Thursday, August 25, 2005


They say that they do plenty of testing already and then say NCLB testing is a bad idea and would take up too many resources

Calling the federal No Child Left Behind law a cruel hoax, Connecticut officials sued U.S. Education secretary Margaret Spellings on Monday in Hartford federal court, making the state the first to legally challenge the mandates of President Bush's signature education policy. The lawsuit follows repeated attempts by the state this year to ease the requirements of the federal law that at its core requires schools to meet academic goals measured in annual test scores meant to ensure that all groups of children are achieving. Connecticut's efforts earlier led Spellings to criticize the state's campaign as "unAmerican."

In announcing the lawsuit Monday, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and other state officials repeatedly lauded the goals of No Child Left Behind, which attempts to close the achievement gap between white students and their minority counterparts, but said the federal government had failed to live up to its promise to not shift the law's costs to them. "We in Connecticut do a lot of testing already, far more than most other states," said Gov. M. Jodi Rell. "Our taxpayers are sagging under the crushing costs of local education. What we don't need is a new laundry list of things to do -- with no new money to do them."

Blumenthal summed up the lawsuit, assigned to federal judge Mark Kravitz, with a pithy comment modeled after a popular 1990s movie. "Give up the unfunded mandates or give us the money," Blumenthal said.

Federal education officials strongly criticized Connecticut for going ahead with the lawsuit and said it detracted from the real issue at hand: the gap between how its white students and their minority counterparts perform on standardized tests. "Unfortunately, today's action doesn't bring the state any closer to closing its achievement gap, which is among the largest in the nation," said Susan Aspey, a federal Education Department spokeswoman. "From the day she walked in the door, Secretary Spellings has worked diligently to listen and respond to states' needs and concerns, and she has kept her word to help states implement No Child Left Behind in a workable, common-sense way."

According to a state Department of Education estimate, it will cost Connecticut $41.6 million through 2008 to comply with the federal law, which would require Connecticut to start testing students in grades three, five and seven in addition to the schoolchildren it already tests in grades four, six and eight. Despite Monday's lawsuit, state officials conceded that $3.8 million was already in this year's state budget to proceed with the federal testing schedule.

Blumenthal first threatened to file suit five months but waited to give other states a chance to join. That hasn't happened, but still could, Blumenthal said Monday. States have been reluctant because of "fear of retaliation from the federal government," he said last week. Some in Connecticut have been reluctant, too. Even the state school board declined to support the lawsuit earlier this year, saying it wanted to allow more time to reach a compromise. Now, though, its chairman publicly supports it and other members are reconsidering. "A lawsuit certainly would not have been my preference," said state board member Lynne Farrell of Shelton, who added she will support Blumenthal, Rell and Sternberg in the lawsuit. "Who am I to say they shouldn't have filed a lawsuit? These are top-notch people and I support them."

Connecticut's 29-page lawsuit comes amid a growing restiveness among states and educational organizations that have begun to openly oppose the federal law. Proponents of No Child Left Behind argue that the law has helped to improve student performance, decreased the achievement gap between whites and minorities and that frequent testing aids teachers in identifying problems early. "If states were closing achievement gaps on their own, the federal government would not have needed to intervene," said William Taylor, chairman of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, who called Monday's suit ill advised. In eighth grade math, only 17 percent of Connecticut's white students scored in the lowest category of achievement compared to more than half of black and Latino students, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Despite the brewing controversy, many states are taking aim at the federal law. According to a recent report, every state except Alabama, Delaware and New York is fighting the law in some way. Utah has taken perhaps the most bold stance, authorizing its schools to ignore provisions of the federal law that conflict with its education program, even though it could cost the state $76 million in federal aid. Nine school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont, meanwhile, joined a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the National Education Association, which is arguing against the law's unfunded mandates. But Connecticut's lawsuit represents the first time a state has gone to court to challenge the law. "If there's a bully on the playground, it often takes one brave soul to step forward," said Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, and a co-chairman of the legislature's Education committee. "We're stepping forward." ....

