December 20, 2006

Giggles induced

Against my better judgment, I went over and read the Education Roundtable's online petition to jettison NCLB. Although the petition doesn't tell us what they want to replace NCLB with (other than the vague "dialogues" between educators), this jerky makes it clear that they want to return to the status quo ante.

We are not calling for an end to ESEA and to suggest otherwise is to engage in a lie. We want all of NCLB's provisions undone and a return to ESEA pre NCLB.

Since NCLB only added accountability measures, the Education Roundtable wants to go back to those halcyon days when the feds' role was to "slop the hogs" with money and educators would feed hungrily at the trough without anyone looking over their shoulder. That kids and taxpayers were the only special interests that weren't benefiting from such a system does not seem to bother the Education Roundtable.

Let's hit some of the more unintentionally hilarious points made in the petition. According to the Roundtable, NCLB needs to go because:

8. Reflects and perpetuates massive distrust of the skill and professionalism of educators.

I'm speechless. Let's say I go take my driver's test and fail the exam. Would other drivers have reason to distrust my driving skills?

12. Applies standards to discrete subjects rather than to larger goals such as insightful children, vibrant communities, and a healthy democracy.

Now those are standards that I'd like to see--state standards for
evaluating when children are insightful, when communities are vibrant, and democracies are healthy. Hopefully, schools will teach to the test and devote the morning to teaching insightfulness and the afternoons to teaching vibrancy. Hopefully, they'll do a better job teaching these subjects than they did teaching math and reading.

10. Emphasizes minimum content standards rather than maximum development of human potential.

11. Neglects the teaching of higher order thinking skills which cannot be evaluated by machines.

Have you ever seen a person with higher order thinking skills who couldn't answer basic skills-type questions? No? Me neither. If anything, NCLB has shown that schools aren't doing a very good job imparting basic skills, let alone those elusive higher order thinking skills. Let's stick to baby steps.


5. Ignores the proven inadequacies, inefficiencies, and problems associated with centralized, "top-down" control.

Isn't that the existing problem? Public schools have always been run in a centralized, "top-down" manner.

1. Misdiagnoses the causes of poor educational development, blaming teachers and students for problems over which they have no control.

It may not be true that those that can't do, teach. But what is becoming increasingly obvious is that those that can't teach want to shift blame.

Funny Update One: The Rountablers are attacking in the comments and showing us that non sequiturs, logical fallacies, and blind adherence to ideology don't make for compelling arguments. You're being ridiculed in the edusphere and your saner liberal allies have hung you out to dry. Time to reevaluate your position. First rule of holes: when you're in one, stop digging. They do seem itching for a fight. Maybe Edspresso will host one of their week-long debates. You listening, Ryan?

Update Two:
Once again I've profitted from heeding the advice of America's greatest president, Calvin Coolidge, who once said “If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” In this case my inestimable band of frequent commenters have fought back the swarm of tinfoil-hat-wearing roundtablers much better than I could have.

31 comments:

allen said...

It does highlight the question of why the NEA's reaction to NCLB has been relatively muted. I can only surmise the reason but it might be something along the lines of alienating powerful political allies who, for tactical reasons, voted for NCLB.

Nobody's going to accuse Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of supporting a "law that would transfer hundreds of billions of dollars a year from the public sector to the private sector, reduce the size of government, and wound or kill a large Democratic power base" yet that's what the NEA would have to do, at least by implication, if they came out strongly against NCLB. Supporters of the law have only to invoke the names of some very liberal legislators who voted for NCLB to dilute the message of NCLB opponents.

Instructivist said...

So the table is against applying "standards to discrete subjects" and prefers insight, vibrancy and democracy. (Why both can't be had beats me).

At the same time, the table complains that other discrete subjects are driven out:

14. Drives art, foreign language, physical education, music, geography, history, civics and other non-tested subjects out of the curriculum, especially in low-income neighborhoods. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Why bother with any subject if vibrancy is the goal?

The table also complains about
"minimum content standards." Maybe the thing to do is to have maximum content standards for all subjects. But then it might interfere with vibrancy.

philipkovacs said...

