Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I have not lived a year of school in memory without standardized testing, nor have I experienced a strong individualized curriculum. A vast majority of students 20-years old and younger feel the same way, because we are the first generation to live completely under federal education governed by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which was signed into law in Jan. 2002.

NCLB set up a system wherein, contingent on receiving federal funds, schools had to use test based accountability with the goal of ensuring students and teachers meet basic proficiency standards, judged based on Adequate Yearly Progress reports. This introduced new rhetorical guidelines for public education with the use of vague, politicized terms such as “high quality teaching”, “standards of learning”, and “high stakes testing”. These vague terms are backed by threats of the loss of funds when schools are seen as underperforming; placing extreme responsibility on teachers and state government, while giving extreme authority to the federal government.

In order to be waived from compliance, states had to meet near impossible standards, such as, compiling data from students tests throughout the school and using scores to generate evaluations on teachers, a task which would cost states as much as 2 billion dollars annually.

A Nov. 2011 Los Angeles Times report detailing the prerequisites to be waived from NCLB explains, for most states waiving NCLB is necessary to prevent schools from failure due to an inability to comply; however, with even stricter laws in place for receiving a waiver, this becomes a grueling action as well. 42 states risked their financial security in order to receive waivers away from the bill, making it one of the largest bills to opt out of the modern era.

NCLB did not just force states into submission using federal funds as leverage, but placed unrealistic expectations that set a clear precedent for federal overreach into education. By placing so much pressure on testing to receive the funds, schools are told to aim for 100 percent pass rates, an impossible standard.

In an attempt to avoid a rejection of future funds due to failure status, schools focus too much on the “middle performers” or students with the most promising test scores, just shy of passing. A 2006 analysis from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development entitled “Does No Child Left Behind Require that No Child Can Get Ahead?” explains that no programs are put in place to ensure that gifted students are adequately advanced as well; by only allowing for focus on the middle range of students, low performing students are prevented from having an opportunity and high performers have their growth stifled.

The neglect of both schools’ brightest students and most attention seeking students directly correlates with school failure, as they are unable to meet the standards NCLB enforces. A Review of Higher Education and Self-Learning study from Sept. 2014 explained, in 2013, only 35 percent of eighth grade students met proficiency levels in math and reading, this is a consistent trend, as two-thirds of schools continue to fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards under the law.

The message has been consistently clear, when the federal government steps into the territory of local and state governments, it does so with the altruistic goal of assisting all, but reality demands only few benefit, while the rest continue to be shuffled along.

In Chapter 9 of the 2014 research book “Handbook of Education Politics and Policy,” Kenneth Wong explains how the federal government has generated a resource gap which debilitated states and neglected those in need. Wong writes, “The lack of full federal funding to be able to meet mandated standards can be a source of intergovernmental contention. The federal government, for example, promised to provide 40 percent of funds for special education, but in reality, its funding seldom went over 25 percent of the program cost. Local and state agencies were then unable to change any practices to meet federal focus.”

This dichotomy has continued into educational legislation of today, where Common Core State Standards has been seen an extension to NCLB, still reinforcing federal control. Even now with the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act, on the ground change will not be common, because the state government is still required to meet standards approved by the federal government in order to receive funding. State governments are not empowered but rather provided a false sense of liberation, wherein states are invited to promulgate their own standards only to have them revised by the federal government.

In reality, the act still provides all funding power to the federal government and fails to address the role of local governments creating their own curricula. It just continues the No Child Left Behind regime.

Upon attending a school board meeting in my own district, a teacher representative spoke on behalf of local teachers. The constant theme of each critique made by teachers was a lack of resources and a lack of action by the board itself, I thought surely this would inspire the board to act to reprioritize resources, but the result was quite different. When action steps were announced at the end of the meeting they related to policies such as individual student disciplines and extending lunch periods by seven minutes, another spectator explained to me that each week the teacher representative speaks in the same manner and each week gets ignored, not because the school board isn’t interested in assisting but there’s simply no action that can be taken on this level.

The federal, top-down system paralyzes school boards and deprives teachers of an adequate support system, and this is clear in school district after school district, who are bound to follow the federal rules just to have the funds to function.

No Child Left Behind was formulated with the goal of making the United States more competitive internationally by raising our educational standing.  But 14 years later the results have not matched the rhetoric. The National Center for Education Statistics Program for International Student Assessment shows that consistently in 2003, 2009, and 2012 the U.S. ranked equal or lower than average scores in math, reading, science and computer based assessments; while nations like China and Singapore ranked as many as 50 points above the average.

No Child Left behind failed the country internationally, continues to fail states due to a precedent of federal overreach, and for students who have known nothing but the standardized system, it has certainly failed us as well. It’s time to put local school boards basck in charge of their schools.


British Universities with too few ethnic or poor students to be named and shamed

Universities will be forced to publish diversity data under plans to shame the ones which recruit low numbers of poorer and ethnic minority students.

In a huge shake-up of higher education, the Government wants to ‘shine a spotlight’ on institutions that need to go ‘further and faster’ in reaching out to disadvantaged youngsters.