The suit, in many respects, boils down to the issue of who must fund the implementation of the education law, the state or federal government, and whether the law's sweeping mandates work the same in every state. Critics call it a cookie-cutter approach. If there were research that showed testing every year was helpful, "I'd be the first in line to advocate for the tests," said Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg. "But the tests have questionable merits."

Federal officials did tell the state it could save money by converting the state's existing mastery tests to a multiple-choice format. Current Connecticut tests require a written portion for students. No Child Left Behind requires testing in math, reading and a third subject selected by states. Writing is more expensive to score because it can't be done by computers. State educational officials balked. "We're not going to dumb down our tests," added Allan Taylor, who as chairman of the Connecticut State Board of Education stood with Blumenthal and other officials Monday when the lawsuit was announced.

Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, a longtime opponent of the federal education law, said the fallout requiring student testing in every grade from third to eighth merely heightens the stress for students. "It sucks the creativity out of the classroom," Gaffey said. Farrell, a retired elementary principal in West Hartford, agreed. "I was never an advocate for a lot of testing. I found that I could test best by going around the room quickly and asking questions and looking at the expressions on the students' faces. You could find out how much they knew through active discussion," she said. "Testing turns off kids and I worry about that."

Besides, she said, it wastes time. "You have to prepare for it, then finally do the testing and accumulate all the tests and then test all the students that were absent. It takes up an awful lot of time that could have been devoted to teaching students," she said. Mary Bucaccio of Torrington, agrees. She is a fourth-grade teacher in Farmington and the parent of two students at Torrington High School. Tests help measure progress, but once every two years is enough, she said.

Education leaders such as Waterbury Superintendent David Snead agree. "These tests require huge amounts of resources to tell us what we already know: that the kids trying to overcome poverty aren't doing as well as kids who are wealthier," he said.

No Child Left Behind requires schools to test every year starting this spring. Blumenthal's suit "is a step in the right direction," Bucaccio said. The state should not concern itself over federal intimidation because of the federal lawsuit, Blumenthal said. "The first glimmer of intimidation, we will be in court seeking immediate injunction against the secretary of education," the attorney general said. She has directed her senior staff to be on the lookout for such behavior, Sternberg added.

Source. See also here


Treasurer Peter Costello has urged the states to embrace selective schools for academically gifted students, warning that talented children are being left behind.

Blaming the decline of selective schools as a factor in the exodus of children from the public sector, the federal Treasurer said parents wanted more choice over state-run schools. "I believe there is a place for selective schools, most definitely," he told The Australian yesterday. "Particularly, in my own state, Victoria, where we only have a couple of selective schools, I think that is a real problem. "Many parents as a consequence are taking them to private schools, because they don't have the option of a government selective school. The talents of some of these kids could be stretched much greater than they are in comprehensive schools."

A spokesman for Victorian Education Minister Lyn Kosky said the Government had "no plans" to introduce more selective schools. "Our position is every student in every school should have every possible opportunity to succeed to their full potential," he said.

The balance of selective to non-selective schools is not uniform nationally, and Mr Costello praised NSW for its approach. The state, which has the country's biggest school system, has been criticised by others for creating too many selective schools, bleeding ordinary public schools of the best students.

Mr Costello, a privately educated son of a schoolteacher, backed performance pay for teachers and a greater push to attract and retain talented teachers. "I know education is important for Australia's economic future and I believe that, while we spread education well in the Australian population, we are going to have to continue to focus on excellence in education. "We have got to value good school teachers: these are very important people for our children and our future."

He backed Education Minister Brendan Nelson's push to ensure plain language in school report cards. "I reckon Brendan is doing a good job, in tying commonwealth funding to standards, to our values education. As a parent myself, I've tried to read some of these reports and they are very difficult to understand. I think we want our students to have an understanding of their common values and Australia's values. It's what I call a common culture."

John Howard sparked a controversy last year by warning that "politically correct" public schools were prompting parents to switch to private schools.

Yesterday, Mr Costello stepped up his warnings over left-wing teachers contributing to anti-Americanism. Labor has accused Mr Costello of sparking the debate to improve his chances at the Liberal leadership.



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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