Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Posted at 4:02 PM ET, 01/27/2011

No Child Left Behind, perfection and caveats

By Nick Anderson

This item is from Nick Anderson, The Post's national education writer.

A couple of highly valued sources have taken issue with a story I wrote in today's paper about the No Child Left Behind law.

The gist of their complaint, I believe, is that I did not walk readers through more of the fine print of the 2002 law to explain the context of the well-known goal of all students passing state tests by 2014. So let's do that now.

First of all, here's what the law says:

Section 1111 (b)(2)(F) Accountability--Timeline: Each State shall establish a timeline for adequate yearly progress. The timeline shall ensure that not later than 12 years after the end of the 2001-2002 school year, all students in each group described in subparagraph (C)(v) will meet or exceed the State's proficient level of academic achievement on the State assessments under paragraph (3).

This excerpt from a rather long statute marks the core of the promise of No Child Left Behind. "All students" means what it says. "Shall ensure" is self-evident. "Proficient" means, essentially, passing the test. The requirement here is for states to chart a path toward 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Not 90 percent, or 80 percent, but 100 percent.

This is also one of the starting points for the conversation about revision to the law. Few people worried much about 2014 right after the law was passed. Now, many do. Expectations for school performance are higher. Many schools that seem to be high-performing are hitting a ceiling and are being labeled as failing to meet AYP. Congress is preparing to reshuffle the accountability system and, in all likelihood, will banish the phrase AYP from the school vocabulary. (By the way, lots more students could be in jeopardy of failing the new tests that are under development to align with new national standards -- but that's another story.)

Does this mean that No Child Left Behind requires 100 percent student proficiency? Does it mandate perfection? No. As I wrote today, there are caveats.

The biggest caveat is that states get to set their own standards. If they don't like the way proficiency is defined, they can change it. This is what Obama administration officials mean when they complain about the law providing incentives to "dummy down" standards.

But even if states leave their standards unchanged, there are escape hatches.

My colleague Daniel de Vise reported in 2008 on a provision known as "safe harbor" that gives schools some wiggle room to meet AYP if a subgroup of students shows yearly improvement but misses an annual passing-rate target. Schools can also satisfy requirements if the passing rate of a subgroup of students falls within a "confidence interval" -- a provision that accounts for statistical ups and downs inherent in standardized testing.

States can also allow schools to omit a subgroup from accountability calculations if the subgroup has a relatively small number of students in a given school. "Small," though, is open to interpretation. This is known as the "N-size" issue. The Associated Press reported in 2006 that hundreds of thousands of students from various racial and ethnic groups were being excluded through this provision.

Other caveats enable states to exclude certain English language learners and certain students with disabilities. Some educators say these exceptions are inadequate; others disagree.

What does all this mean for the rewrite debate? There is certainly a chance that federal, state and local officials who want to overhaul the law will gloss over the flexibility that is already in the statute and regulations. The track record of No Child Left Behind and "flexibility" is highly relevant as lawmakers try to come up with a new accountability system. One lawmaker's "flexibility" is another's "loophole."

As I write about this issue, though, I keep coming back to the core provision of NCLB -- all means all. And 2014 is three years away.

By Nick Anderson  | January 27, 2011; 4:02 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Fact-checking Obama and education
Next: Overdoing school security


Must heart surgeons be mandated to ensure 100% of their paitents will survive open-heart surgery? Must dentists be mandated to ensure 100% of their paitents do not have cavaties? Must a CEO for a large corporation ensure 100% profitablity for their company? The idea of 100% proficiency is a NOBLE idea; and probably the best part of NCLB is that it has forced schools to ensure that ESOL, Special Education and lower socio-economic status have greater access to a good education. However, the reality of 100% is impossible. Students are humanbeings with flaws. Can all students learn? Yes, but individuals learn at different rates at different times. But for a school that reaches 90%, 95% and even 99% to be labeled a "failing school" is just rediculous.

