May 10, 2010

From the Department of Huh?

Some cognitive dissonance from Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

The No Child law, passed in 2001 by bipartisan majorities, focused the nation’s attention on closing achievement gaps between minorities and whites, but it included many provisions that created what Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Friday called “perverse incentives.”

In an effort to meet the law’s requirements for passing grades, many states began dumbing down standards, and teachers began focusing on test preparation rather than on engaging class work.

“We’ve got to get accountability right this time,” Mr. Duncan told reporters Friday. “For the mass of schools, we want to get rid of prescriptive interventions. We’ll leave it up to them to figure out how to make progress.”

So, let me get this straight.  Under NCLB 1.0. states were permitted to set their own standards and assessments.  In other words, the Feds "[left] it up to[the states] to figure out how to make progress." And, many states chose to create "dumbed down standards" due to "perverse incentives."
Fair enough.  This time DoE wants to pressure the states into adopting national standards.  Clearly, the Feds with their long history of educational success know much better how to educate than the states.
But now when it comes to meeting those tough new federal standards, Arne wants to again "leave it up to [the states] to figure out how to make progress."  Even though they weren't doing such a good job of making progress towards their own dumbed-down standards. 
Reading First failed, not because it was too prescriptive, but because it wasn't prescriptive enough.  States got to figure it out for themselves how to select/develop interventions as long as they made it appear to to be based on evidence.
The game for states, in case anyone hasn't figured it out yet, is to appear as though they are doing something important, pretend to care an awful lot for the children, appear to follow the scientific evidence, let the chips fall where they may, wait for someone to come up with a new politically correct narrative to explain why some external factor caused them to fail, and agitate for a kinder,gentlerNCLB 3.0 
NCLB 2.0:  Reading First but with even less oversight and compliance.
Now that's what I call smart regulation and failing to heed history's lessons.

1 comment:

Dick Schutz said...

States didn't "dumb down their standards." The standards remained in place. What they did was to rig the cutting scores on their tests to make "Adequate Yearly Progress." And they gamed the rates of reaching "proficiency" by 2014.

When "proficiency" is reduced to an arbitrarily-set cutting score on a test that is insensitive to instructional differences, that's more serious than cognitive dissonance. It's cognitive ignorance.

Secretary Duncan is also ignorant of educational history. ESEA was passed in 1965 to eliminate achievement gaps. Subsequent authorizations have only added additional and more "perverse incentives."

The legislation obviously hasn't closed the gaps. But teachers and kids have been held responsible for the failed educational policy. Even worse, "the soft bigotry of low expectations" has been replaced by a hard bigotry of "teaching all kids to read and do math is an unrealistic expectation."

Instead, we're going to make all kids "college and career ready" by 2020. How silly is that?

Of course, all aspects implementing the federal imperatives are "voluntary" acts of the states, so it isn't in any way "national."

That's more than cognitive dissonance. It's public deception.

The failure of Reading First and NCLB 1.0 stemmed from the fact that the "New Science of Reading" that was created by legislative fiat is pseudo-science. The initiative had "no impact" on student achievement. The impact it had was negative unintended consequences.

It's too early to call the shots on NCLB 2.0. Futures are difficult to predict these days, but the "Race to the Top," which is a trial of the Administration's "Blueprint," shows signs of unraveling before the state horses are out of the gate. Congress may yet act "with wisdom."

More "huh?s" are needed.