I'm starting to see the educrats loading up the anti-NCLB siege guns with new ammunition. Apparently, the old ammunition wasn't working.
There is definitely a new anti-NCLB meme forming in the edusphere. The hive has begun to swarm. (But who is the queen bee?) Here's one formulation courtesy of Transform Education:
I keep looking for NCLB's Achilles heel. I think it has two: (1) testing of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students and (2) testing Learning Disabled (LD) kids at grade level. When I give my talks on education and NCLB, the majority of people I speak to are outraged that non-native speakers of English and kids who do not read at grade level are required to take the same test as their native speaking and non-LD peers. Doing so makes zero sense. People get this.You can also see the meme playing out in the comments of this Education Wonks post on this press release by Secy of Education Spellings reminding educators that special education kids fall under NCLB too. I thought that was pretty obvious, after all they didn't call the law No Child Except Special Ones Left Behind.
In any event, the new meme is based on the underlying assumption that English language learners (kids whose primary language is not English) and learning disabled kids (kids of average intelligence who are underperforming) can't be taught to read at grade level in a timely manner.
Remember, under NCLB 99% of all students (1% can take an alternate assessment) tested (a few percent can be absent on the test day) must meet state standards. And bear in mind that most state's have already jiggered the tests and standards so that the only kids who aren't meeting state standards are the bottom 25% of the curve which consists mostly of special education and LEP students. But the well has finally run dry, state's can't manipulate the standards and tests any further to pass the lowest 25%. The only way to get these kids to pass is going to improve education -- something the educrats are either loathe or unable to do.
Of course, this new meme is all bunk. Reading instruction can be dramatically improved and, by doing so, would improve the ability of almost all kids across the board. Not surprisingly, these improved teaching methods work almost as well with kids who don't know English very well:
The evidence cited here is consistent with the conclusion reached by Fitzgerald (1995) that effective beginning reading programs for English language learners are likely to be similar to those for English proficient children, with appropriate adaptations to their language proficiency. The programs with the strongest evidence of effectiveness in this review are all programs that have also been found to be effective with students in general: Success for All (Slavin & Madden, 2000, 2001), Direct Instruction (Adams &amp;amp; Engelmann, 1996); Reading Recovery (Pinnell et al, 1994) [Ed: giggle], and phonetic tutoring (e.g., Wasik & Slavin, 1993). In fact, several of the studies evaluating Success for All (e.g., Nunnery et al. 1997; Livingston & Flaherty, 1997; Ross et al., 1998) as well as DI (Gunn et al., 2000), also included non-ELL students, and in each case those students also gained from the interventions, to about the same degree. The beginning reading programs with the strongest evidence of effectiveness in this review made use of systematic phonics, such as Success for All, Direct Instruction, and Jolly Phonics, but systematic phonics has been identified as a component of effective beginning reading programs for English proficient students as well (see National Reading Panel, 2000; Gersten & Geva, 2003).
I think what we're seeing here is the end-game for the anti-NCLBers. It's an eight year set-up. When 2014 rolls around and the bottom of the curve fails to become proficient through the nonfeasance and malfeasance of our educators, they're going to point to this meme, say "I told you so," and hope no one pokes beneath the patina of this nonsensical argument
This is one of the great deficiencies of NCLB, a product of political comprise; it's too toothless to force the educrats to change what they're doing once they decided they weren't going to play along with the new rules. The law was based on the premise that schools would change for the better and only a small percentage would fail. The law never contemplated that almost none of them would change and we would see mass failures in 2014.
There is solidarity in failure.
It is difficult to get a monopolist to change, especially when that monopolist if feeding at the public teat. Perhaps it is time to finally break the monopoly.