Posted by: smith6 | January 28, 2011 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Jay, Nick:
What are the scores of the children whose subgroup did not make AYP?
At NCCES, there's about 16 SPED students who did score Proficient.
The proficient cut-off is 70%.
As I pointed out to Andy Rotherham, one of the complainers about Nick's article, if a child scores 69%, he is labeled BASIC.
Well, there is a BIG difference between a Basic score of 20% and a Basic score of 65%
And NCLB doesn't take that into consideration.

So, could you guys find out?

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 28, 2011 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Giving the power to the states to decide what is proficient and what is not is the first failing of the NCLB.

Can a student who is "proficient" in Alabama or Louisiana expect to get into Yale when put against a student who is "proficient" in Maryland or Massachusetts? No. Why? Because proficiency in one state is not the same as proficiency in another.

A nationalized curriculum is the answer to this mistake. And if the states cry about not having enough money for their educational targets to be reached, well, let their Senators handle that -perhaps they'll take away tax breaks for the rich and corporations like they should- and pay attention to their real constituency.

Posted by: topwriter | January 28, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

The logic of NCLB was that "The New Science of Reading" and "programs based on scientifically-based research" would make it possible to teach all kids how to read.

The demonstration of yearly progress would provide the basis for ensuring proficiency for all. The only obstacle was the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The logic ratcheted up the "Standards" logic of the 1994 Goals 2000 Act; those goals had obviously not been met. What was thought to be needed was standardized tests, with sanctions attached.

The thing is, the mandated AYP formula is statistically impossible. And "proficiency" has been reduced to an arbitrarily-set cut score on tests that are sensitive to SES and racial differences, but not to instructional differences.

Rather than addressing the fatal flaws in AYP and the indicators of reading proficiency, the Common Core Standards compound the flaws--as you note, Nick. But it's not a "whole other story;" it's very much a continuation of the same story.

The "soft bigotry" has been turned into a "hard bigotry" that the expectation that all kids could be taught to read was unreasonable.

With the statistical magic of "Value Added Measurement," all kids will graduate from high school "college and career ready"--by 2020. If you believe that, I've got a lot of "ready" bridges that I'll sell you at a price of your choice.

Posted by: DickSchutz | January 28, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse


You couldn't be more wrong.

A nationalized curriculum is the LAST thing we need the government dictating, especially under the Obama administration. I find your Yankee arrogance offensive when it comes to demeaning Southern students and Southern education. A "proficient" student from MA is no more going to get into Yale than a "proficient" student from AL. Yale would require an Outstanding applicant for admission, no matter what their geographic home state.

NCLB was/is effective in requiring states to report important stats such as graduation rates, state standardized exam results, violent offenses, % of certified teachers, etc. This is important information which parents should evaluate before placing their children in a specific public system.

Progressives don't like that sort of transparency and will do everything in their power to erase accountability and replace it with a broad brush of hearsay uniform excellence. And it won't be a national curriculum that Progressives push for. Oh no. Because America stinks compared to China and India, right? No, it will be an International curriculum.

And I will fight it tooth and nail.

Posted by: lisamc31 | January 28, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

lisamc31 you are correct that NCLB's demands for the posting of statistics is important. However, these statistics need to have "meaning" behind them. And I also agree that a national curriculum would not work in the US because schools have always been locally controlled. Just as you don't like IB given your link, I would not want my child to recieve the standards approved in Texas or Kansas. That being said we need to move beyond the 100% profeciency and understand that education is not a simple "raw material in/finnished product out" construct. Further, NCLB also focuses too much on "bubble" in, easy to grade (i.e. computer) tests of basic information. What we need is a curiculum that focuses on developing students thinking skills. The problem is that type of curriculum is more expensive because it requires humanbeings to grade, and students develop their thinking skills at different rates. Yet, those skills are developing even when we think the "student doesn't get it." I think there is a direct correlation in the fact that less students are graduating from college and the increase in such "bubble" in tests. A graduate student looking for a disseration might want to look into that.

Posted by: smith6 | January 28, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse


What do you have against Texas and Kansas? LOL!

