Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Monday, February 01, 2010

Maybe, Actually, No Child Left Behind?

The Obama administration is proposing some sweeping reforms to NCLB, reforms that could actually bring about the good intentions of this law, and eliminate some of the more punitive aspects. This quote is illustrative of what the problem has been, and of a good potential solution:
The White House wants to change federal financing formulas so that a portion of the money is awarded based on academic progress, rather than by formulas that apportion money to districts according to their numbers of students, especially poor students.
The reason schools get flagged as failing, even when ALL STUDENTS in the school have made progress over the course of a year, is that there are a certain number of students in specific subgroups, more specifically, minority subgroups and special education, that didn't make "enough" progress. You get just ONE subgroup that doesn't hit their target, and the whole school fails.

The proposed reforms also seek to base teacher performance on measures of student progress, actually looking at whether students, "leave high school 'college or career ready'", which means they are literate and can think critically. This is hugely important, on so many levels. It also, finally, proposes to give MORE money to schools with struggling subgroups, while recognizing the achievement of the ones that succeeded.

We, as teachers, need to be held accountable for our students' progress every year. How can we call ourselves good teachers if we have data that show our students aren't learning? It's what's frustrated me about the unions' stance about merit pay and the evaluation process for so long. You can have the most well-designed, research-based, aligned to the state standards lesson ever created, but if four out of five of your students cannot tell me, as an observer in your classroom, or a scorer on your state test, what you wanted them to know by the close of the lesson, then you are NOT TEACHING. The only real way to measure effective teaching is by measuring student learning. It's as simple as that, and always has been.

I'm hopeful. Let's see if this pans out over the course of this term. Good luck, Mr. President.


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Midvale School For the Gifted

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