Not On the Test

NCLB makes me grind my teeth for lots of reasons.

This very cool song pretty well sums them up…

Now go visit Tom Chapin’s web site, Not On the Test.

For those of you who want the lyrics, Tom generously published them on his other web site, tomchapin.com.

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you’ll do just fine.
It’s reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don’t need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don’t get all stressed.
They’d never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they’re caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school ’cause they’re not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you’re in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
‘Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to, but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.

Thanks to Tom Brandt for hooking me up with the video!

Are the Feds Reading This?

Richard J. Coley, pictured above, is director of the Educational Testing Service’s policy information center. Mr. Coley is the co-author of an ETS report that finally quantifies the federal government’s need to look elsewhere besides public schools for the causes of huge numbers of failing students.

Granted, student preparedness for academic success is affected by school experience, but ETS has identified four factors that fall outside of the control of public schools, and squarely in the domain of the family, and if aid is to be given to improve student achievement across the board, the responsibility lies with the federal government, not the local public schools.

These findings are in line with your common sense, and the correlations put the onus on the feds to put their money where their mouth is, and quit slamming public education.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it here…NCLB, while calling for the achievement of all students, is a pale echo of Oregon’s 1991 initiative for bringing schools into the 21st century. We have been way ahead of the feds in our aims to leave no child behind, and we don’t need an extra level — a very expensive level, I might add — of bureaucracy to accomplish this goal.

Let the feds help families directly, and let them stay out of the way of the states, to whom the Constitution of the United States confers the power to regulate public education.

Read the entire New York Times article here.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Here’s the lead from an education story in today’s Washington Post.

Knowing State Tests’ ‘Cut’ Scores
By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 22, 2007; Page B01

Charonda Godette and her mother are staring at a sheaf of black-and-white test reports in their kitchen, frustrated by a blunt indictment repeated over and over: “Fail/Does Not Meet.” In her first three years at Potomac Senior High School in Prince William County, the 17-year-old has flunked a slew of Virginia Standards of Learning exams: Earth science. Algebra II. And geometry — three times.

What also confounds Charonda and Carole Godette is something the reports omit. They do not show the number of correct answers required to pass the exams. (Boldface mine — Hugh)

There are a number of questions whirling about in my mind after reading this article, including:

1. Should state assessments model what best practices teach us about good assessment? (For example, good assessment includes useful feedback to increase learning and achievement.)

2. Would state education departments be playing such silly games (trying to second-guess teachers with regard to how they will teach the subject matter vis-a-vis the state “assessment”) if NCLB was out of the picture?

Folks, if this is the wave of the future, we are in deep yogurt. I’m scratching my head, trying to understand the value of concealing passing scores. Part of me thinks that if the teacher does good job reaching students and teaching the subject, the state tests will take care of themselves. But if we violate the integrity of assessment and try to make kids hit moving targets, aren’t we creating yet another distraction to getting the job done?

Yet more reasons, I believe, to abandon federal interference in state education.

If the feds want to do something, let the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith do its work, but contribute funding to states whose economies lag, and thereby level the playing fields.

I don’t mind some of my federal tax money going to another state that needs the help, if the feds would strip away the overlaying bureaucracy that currently wastes financial and emotional resources in every state.

Note: I intended to post tonight about what our district is doing to promote racial tolerance. I’m currently waiting for a report from our assistant supe in charge of operations, and curriculum and instruction. I’ll post as soon as I get the word. There’s a lot going on, including board of ed sessions to increase board member awareness of diversity and racial tolerance needs and challenges.
Artwork: Relativity by M.C. Escher, 1953, lithograph, 27.7 × 29.2 cm

Communication: Always Trying to Get It Right

This morning the superintendent and board of directors hosted a continental breakfast for the folks we call Key Communicators. They are leaders in the community who can pass “the word” around about what’s happening in the school district.

The KC guest list included a mayor, a city librarian, both school union leaders, a police commander standing in for the chief, a senior park and rec manager, a minister representing the ministerial association, the head of our county-wide Stand for Children organization, the exec director of our schools foundation (a private fundraising not-for-profit that provides various grants for programs in the district), five out of seven board members, the supe, and the assistant supe for school improvement.

I’m not sure who else was invited, but this was a pretty fair cross-section of folks with access to many more people. They are the ones we rely on to get the information straight and pass it on without having the intelligence corrupted as you might find in a game of “telephone.”

Clear and accurate communication is a big goal for all organizations, and school districts are no different. Without our network, it’s doubtful we could have passed a bond last year that enables us to build four new elementary schools and a replacement middle school, as well as major additions to two of our four existing middle schools, and major and minor repairs to twenty-eight other elementary schools.

After a meet-and-greet, we sat around a set of tables and the supe coordinated a ten-question survey that was designed to see how the folks in the room (our public board meeting room) felt about issues that were dealt with in the 39th Annual Gallup/Phi Beta Kappa Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools in the USA and NCLB. Not surprisingly, our attitudes were very similar to the poll results, even allowing for the tiny sample our group afforded.

We briefly discussed our points of view and the conversation served to remind me that everyone has something to say about public school education, and we’d darn well better make sure they have good information from which to form opinions, because the public is going to form opinions based on whatever information they’ve got.

Go ahead. Find out what America thinks of public education and NCLB.