Saturday, February 24, 2007

No Wonder Education In America is Failing

Connecticut's Big Lie, Mr. Education himself, Joe Lieberman disingenuously hosted a forum on Friday concerned with the No Child Left Behind Act. For those of us who care about education, we would have preferred an open-minded and intelligent moderator but this is Connecticut's disgraceful contribution to the U.S. Senate and the Senate probably was paying back Connecticut for us sending this guy to Washington in the first place.

As an aside, the next time the Senate volunteers Joe for education duty please drop this guy in the middle of Baghdad with the Department of Education to study the improvements there. You'll be doing America and the cause of education a favor.

Now, let's face it, these events are just photo-ops for guys like Lieberman. His mind is made up. This is what he campaigned on in 2006;

September 20, 2006

WEST HAVEN -- U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman yesterday pledged if re-elected to hold hearings next year with school administrators, teachers and parents to improve the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The three-term Democrat, who is running as a petitioning candidate after losing the primary to Ned Lamont, wants "the practical experience of the people on the ground" to play a significant role in reauthorizing the act in 2007.

"It's an important opportunity next year to get it right, not to abandon it,"
So this event was just another circle jerk of a politician who has no intention of listening to what's being said except for the comments that reinforce his own remedy which is:
"Tests are not perfect, but they're one standard for judging progress," Lieberman said. "We may want to find others."
That's right. More, louder NCLB and... you guessed it... more tests.

And as these people all sat around in a circle and jerked, this report was released on a Friday afternoon in the hopes that its results would also get buried in the weekend news doldrums.
U.S. high school students are taking tougher classes, receiving better grades and, apparently, learning less than their counterparts of 15 years ago.

Those were the discouraging implications of two reports issued Thursday by the federal Department of Education, assessing the performance of students in both public and private schools. Together, the reports raised sobering questions about the past two decades of educational reform, including whether the movement to raise school standards has amounted to much more than window dressing.

“I think we're sleeping through a crisis,” said David Driscoll, the Massachusetts commissioner of education, during a Washington news conference convened by the Department of Education. He called the study results “stunning.” ...
The transcript study showed that, compared to students in similar studies going back to 1990, the 2005 graduates had racked up more high school credits, had taken more college preparatory classes and had strikingly higher grade point averages. The average GPA rose from 2.68 in 1990 to 2.98 — close to a solid B — in 2005.

That was the good news — or so it seemed. But the standardized test results showed that 12th grade reading scores have generally been dropping since 1992, casting doubt on what students are learning in those college prep classes.

Math scores posed a different sort of mystery, because the Department of Education switched to a new test in 2005 that wasn't directly comparable to those used before. Still, the results of the new test didn't inspire confidence: Fewer than one-quarter of the 12th graders tested scored in the “proficient” range.

The reports also showed that the gap separating white and black, and white and Hispanic students, has barely budged since the early 1990s. And while the results were not broken down by state, a broad regional breakdown showed that the West and Southeast lagged well behind the Midwest and, to a lesser extent, the Northeast.

David Gordon, the Sacramento County, Calif., superintendent of schools and a participant in the Department of Education news conference Thursday, said he found it especially disturbing that the studies focused on “our best students,” those who had made it to 12th grade or who had graduated.

“It's clear to me from these data that for all of our talk of the achievement gap among subgroups of students, a larger problem may be an instructional gap or a rigor gap, which effects not just some but most of our students,” Gordon said.

The reading and math test was given to 21,000 high school seniors at 900 U.S. schools, including 200 private schools. The transcript study was based on 26,000 transcripts from 720 schools, 80 of them private. The reports did not give separate results for public vs. private schools.
Among other things, Hall said the transcript study provided clear evidence of grade inflation, as well as “course inflation” — offering high-level courses that have “the right names” but a dumbed-down curriculum.

“What it suggests is that we are telling students that they're being successful in these courses when, in fact, we're not teaching them any more than they were learning in the past,” she said. “So we are, in effect, lying to these students.”

Although the reports came out five years after passage of President Bush's signature education reform initiative, No Child Left Behind, Hall and others said it would be unfair to blame that program for the students' poor showing. They were already in high school when No Child Left Behind was enacted, and it is primarily aimed at elementary and middle schools.

Driscoll recalled an earlier president's contribution to education reform — the Nation at Risk report that seemed to galvanize the educational establishment when it was issued by President Reagan in 1983.

“That was a shocker,” said Driscoll. “But here we are, 25 years later (and) ... we've just been ignoring what it's going to take to really change the system.”
Well, No Child Left Behind may not be the blame but it has nothing to do with a solution. Today, our schools have been homogenized into test taking factories and innovation, creativity, the celebration of unique individuality, and the incentive to learn have all been long bleached out of the system. You will notice that the corresponding drop in learning almost precisely parallels Joe Lieberman's ignoble tenure in the Senate.


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