YAWN.

Your cutsie deconstruction of a document hammered out by practicing educators is almost entertaining.

Are you still practicing law or do you do stand up comedy full-time?

I have no time to leave a long comment showing how wrong you are,
so what do you say to a one-on-one debate?

I am sure we can find a radio station to facilitate it, and with your razor wit and refined intelligence, i'm sure you'd destroy me.

Philip Kovacs
Director, Educator Roundtable.

David said...

Standards-based accountability tranlates into teaching to the test. If school was boring and irrelevant to the lives of kids before, NCLB and other similar state-level programs that pre-existed it (e.g., The New ABCs of Education in NC) make things worse. Our best and most creative teachers can't stand the current conditions. Hence, we're suffering a growing teacher shortage. It's going to get worse.

Opposing NCLB is also NOT Bush-bashing. There were plenty of Dems who pushed this brand of "ed reform" before Bush.

But what's most important about NCLB is that it's not intended to improve schools. It's designed to

1.) control the labor of teachers so that schools don't teach dangerous ideas (i.e., anything that doesn't encourage passive obedience to corporate power and the security state that enforces corporate power all domestically as well as internationally), and 2.) set schools up to fail in order to justify handing the management of schools over to private corporations who will do a better job of ensuring #1.

If you think FoxNews is propaganda for the business class, wait until you get a load of FoxSchools.

David Gabbard
Educator Roundtable

Tony said...

I'm fascinated and dismayed by your comparison of a driver to a teacher. To extend the metaphor, all students are cars which simply need to be driven. One merely need wait in line and pass a vision test in order to continue driving. What fun it will be to run children like cars! In fact, rather than returning to the halcyon days of ESEA (a reading you provided, yet nowhere in the Ed Roundtable site can I find mention of halcyon days of any sort in the history of education), let's turn back the clock to Fordism at its finest. Oh wait, no need. In education we never left the factory model of schooling.

There are a number of other misreadings you provide your audience, and I highly encourage you to accept the invitation given by the Ed Roundtable Director, Philip Kovacs.

Misrepresentation is what served to establish NCLB in the first place, please don't work to further perpetuate such irresponsibility.

rightwingprof said...

Well, if there were any doubt that the education roundtable folks were left-wing wackjobs, they've dashed them.

"control the labor of teachers so that schools don't teach dangerous ideas (i.e., anything that doesn't encourage passive obedience to corporate power and the security state that enforces corporate power all domestically as well as internationally"

Pardon me while I snort -- derisively, yet nurturingly.

philipkovacs said...

rightwing prof...after reading your profile, i'm not sure you are in any position to level the term "nutjob" against anyone save yourself.

Instructivist said...

"12. Applies standards to discrete subjects rather than to larger goals such as insightful children, vibrant communities, and a healthy democracy."

Since the tablers venture in here, maybe they can explain if there is a connection (correlative or causal or even casual) between subject matter mastery and vibrancy. If there is, what's wrong with expecting subject matter mastery? Wouldn't such mastery promote vibrancy?

I have been scratching my head all day and would appreciate a clarification.

David said...

So the keeper of this sight and others who hang out here think that teaching to the test (drill and kill) is a healthy pedagogical approach for sustaining a democratic civic culture? Talk about making people giggle!

And before you go calling people nutjobs, why don't you study the matter? Read the history of propaganda and corporate pressure to downsize democracy, not just in schools, but in media and other spheres.

Matt Johnston said...

Mr. Kovacs,

If Mr. DeRosa declines your invitation, I would be happy to debate you.

My link to Petition to Jettison NCLB-What A Joke will give you a link to my email. We can certainly talk privately there.

I think your proposition to be naive at best and demonstrates the very sort of "leadership" that has lead our schools astray in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that the education roundtable really exists. And I don't believe that the so-called comments by the "roundtablers" are real either. They're just too ridiculous to be believable. Even educators can't be that stupid. You're just making this stuff up to draw attention to your blog.

KDeRosa said...

