it “very likely”. Dr Stone said: “This is partly because they have a much more traditional culture that expects hard work, discipline and respect of teachers, and partly because they have a need to get on. They are still very aspiring in a way that white people in deprived areas are not.” ...

In January the Higher Education Funding Council for England disclosed that despite a rapid expansion of university places the class divide remained “deep and persistent”. Youngsters from the wealthiest 20 per cent of homes were six times more likely to go to university than those from the poorest 20 per cent.

Top-up fees, which are being brought in to help to fund universities, will increase the cost of study from about £3,000 to a maximum of £9,000 for a three-year course. Once a graduate’s salary rises above £15,000, repayments will be 9 per cent of the excess. A student on a three-year course starting next year, who takes out maximum student loans and owes fees of £9,000, will be £20,745 in debt at the end of the degree. However, any debt remaining after 25 years will be written off.

From The Times


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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