But the initiative is likely to prove controversial with some vice chancellors, who have said it is wrong to recruit on the basis of social profile rather than academic capability.

In a White Paper published today – and expected to be a centrepiece of the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday – universities are told they should publish information about application, offer and progression rates, broken down by ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background.

The proposals also include a plan to help new institutions enter the market and a system to assess teaching standards, with well-performing institutions able to raise fees in line with inflation.

The plans, part of the Government’s higher education Bill, come after David Cameron accused universities of institutional racism, noting that his former university Oxford had accepted just 27 black British students in a single year.

Before the Prime Minister’s intervention, Lord Patten, chancellor
of Oxford, said the university should not be ‘harried into ill-considered actions’ which may cast doubt on whether students had gained places on their own merits.

Announcing the plans, universities minister Jo Johnson said it was important to address the problem of students from the most advantaged backgrounds being six times more likely to go to the most selective universities.

He said: ‘We don’t want groups to feel that university isn’t for them when they’ve got the potential to have the sort of life-enhancing experience that higher education can offer.

So equality of opportunity is a really important goal of this Government. Social mobility is a way of expressing that.’

Mr Johnson said the Government aimed to double the proportion of disadvantaged students entering higher education and increase the number of black and minority ethnic students by 20 per cent by 2020.

He said universities could encourage more applicants from deprived areas by visiting schools and engaging with children. And for the first time, universities will be expected to demonstrate that they have helped disadvantaged students ‘participate’ after gaining entry. This includes efforts to stop them dropping out and help them gain meaningful employment.

Responding to the White Paper last night, an Oxford University spokesman said: ‘Oxford has published detailed information on our access and admissions performance for two decades, and would welcome similar transparency across higher education.

‘We continue to make strong and sustained progress on access. For entry in 2016, the proportion of offers going to UK state school candidates rose to more than 59 per cent.’ Cambridge University declined to comment.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘Universities should be left alone to concentrate on identifying and admitting the best and brightest whatever their backgrounds.

‘It makes no sense for the Government to pressurize universities to take in students from particular backgrounds.

‘The right way to tackle inequality is to ensure that all children get equivalent chances of developing their abilities whilst at school.’


How rough and tumble teaches kids to handle their anger

It helps burn off boisterous youngsters' excess energy – but rough and tumble play can also be good for children emotionally, researchers say.

Four-year-olds who enjoyed 'high quality' physical play with their fathers had fewer emotional difficulties and better behaviour, a study found.

The scientists believe that this is because it allows children to release their competitive instincts while learning to control their aggression.

It can also provide a 'real-world opportunity for a child to observe and practice important social skills such as recognising emotions, suppressing impulse and aggression, and sustaining reciprocal play,' they said.

Lead researcher Jennifer St George, a senior lecturer in family studies at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, added: 'We know both girls and boys enjoy physical play with dads, but we were interested to see it also pointed to good outcomes for children.

'Children whose fathers engage in rough and tumble play that was warm and playful are also children with better emotional and behavioural outcomes.'

Dr St George and her team watched 24 pairs of fathers and four-year-olds engage in games such as trying to get each other's socks off, and youngsters trying to stop fathers from standing up.

Limits on the games were set to prevent aggression or injury and to allow children to enjoy themselves – including sometimes being given the upper hand.

Dr St George said: 'This play involves competitiveness, restraint, role reversal where the child is the strong one, and lots of laughter. It's not aggressive, it's playful and often involves letting the kids win.'

Dr St George said some parents thought rough and tumble play would make it harder for children to be able to play quietly too, but this was not the case.

She added: 'When kids engage in this kind of play in the playground it can mean they are more ready for other, more quiet games at other times. 'It can provide a real-world opportunity for a child to observe and practise important social skills such as recognising emotions, suppressing impulse and aggression, and sustaining reciprocal play.'


Australia: Leftist Victorian govt to preach homosexuality in Schools

If you are concerned about children being given instruction on "penis tucking" & "chest binding" you are a "bigot".

Victoria won't take advice from bigots about changing the Safe Schools anti-bullying program so it no longer includes controversial information on gender and sexuality issues, the premier says.

The Victorian education department on Sunday launched a web page containing the original material used to teach students about sexual diversity that has been removed from the federal government's amended version.

Premier Daniel Andrews has defended the move while taking aim at the Commonwealth.

"I get my advice on policy from experts, not from bigots, not from people who really ought to be ashamed of themselves in terms of their views and their tampering with a program that actually works," he told reporters on Sunday.

The premier in March vowed to keep Safe Schools running in Victoria, saying it would have a place in the state's secondary schools "long after Cory Bernardi and the rest of his dinosaurs eventually disappear".

Mr Andrews says the prime minister has failed to show leadership on the issue.

"The journey that the prime minister has been on - you know, talk a good game, pretend that you're a progressive and then either do nothing, or do nothing good - that is not national leadership Mr Turnbull," he said.

The state government says it won't tell teachers what to do but is there to provide them with the resources they need to help students.


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