Any pedagogical approach that results in students being unable to read and do basic math as demonstarted by their inability to pass the simplistic tests that states have developed in response to NCLB is detrimental to "sustaining a democratic civic culture." That would be a minimum level of competency we should expect. We should expect more and NCLB does not prevent us from expecting or obtaining more.

How do you "downsize" democracy?

Annie said...

This is truly a disgusting essay.

If I didn't see so much pain, so much harm come out of NCLB compliance, perhaps I could tolerate your irresponsible comments.

I can't help but believe that your arrogance is somehow related to your distance from the ugly realities in our schools.

My children, our students are being tortured systematically in their own neighborhood schools.

Their teachers are gagged and bound to policy that flies in the face of everything they have learned, have experienced, and know about teaching.

If this situation is one to mock, I can only tell you how truly sorry I am that there are people like you who can laugh when others are suffering.

The intentions of the Educator Roundtable are nothing to be mocked. And the negative comments you extend to a strong contingency of educators, parents, and other people who care so deeply about public education leaves me wondering exactly what your stake is here.

If you think you are clever, and you need to bash someone, write about something less important than our children and our teachers.

Ryan said...

In response to Ken's update: you bet I'm listening. If any of the folks with the Education Roundtable would be interested in doing a week-long debate, please drop me a line--I would be happy to set it up.

allen said...

Dave Gabbard wrote:

2.) set schools up to fail in order to justify handing the management of schools over to private corporations who will do a better job of ensuring #1.

You think Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are part of a cabal to hand the management of schools over to private corporations? Since the two honorables, along with quite a few other legislators not noted for their slavish devotion to the almighty corporation, voted for NCLB it seems unlikely that licking the boots of the capitalist exploiters is what they had in mind. Maybe you could explain why Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Joseph Biden, Richard Durbin, Carl Levin, Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton found something of sufficient value in NCLB to vote for the bill? Take your time.

I'd pose the question to Mr. Kovacs but he doesn't seem inclined to do much explaining.

To get back to your post:

Standards-based accountability tranlates into teaching to the test.

Yes but if teaching to the test ensures that kids will graduate high school with the ability to read their diploma the downside is not obvious.

If school was boring and irrelevant to the lives of kids before, NCLB and other similar state-level programs that pre-existed it (e.g., The New ABCs of Education in NC) make things worse.

Your concern is noted but if kids are literate and otherwise educated why should I concern myself with whether they're bored or not? The purpose of the public education is set by the public, for the public. I don't believe entertainment is necessary to the passing of the tests that ensure that public monies are being used effectively but neither is it forbidden.

If you're capable of educating the kids to the measure set by the public, the people who created the public education system, and inculcate a life-long love of learning that's fine. But if it's a choice between bored but educated and somewhat less bored and ignorant as a root vegetable, I opt for the former.

Our best and most creative teachers can't stand the current conditions.

Oh, you've asked them? It would be useful to know how you arrived at this conclusion.

Hence, we're suffering a growing teacher shortage.

No, we're not.

So the keeper of this sight and others who hang out here think that teaching to the test (drill and kill) is a healthy pedagogical approach for sustaining a democratic civic culture?

Normally this is the sort of nit I wouldn't pick but you do represent yourself as a teacher so, it's "site" not "sight". "Sight" is what your eyes are for and "site" is what you might see. With your eyes.

To answer your question, if drill and kill results in kids who can read and write then they've taken the first, necessary steps to help sustain a democratic civic(?) culture. If they're incapable of demonstrating those skills then their joy of learning and their higher-order thinking skill are irrelevant.

Tony wrote:

I'm fascinated and dismayed by your comparison of a driver to a teacher.

Then why not leave it alone and explain the shortcomings of the metaphor as stated and not as you've extend it?

In education we never left the factory model of schooling.

I've heard that particular charge before but there never seems to much in the way of a replacement that's as easily described. If you're not happy with the factory-preparation model, putting aside the question of why you should be consulted on the issue, what model would you offer in substitution, keeping in mind that the public education system is funded by the public for the benefit of the public?

Tracy said...

My children, our students are being tortured systematically in their own neighborhood schools.

