Gaming NCLB

by Robert Pondiscio
April 27th, 2008

Eighty California schools got “out of trouble” with No Child Left Behind in the past two years by changing the way they classify their students, according to an analysis by the Sacramento Bee. The changes enabled the school to alter their status from failing to passing under the law.

The paper cites the example of Sacramento’s Will C. Wood Middle School. Last August, most of the school’s students had met benchmarks set by No Child Left Behind. But African American students’ math scores fell far short. “One hundred students were categorized as black when they took the test last spring. But if the school had fewer than 100 students in that group, their low scores wouldn’t count,” the Bee reports. “So Principal Jim Wong reviewed the files of all the students classified as African American on the test, he said, and found that four of them had indicated no race or mixed race on their enrollment paperwork. Wong sent his staff to talk to the four families to ask permission to put the kids in a different racial group.”

“You get a kid that’s half black, half white. What are you going to put him down as?” Wong told the paper. “If one kid makes the difference and I can go white, that gets me out of trouble.”

A pretty extraordinary admission for a principal to make on the record. And quite a job of reporting on the games schools play by the Sacramento Bee, which notes California doesn’t verify whether the changes schools make accurately reflect the students they serve.

Required Reading

by Robert Pondiscio
April 27th, 2008

From Core Knowledge

An Epoch-Making Report, But What About the Early Grades?

By E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

In the 25 years since A Nation at Risk was issued, writes Core Knowledge founder E.D. Hirsch, Jr., energetic reform efforts have been put forth, to small overall effect. This persistent lack of significant improvement is owing to the unwavering persistence of the very ideas that caused the decline in the first place—the repudiation of a definite academic curriculum in the early grades by the child-centered movement of the early 20th century.

Best of the Blogs

What Should Happen in Our Houses of Learning? — Diane Ravitch in Bridging Differences
“The goal is not the problem. The implementation is. ”

Gering Public Schools: The School District to Watch — D-ed Reckoning
Direct Instruction turns around a Nebraska district

A Closer Look at School Violence in Chicago — Eduwonkette
What do trends in weapon-carrying and fighting among teenagers in Chicago look like?

Nzeyimana can’t use ‘prowl’ in a sentence — Joanne Jacobs
How do you pass No Child Left Behind, when you don’t speak English?

Teaching, Content and Curriculum

Still at Risk
By Frederick M. Hess, American Enterprise Institute,
When it comes to familiarity with major historical events and significant literary accomplishments, America’s seventeen-year-olds fare rather poorly. When it comes to familiarity with the base of knowledge that enables us to engage in conversations about values and policy, our seventeen-year-olds are barely literate.

Report Calls for Moving Away From K-12 Tests and Sanctions
By David J. Hoff, Education Week
Congress and the next president need to offer a new vision for the federal role in K-12 education, creating a sustained effort to increase the quality of teachers, tailoring accountability systems to measure higher-order thinking, and ensuring that all spending is equalized across school districts, a report from a group of educators and researchers says.

Education Policy

‘Nation at Risk’: The best thing or the worst thing for education?
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
Twenty-five years ago this week, Americans awoke to a forceful little report that, depending on your point of view, either ruined public education or saved it. “A Nation at Risk” kick-started decades of tough talk about public schools and reforms that culminated in 2002′s No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration law that pushes schools to improve students’ basic skills or face ever-tougher sanctions.

Obama’s Real Bill Ayers Problem
By Sol Stern, City Journal
Barack Obama complains that he’s been unfairly attacked for a casual political and social relationship with his neighbor, former Weatherman Bill Ayers. But the more pressing issue is not the damage done by the Weather Underground 40 years ago, but the far greater harm inflicted on the nation’s schoolchildren by the political and educational movement in which Ayers plays a leading role today.

Education Secretary Offers Changes to ‘No Child’ Law
By Sam Dillon, The New York Times
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings used her executive powers on Tuesday to propose a series of ninth-inning regulatory fixes to President Bush’s signature education law, No Child Left Behind, including requiring states to use a single federal formula to calculate and report high school graduation rates. Ms. Spellings also wants to require schools to notify parents of their right to transfer students out of failing schools two weeks before the start of each school year, and to explain more fully to parents the opportunities for federally financed tutoring that are available to students attending troubled schools.

Parenting and Homeschooling

‘America’s Worst Mom?’
By Lenore Skenazy, The New York Sun
When I wrote a column in this paper last week, “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Take The Subway Alone,” I figured I’d get some emails — pro and con. Two days later I was on the “Today Show,” MSNBC, Fox News, and all manner of talk radio with a new title under my smiling face: “America’s Worst Mom?”

California Court to Reconsider Homeschooling
By Michael Coulter, School Reform News
California’s Second Appellate District Court of Appeals touched off a firestorm when it issued an opinion that parents have no right to homeschool their own children–a firestorm so great that on March 25, a full month after issuing its decision, the court agreed to rehear the case, with a decision expected in June.

Homeschool parents, kids oppose bill
By Michael Brindley, Nashua (NH) Telegraph
For the second time in two weeks, homeschool parents and their children turned out in droves to oppose a bill that would require parents to submit a curriculum plan to the state. The legislature passed a bill in 2006 that eliminated the requirement for parents to submit such a plan on an annual basis.

Homeschooling notification is not an undue burden
Editorial, The Press & Argus Livingston, MI
Parents have every right to homeschool their children, and Lansing needs to be very careful whenever it considers legislation that might inhibit that right. That said, we don’t feel that it’s an undue burden on homeschooling parents to be required to notify their home school district that they’re educating their children at home.