August 14, 2007

Miller's Plan for Reforming NCLB

Last week I promised I would cover Congressman Miller's plan for reforming NCLB.

So here it is. Miller thinks he can improve NCLB by:

  1. Providing much-needed fairness and flexibility.
  2. Encouraging a rich and challenging learning environment and promote best practices and innovation taking place in schools throughout the country.
  3. Supporting teachers and principals.
  4. Continuing to hold schools accountable for students’ progress.
  5. Joining the effort to improve America’s high schools.
  6. Investing in our schools.

Let me translate this congressional gobbledygook into English:

  1. weakening standards
  2. spending more money
  3. spending more money
  4. doing more of the same
  5. spending more money
  6. spending a lot more money
So, Miller's main plan to salvage NCLB is to spend more money on education. That's always worked so wonderfully in the past, I can't imagine why it wouldn't work this time.

I suspect Miller thinks that he knows how to spend the money in new and better ways. Yet, I couldn't find any evidentiary support for anything Miller is proposing. I'm not surprised and neither should you be. Miller is one of the self-anointed educational experts who simply knows how schools must be run to achieve superior student achievement and doesn't find it necessary to justify any of his bold initiatives with cold hard evidence.

There's not enough digital ink to cover every one of Miller's points, so I'll hit the less silly ones.

The legislation I will introduce will contain a growth model that gives credit to states and schools for the progress that their students make over time.
Growth models are basically the same as the current safe harbor provision. There is the illusion of "fairness" since you are measuring the growth of the same cohort. But who are we kidding? The schools that need the growth model the most have such a high transient rate to make the concept of "same cohort" laughable. Moreover, there is a downward trend in student performance as they rise in grades, making achieving growth goals all but impossible, if the growth goals approximate anything close to the student's actually achieving proficiency by the time the graduate.

In addition, many Americans do not believe that the success of our students or our schools can be measured by one test administered on one day. I agree with them. This is not fair.
I suppose if "many Americans do not believe" it, it must not be true.

So what's the answer? More testing? Where is the evidence that more testing will yield more reliable/accurate results than one test?

We will allow the use of additional valid and reliable measures to assess student learning and school performance more fairly, comprehensively, and accurately. One such measure for high schools must be graduation rates.

So if they can't read or do math, the school passes if they graduate enough illiterate and innumerate students?

The legislation will also drive improvements in the quality and appropriateness of the tests used for accountability. This is especially important for English language learners and students with disabilities who should be given tests that are fair and appropriate, just as they should continue to be included in our accountability system.
Because the current legislation requires states to give unfair tests to ELLs and disabled kids currently. Actually the current legislation leaves it up to the states to decide and the states don't have a great interest in failing kids unnecessarily now does it?

In exchange for increased resources, states will be allowed to develop better tests that more accurately measure what all students have learned.
Sure it will.

In so many meetings I have had in my district and elsewhere, employers say that our high school graduates are not ready for the workplace.

Because states are looking to make their standards even tougher being that their students can't pass today's easy standards.

This requires that assessments be fully aligned with these new state standards and include multiple measures of success.

These measures can no longer reflect just basic skills and memorization. Rather, they must reflect critical thinking skills and the ability to apply knowledge to new and challenging contexts. These are the skills that today’s students will need to
meet the complex demands of the American economy and society in a globalized world.

We all know how well students apply those elusive "critical thinking skills" before they learn (or memorize if you will) those "basic skills."

This is pure semantics. The critical thinking skills kids learn today are tomorrow's basic skills, just as the basic skills kids learned yesterday form the basis of tomorrow's critical thinking skills. Skills are skills are skills.

Even with all of these changes, we will not meet our national goal of closing the achievement gap until and unless we close the teacher quality gap. No factor matters more to a children’s educational success than the quality of their teachers and principals.

Except the curriculum factor. Great teachers with a substandard curriculum aren't exactly known for their superior results.

All children deserve their fair share of teacher talent and expertise. We must do more to ensure that poor and minority students are taught by teachers with expertise in the subjects they are teaching.

In a world where the rules of supply and demand do not exist perhaps.

As a nation we are not offering teachers the respect and support they deserve today, and as a result we are facing a very real teacher shortage crisis. Particularly in urban and rural communities, in subjects like math, science, foreign language, and for children with disabilities and children learning English, we must hire, train, and retain excellent teachers.

For these reasons, the legislation I will introduce will provide for performance pay for principals and teachers based on fair and proven models, teacher mentoring, teacher career ladders, and improved working conditions.

A certified teacher shortage perhaps. But there is no shortage of
people capable of educating students in any of these subjects. This one will get past the teachers unions sometime about the time hell freezes over.

The bill will include comprehensive steps to turn around low-performing middle and high schools. It will include uniform standards for measuring graduation rates that are fair, accurate, reliable, and will do more to keep students in school.