Why on earth are you leaving your children in schools where they are being tortured? What sort of monster are you?

And if other children being tortured, then for heaven's sake call the police.

I assume however that you are indulging in hyperbole here. No one wants kids to be tortured in schools. The debate is between those who want all kids to learn to read and do basic maths, and those who are happy with an educational system that fails 30% of kids.

Their teachers are gagged and bound to policy that flies in the face of everything they have learned, have experienced, and know about teaching.

Given that the schools were failing to teach about 30% of kids to read to even a basic level, (see http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/facts/reading_facts.html)
who cares what teachers have learnt, experienced and know about teaching?

Only those teachers who have successfully and reliably taught even disadvantaged kids to read (as measured by independent tests) have useful views. The reason the NCLB was introduced was due to the historic failure of the vast majority of teachers to teach all kids (bar those with significant cognitive disabilities) to read and do basic maths (or anything else). Teachers are currently not professionals and they, en masse, do not have a history of producing effective outcomes.

Tracy said...

control the labor of teachers so that schools don't teach dangerous ideas (i.e., anything that doesn't encourage passive obedience to corporate power and the security state that enforces corporate power all domestically as well as internationally)

I think you are displaying a lack of knowledge of history here. Very few revolutions, for better or worse, have been lead by those who are illiterate. The leaders of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, Frederick Douglass, all of them were literate. Some of these revolutionary leaders I approve of, others I don't, but there is no historical reason to believe that teaching all kids to read and do basic maths will close their minds to dangerous ideas or increase obedience (of any sort) to the state.

By failing to teach kids how to read or do basic maths schools are currently contributing to not teaching dangerous ideas - after all the kids are far more limited in how they can come across said dangerous ideas if they can't read. Political participation is greater amongst the literate than the illiterate.

2.) set schools up to fail in order to justify handing the management of schools over to private corporations who will do a better job of ensuring #1.

Judging by these comments here, this will indeed be the result of the NCLB (apart from the fact that literate people historically don't seem to be particularly obedient). However, if educational professionals actually got serious about teaching reading and basic maths, this fate could be avoided. Ken De Rosa has quite a bit of stuff here on effective teaching models - why not browse this site and make use of it?

Not only will you avoid your school being handed over to different governance, you will achieve the much more important goal of increasing the numbers of people who can read and do basic maths, and therefore increase their life options, not just for work but politically and socially as well.

David said...

"You think Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are part of a cabal to hand the management of schools over to private corporations? Since the two honorables, along with quite a few other legislators not noted for their slavish devotion to the almighty corporation, voted for NCLB it seems unlikely that licking the boots of the capitalist exploiters is what they had in mind. Maybe you could explain why Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Joseph Biden, Richard Durbin, Carl Levin, Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton found something of sufficient value in NCLB to vote for the bill? Take your time."

Don't demonstrate your lack of understanding of American politics. The Business Roundtable has very close ties with most of these Democrats through the DLC. And don't forget, the Dems are still just the moderate (not-fascist) branch of the US business party. So, bringing up the names of the DLC faithful does nothing to dispute my point.

I bet you thought you'd set me on my heels by bringing up those names, eh? "Take my time?" Didn't take much, trust me. And before you even go there, the Dems were BIG proponen ts of NCLB because Dems had done similar things in states (e.g. North Carolina), and most of the ideas behind NCLB came from a Democratic Party Think Tank. Further, A Democratic lawyer from Texas (Sandy Kress) was Bush's front man on NCLB.

So this is NOT a partisan issue. It's one of the biggest challenges we face in trying to liberate students and teachers from the standards-based accountability system of enslavement to the tests.

This is an older piece, but it's important background.

http://www.jceps.com/index.php?pageID=article&articleID=15

Michael said...

America's greatest president, Calvin Coolidge

Please tell me your tongue was in your cheek when you wrote that.

SteveH said...

What a sorry set of "reasons".