The statistics reported under NCLB most definitely do have meaning. Unfortunately, few parents take the time to evaluate the meaning and school administrators desperately try and distract parents from the stats which demonstrate exactly HOW miserably many of our public schools are failing to teach children to become "proficient" at ANY state level. A definition of "proficient" is needed. For example, here in NYS, we have Regents exams which are pretty basic for each HS subject. "Good" NY school districts will brag that 94% of all students passed the Chemistry Regents. Not bad. But a closer look at the exam breakout reveals only 13% of those students actually score 85 or higher (in other words, mastery level) on the exams. That's not very good! Our schools need to work harder at making sure students are more than just barely passing subjects. They need to produce classes in which the majority of students come away with a solid grasp of the material. It shouldn't matter WHAT type of assessment is used at the end of a course, if the students LEARNED the material, they would be able to answer the questions. The problem lies with the teachers who repeat ad nauseum, "This is going to be on the Regents. You have to know this, because it will be on the Regents!" (also known as teaching to the test) Of course, these teachers don't know specifically in advance what will be "on the Regents". If the teachers concentrated on making sure that the students "grokked" the material they were supposed to be teaching, then passage and mastery would be assured.

As to your statement concerning "less students graduating from college", with all due respect, that is a fallacy.

Posted by: lisamc31 | January 28, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

my take on what you got right and missed

Posted by: alexanderrusso | January 28, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

The federal government has mandated for the states the following in 2014:

All those in the state must be healthy.

All those in the state must have a chicken in a pot on every Sunday. Those without the proverbial pot to pee in will be provided with a pot.

All adults in the state must be able to explain the relativity theory of Einstein.

See how much easy it when we simply have the federal government mandate things.

It always amazes me how individuals accept an absurd idea and simply persist in it. Apparently those in Congress and the Administration are like those that have accepted that a hammer should be used instead of a screwdriver for screws and are still attempting this even though the results are ugly.

New meaning to the expression dumb as dirt.

As for those who say NCLB was a goal let them start recognizing that public education has suffered from it in the last 10 years. Anyone with an iota of intelligence would recognize that all NCLB has done was to degrade public education with teachers continuously repeating the same thing in class rooms with the obscene hope that the children who have difficulties in learning will pass the test. Instead of No Child Left Behind it should have been No Child Not Bored and Turned Off from Public School.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 28, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

The statistics reported under NCLB most definitely do have meaning. Unfortunately, few parents take the time to evaluate the meaning and school administrators desperately try and distract parents from the stats which demonstrate exactly HOW miserably many of our public schools are failing to teach children to become "proficient" at ANY state level.
Posted by: lisamc3
This is the problem of believing in such an absurdity as NCLB.

Before NCLB there was the problem of large numbers of children from poverty areas that had great difficulties in learning because of 5 years of intellectual neglect before entering public school.

Now after NCLB the problem is "public schools are failing to teach children to become "proficient". Meanwhile there still are large numbers of children from poverty areas that have great difficulties in learning because of 5 years of intellectual neglect before entering public school while nothing has been done to deal with this problem.

Imagine if you have poorly manufactured rifles for the army and instead of addressing this problem you claim "army trainers are failing to teach soldiers to become "proficient" with these rifles.

One tires of this absurdity. Everyone would recognize the absurdity to mandate that all children become proficient in playing basketball. But the reality is that this would be probably easier to accomplish than having every child proficient in reading and mathematics.

Time for reality in America and that one can not mandate that children learn.

In basic training I failed firing a rifle. The commander of the training center did not order that instructors make every soldier proficient with a rifle. Back then Americans had common sense. My eyes were examined and I was given new eyeglasses and passed the test.