Because we know exactly how "to turn around low-performing middle and high schools." Thankfully, those "steps" will be enshrined in the next legislation.

This new direction for education in America is premised on the growing consensus that there is a need for greater and sustained investments needed in American education.

The legacy of a great American education system for our children and our country cannot be built on the cheap. America deserves better.

"Growing consensus" my ass.

If only our education system was built on the cheap.

Social and economic opportunity begins in the classroom. Discovery and innovation begin in the classroom. Economic growth and economic disparity begin in the classroom.

This is all true which is why our public education system with all its unfulfilled promises for minorities and the poor is such a national disgrace. It is a failed experiment with socialism. Miller merely wants to double down now, like a good tax and spend Democrat that he is, when he should be folding his hand.


anayeli said...

Just this morning my superintendent echoed Miller's remarks in her "welcome back to school" speech, complaining bitterly about NCLB, calling for "multiple measures", not testing ELLs, and of course, LOTS MORE GREEN. Our district is 5th year PI. This can't be OUR FAULT! We're all spectacular! Really, every employee is superb, she SAID so! Anyway I'm getting so fat I think I'll throw out my scale and use "multiple measures" instead. How about I compare myself to the fat lady at the circus...or MICHAEL MOORE! Ahhh, I'm not so fat, I feel better. Or I could show you my portfolio. It demonstrates through poetry, drawings and magazine pictures how I "feel" about my appearance. Now thats authentic assessment!

Anonymous said...

Rather than another attempted reform that relies on keeping the monopoly school system in place unchallenged, the data militates for competition as the best way forward in the 21st century.

A new book from the libertarian Cato Institute gives an overview: "School Choice: The Findings." There has been considerable research on school choice over the last decade, producing a literature filled with controversy and conflicting findings. In the new book, author Dr. Herbert J. Walberg provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis available on the effectiveness of charter schools, private schools, and voucher programs. Dr. Walberg concludes that the consensus of the high-quality international research overwhelmingly favors competition and parental choice in education over the monopoly systems that dominate the United States and many other industrialized countries.

Details at

Anonymous said...

I couldn't find any evidentiary support for anything Miller is proposing.

Surely others have. Surely the NEA would not let Congress sabotage their asserted "compelling governmental interest in educating all of our children to function effectively in a multiracial, democratic society and realize their full intellectual and academic potential."

Of course, if you have a more cost effective solution to achieve this "compelling governmental interest," be sure to let everyone* know, since we all* (especially SCOTUS) like to satisfy "compelling governmental interests."

*at least those of us "educated ... to function effectively in a ... democratic society." Hmmm... could something circular going on here?

Anonymous said...

miller said "No factor matters more to a children’s educational success than the quality of their teachers and principals."

what about the factor of those kids who just do not want to learn and their effect on the kids stuck in a classroom with them? that doesn't matter? what about the factor of parents who say over and over that the teachers are to blame when their little angels are not learning? (because it couldn't have anything to do with the little angels running free from the time school gets out till they are tired and go home to crash)...

no, there are no other factors. I am a student teacher suffering through lessons from many money spending "professors" yet through hard work and self discipline I am managing to get an education. I must be an exception to the rule... something to ponder I suppose.

KDeRosa said...

So you're saying teachers' aren't responsible for or can't affect student motivation?

Kids would rather act out than look stupid in front of their peers. They act out when they haven't learned and who is responsible for that in most cases?

Anonymous said...

Hey teachers can only teach the way they have been taught, and who is responsible for that?


Anonymous said...

What teachers do (even apart from specific curricula and instructional procedures) has an enormous effect on student motivation, both positive and negative. One of the best books on the topic -- excellent not only because of its thorough grounding in empirically validated science but also its practical applicability for ordinary classroom teachers -- is "Motivating Primary Grade Students" by Michael Pressley et alia.

Any teacher can read, mark and inwardly digest this book and start to be more motivating the next day. The book is inspiring but cautionary as well -- no quick fix; and sadly, many teachers he observed were not the least bit interested in improving. Paradoxically, he found that the MOST effective and motivating teachers were the most self-critical, while the most abysmal (you would not allow your kid in their class) thought they were super-duper. Cognitive dissonance. It is a must-read book.

Anonymous said...


A populace that hearing Homer
Thinks of a bloke cartoonish,
Instead of Greece, but by misnomer
May be called not buffoonish:

Those people as refuse to heed
The lessons of the past,
Improperly pursuing greed,
Tread through a minefield vast.

A people ought not be averse
So to well-tempered thought,
Or, heedless its philosophers
May foolishly get caught,

Trapped in some situation far
Beyond what it imagined,
Believing, for example, war
Could be a simple pageant--

All history but controverts
That so simplistic notion:
It is the truth, I know it hurts,
But spare me the emotion!