All I do is tell parents to look at the actual questions on the test. Look at how few questions a student has to get correct to pass the minimal NCLB proficiency cutoff for their state. Chances are, however, it will be difficult to have anyone explain the formula to them. That's because the cutoff is extremely low. Parents would be horrified. Schools get great mileage from this confusion. Our public schools are "High Performing and Improving", but that refers only to getting most kids over a very minimal hurdle. Parents think it has to do with the quality of the education.

Good schools should laugh at these tests. Good schools should have plenty of time to do whatever fuzzy, high level, world expanding teaching they want. It's never been a question of either/or. These "reasons" are really just excuses. At best, they are just opinions. They know that many parents disagree completely and want to set much higher grade-level expectations of content and skills. The Education Roundtable wants to maintain the monopoly and to impose their own opinion of education on everyone else - at least those who can't afford to send their kids to another school. The arrogance is quite awesome.

Choice is not just about market forces. It's about giving parents the option to get far, far away from the educational thinking shown by the Education Roundtable's "reasons".

allen said...

Don't demonstrate your lack of understanding of American politics.

Your concern is noted.

The Business Roundtable has very close ties with most of these Democrats through the DLC.

Do tell. Have 'em over for dinner on a regular basis, do you?

And don't forget, the Dems are still just the moderate (not-fascist) branch of the US business party.

So that would mean that the Business Roundtable has close ties with the moderate (not-fascist) branch of the US business party, right? But the evil corporations - those US businesses - are just champing at the bit to start raking in fat profits when their dark designs come to fruition and the public education system falls into their hands, right? So what the hell are you doing hobnobbing with members of the US business party albeit the not-fascist branch? Aren't they the enemy as well, being a branch, albeit the not-fascist branch, of the US business party?

So, bringing up the names of the DLC faithful does nothing to dispute my point.

Oh sure it does. You're erecting the bogeyman of the sinister, almost all-powerful capitalist profit-mongers as the driving agent of NCLB and I just pointed out that a bunch of U.S. senators who, by no stretch of the imagination, can be described as lackeys of the capitalist exploiters of the proletariat. Perhaps you'd like to reconcile these mutually exclusive propositions?

I bet you thought you'd set me on my heels by bringing up those names, eh?

On the evidence, I did. And it wasn't very difficult.

When you can explain why distinctly non-business oriented U.S. senators would vote for a bill that you claim is the handiwork of profit-maddened capitalists? I understand your desire to evade but really, the question remains not only unanswered but unaddressed as well. So why did a number of senators who can hardly be described as being under the thumb of big business vote for NCLB? Take your time.

Didn't take much, trust me.

Oh, on this I trust you since your response betrays no evidence of effort. Maybe that's because you're so doggoned smart and maybe it's because you're so sure you're so smart.

And before you even go there, the Dems were BIG proponen ts of NCLB because Dems had done similar things in states (e.g. North Carolina), and most of the ideas behind NCLB came from....

Yes, but why did they do similar things? You name big business as the driving force behind NCLB and then, without any explanation, claim that politicians who, by their rhetoric and their votes, are no friend to big business vote for NCLB. So, why'd they, Kennedy, Schumer, Clinton, etc. vote for NCLB if NCLB is the darling of big business?

So this is NOT a partisan issue.

Aw, a ray of sunshine. I mote of coherence.

Yeah, it's not a partisan issue but not because Ted Kennedy's having his wires pulled by the ghost of J.D. Rockefeller. It's become a non-partisan issue because the situation's gotten so out of hand that the political clout of the public education lobby is not enough to make otherwise friendly legislators continue to support them. That's why it's not a partisan issue.

It's one of the biggest challenges we face in trying to liberate students and teachers from the standards-based accountability system of enslavement to the tests.

Oh, go soak your head.

It was that blessed freedom, resulting in misuse of Title One funds on a massive scale, that provided the foundation for NCLB. If the public education system demonstrates it can't be trusted to use federal funding for the purposes designated then the element of trust will be removed and you'll use the money for the intended purpose and demonstrate the fact that the money's been appropriately used.

The big challenge is to maintain the focus necessary to keep NCLB a forceful presence in public education. That way the public education lobby, transfixed by the prospect of accountability at the federal level, has less attention and resuorces to defend against the real threat: charters and vouchers.

