All we need are higher standards and harder, better tests to miraculously solve all our student achievement problems…from those caused by learning disabilities to the economic and racial achievement gaps.
The US Department of Education came out with new Guidance.
In guidance released Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education said that all IEPs should conform to “the state’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled.”
Do the unqualified and inexperienced non-educators who run the USED (yes, I’m talking to you, Secretary Duncan and your Gates Foundation cronies) understand what IEP means? Of course the goal should (and always has been) for students to learn as much as they are able, but the /I/ in IEP stands for individual. Standards which are intended as a one-size-fits-all guide to learning ought to be adjusted for individual goals.
There are caveats, however, for the “very small number” of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, write Michael K. Yudin and Melody Musgrove from the Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in their seven-page “Dear Colleague” letter. States are allowed to establish “alternate academic achievement standards” for these students.
We learned last year that the attorney-not-educator Yudin, seems to believe that higher expectations will yield the miracle which will equalize all students’ learning capabilities. Nothing has changed, according to the USED.
The guidance does not impose new rules on states or school districts, but offers information to assist those entities in meeting their obligations under existing law, the Education Department said.
But teachers still don’t have high enough expectations.
To help make certain that children with disabilities are held to high expectations and have meaningful access to a State’s academic content standards, we write to clarify that an individualized education program (IEP) for an eligible child with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled.
Apparently Yudin and Musgrove, writing for USED, don’t believe that teachers have high enough expectations for students in special education. We need to raise the bar higher, call for tougher, one-size-fits-all standards, add more high-stakes tests, and “accountability.”
Because that has worked so well for general education since the 2001 adoption of No Child Left Behind.
Politicians give lip-service to “there’s more to school than testing,” but no one seems to be willing to remove the high-stakes from testing. Accountability, it seems, is still only measured by test scores…and if “the test” can’t measure everything, then we need a new test, not a new acknowledgement that high-stakes testing is destroying our schools, teachers, and students.
Other, higher achieving countries, seem to survive with fewer tests, but the excuse that “those countries are different” comes from the no-excuses crowd and drowns out what is often the big difference in our societies – the percentage of children who live in poverty.
In a 1989 interview, Dr. Carl Sagan discussed our child poverty level.
…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century [20th] more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line. What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.
Dr. Sagan’s prediction about child poverty has come closer to being fulfilled. As of 2013, more than half of all public school children in the United States live in poverty. Nearly half of America’s children live in low-income families, and half of them, live below the federal poverty level.
The correlation between achievement and poverty is well known. More testing doesn’t help. More high-stakes tests and higher cut scores don’t help. Tougher standards don’t help. What children need instead of more accountability is for us to provide the schools our children deserve. The Chicago Teachers Union provided research and information on how to do this in their publication, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.
- Recognize That Class Size Matters
- Educate The Whole Child. We need to stop eliminating non-tested subjects from the curriculum. Children need the arts and Physical Education, Vocational Education, Social Studies, hands on Science, and recess in addition to Reading and Math.
- Create More Robust Wrap-around Services. Counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists are part of a completely staffed school building.
- Address Inequities In Our System. Only three nations spend more money for their wealthy children’s education than for their poor children’s education. The U.S. is one of those nations.
- Help Students Get Off To A Good Start. Early childhood education needs to be funded and supported.
- Respect And Develop The Professionals.
- Teach All Students. Public schools accept all children. Funding needs to be available to support the staff and materials needed to meet the needs of all students.
- Provide Quality School Facilities
- Partner With Parents
- Fully Fund Education
All that’s missing is the determination to do what needs to be done…the money backing up our up-till-now false claim that the education of our children is important to this nation.
Why do we just throw out soundbites about how we’re so far behind other nations? Why don’t we spend time analyzing what successful nation’s do?
Instead, we double down on high-stakes tests and blame students for not working hard, teachers for being lazy union do-nothings, and schools for “failing.”
When we talk about the relationship between poverty and achievement we’re told not to make excuses – although lately more and more “failing” charter schools have caught on that you can’t eliminate the high national poverty level from within the classroom.
When students struggle we respond with harder standards. When students do well on tests we raise the cuts scores to increase failure.
Are we trying to make our schools fail? I think the answer is, “yes.” Failing public schools means more privatization which means more charter and tax supported private schools. It means weaker unions which means lower wages, which means more profit.
… most Americans are generally satisfied with their local schools and dismally uncertain about all the others.
…it seems to me if we really wanted the public to look closer and try to understand why PISA, NAEP, and other kinds of assessments are important, we would need to do more than just shame public schools. We’d need to have a thoughtful and nuanced conversation about why some education systems have been able to improve student performance and others haven’t. We’d have to look at culture, resources, leadership, teacher training, and national sentiment. We’d have to analyze gaps of all kinds, not just achievement. And we’d have to use the information to help teachers and education leaders understand why others are making progress without humiliating them in the comparison.
… comparing tests scores among students and nations offers little value if shame is the only thing that comes of it. If we don’t extract some information about how to improve our own unique education system and acknowledge that real and significant differences exist among all systems, then why make the comparisons in the first place?
…In recent years, education policy has shifted toward high-stakes accountability based almost entirely on test scores. Yet the path toward a larger, more strategic investment in education that includes strategies and incentives to promote the social and emotional success of students is virtually untrodden.
It’s the money. We’re moving towards a profit centered education system where low overhead and profits are the goals instead of higher achieving students.
What kind of future are we building for our nation?
As Sagan said, “this is stupid.”
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
Click here to sign the petition.
For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.