Superdestroyer said...

Maybe someone should point out to the anti-standards crowd that Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Joseph Biden, Richard Durbin, Carl Levin, Harry Reid and Hillary Cliton all set their children to (private) schools where discrete subjects were taught to very high standards and no one worried about about the vibrancy of the school or making the students insightful.

Would the parents of children at St Albans or the Dalton School tolerate the sophmoric ramblings of the anti-NCLB crowd? I doubt it.

rightwingprof said...

"rightwing prof...after reading your profile, i'm not sure you are in any position to level the term "nutjob" against anyone save yourself."

No, just Marxist nutjobs who seem to think the mission of education is social engineering instead of education. The Marxist nutjobs who are the reason I have to waste my time teaching my students the knowledge the should have learned in high school but didn't, because they were being taught "higher order thinking skills" instead of actual knowledge.

Tracy said...

It's one of the biggest challenges we face in trying to liberate students and teachers from the standards-based accountability system of enslavement to the tests.

Because of course kids are so liberated when they don't learn to read.

Do you guys listen to yourselves? What is the point of schools if they are not to teach all kids (barring the severely cognitively disabled) to read and write and do basic maths?

allen said...

The point of school, at least in this case, is to "liberate students and teachers" which is a far nobler pursuit then teaching "mere" facts and skills.

You see Tracey, the molders of the minds of tomorrow's leaders mustn't have their wings clipped by considerations as mundane as literacy. They can't be weighted down by the necessity of ensuring that kids know something as trivial as history.

There's a higher calling then enforcing simple memorization. There are frontiers of creativity and insight to be explored and teachers, these teachers, will be the facilitators of that exciting, fulfilling quest. Or more simply, the purpose of education is to make teachers, these teachers, feel good about themselves. The kids are merely a means to that end.

A distant horizon holds their gaze and they can't be expected to concern themselves with what's crushed beneath their feet.

Instructivist said...

"Because of course kids are so liberated when they don't learn to read."

Judging by the rhetoric of the tablers, they are followers of the screwball ideology of Freire and of so-called critical pedagogy. Critical Demagogues

In the view of these hallucinators, learnng fundamentals contributes to the enslavement of the masses. I am not sure how, but I guess it serves corporate oppressors.

4trogan said...

Hey there now, Tracy -- Who says the severely cognitively disabled can't be taught to read and do basic math? Maria Montessori would shudder at the thought! :)

Twill said...

If teachers actually possessed the characteristics of "vibrancy" and "creativity" and so on, then don't you think maybe they should apply those characteristics to make "teaching to the test" enjoyable?

Anything which helps master the subject can be "teaching to the test." You can do your drilling in the form of a game show (any game show). You can do a swap meet - pass out number cards and have the students trade them until they can form an equation to get the desired results. Let me see, I have a 6 and a 5 I need the result 9 - who has a 4 or a 3 to trade?

Anything that works the desired skill is practicing.

If you can't do the basics, there is no such thing as mastery for you.

Teachers need to do a reality check, and apply their own rhetoric to themselves. They're the ones in need of increased creativity.

Anonymous said...

Twill -- But wouldn't that actually require effort?

Catherine Johnson said...

My children, our students are being tortured systematically in their own neighborhood schools.

I have read NONE of this thread yet....but this caught my eye.

In my district it's the parents being tortured.

Seriously.

Of course, some of the kids are looking a bit hang-dog.....

hmm

I might have to take that back.

A friend of mine visited the middle school recently (something none of us is supposed to do) and came back reporting that the place is being run with security measures so tight you don't see them inside govt buildings.

She said her own 6th grader is getting demoralized.

I'm not surprised. Put an 11-year old boy inside an institution with a sign-in/sign-out system for the bathroom and 25-year old unmarried childless female teachers handing out Fs for binder organization in math class ("My goal is to encourage students to take ownership of their learning") and, ok, you're not talking torture, but you're also not talking POSITIVE ATMOSPHERE FOSTERING HIGH ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT.

Why don't I go read the thread now?

philip said...

do you know what's really nice Ken?

success.