NCLB is just another example of how Americans have lost common sense.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 28, 2011 8:42 PM | Report abuse

For the person who thinks all Americans should know Einstin's Theory of Reltivity, you failed to specify which one, Special or General. It is knowledge of iterest, but there are more important things, like how to analyze and vote for a political candidate whose aims most match your own. Except for student in STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) only 4 courses of their 32 or 40 will be in the fields of Science or Mathematics. College aims to push the edge of the knowledge envelope, requiring the ability to research using books and journals to gather information, and then using the writing skill that should have been developed in high school, but not from bubble test, to present our case.
One of the things that NCLB did was cause schools to concentrate of getting the maximum number of students to achieve a very basic education while spending much less energy on dealing with improving students who are either high achieving, and needed no help passing these tests, or so low achieving that they had no possibility of passing the tests.
I also tend not to trust education majors to figure out how children can be best educated.
John Dickert
Mount Vernon Farms

Posted by: 12191946 | January 28, 2011 10:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm a math teacher working in a Title I public school in western city. The population is largely hispanic, followed by black and white. Class sizes are about 33-37 average. The principal is quite good, well-respected, has been successful in other probably more upper class schools, and has had an almost cult following of teachers. But I think this time, he may be failing. We had maybe a 20% passing rate for the standardized test last year and it looks like it might be the same this year. This principal has implemented quite a few programs such as an academic lab for after school help, and many programs to get family and student involvement. He's trying everything, but can't seem to get things turned around.

I've become quite a good teacher and have really good control of the classes, researched out the wazoo and implemented the research for effective lessons. But my kids are still failing. There are teachers who I think are better than me but still failing.

My feeling is the problem is curriculum. My students once asked me what I would do if I won the lottery. I said I'd start my own school. I said I wouldn't teach math this way. Another student said if he could start his own school he would do this and that, spouting off amazing ideas. The whole class started talking about it.

This is to you parents who really care about your kids, especially those from disadvantaged areas. Look at the Phillip Exeter Academy, the school where Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook graduated from, and the things they are learning there, and ask why your kids aren't allowed to learn the same interesting curriculum but on their level? It's very interesting, yet cost such little money to make. Check out a book like Mathematical Mysteries to see how the curriculum should created, with rigor. The problem with public school is they create rigor without interest. It's more like rigor mortis. Rebel like hell for your kids against the establishment of bureaucracy and greedy wicked authority. Rebel like hell!!! Once they get that first perception of beauty, their thirst for learning will never stop.

Posted by: Playitagainsam | January 28, 2011 11:55 PM | Report abuse

My feeling is the problem is curriculum.
Posted by: Playitagainsam
When do we develop some common sense?

The problem is not curriculum.

The problem for the poverty schools is large number of children that have a problem learning.

And what they can not learn is how to read which is essential for learning.

What does the curriculum for math, science, or any other subject matter when large number of students can not read.

The reality is that learning is a self teaching activity once a child has learned how to read. A child that can read does not need teachers.

Abraham Lincoln only attended one year in school.

In the same way a student that can not read is dead in the water.

Create effective programs and methods to overcome the obstacles that these children have so that they can read and you have dealt with the problem.

Year after year this is not done while national tests show over 50 percent of students in poverty schools that can not read.

When if ever is there recognition that nothing is important in education if a child can not read.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 29, 2011 12:34 AM | Report abuse


Good point. But I'm pretty sure these kids can read quite well. These are Algebra II and Geometry classes. I'll have to test that. But I haven't noticed any reading problems when I've had them read aloud. But I'll take a closer look.

Posted by: Playitagainsam | January 29, 2011 2:08 AM | Report abuse

But I haven't noticed any reading problems when I've had them read aloud. But I'll take a closer look.

Posted by: Playitagainsam
NCLB was supposedly started to deal with the problem of large numbers of student who failed national tests. Over 50 percent of poverty schools such as the school system in Washington D.C. failed in 4th grade reading tests and large numbers failed in 8th grade reading tests.

Instead of looking at the problem of large numbers of children that for 5 years before entering public school that were intellectually neglected, NCLB blamed the schools. Apparently to NCLB you can neglect the development of a child for 5 years and then expect schools to fix the problem.

NCLB was popular since everyone wants someone to blame instead of dealing with problems.

10 years of NCLB has created the problem of mediocre schools. When the mandate is that everyone is "proficient" it is not surprising that the focus of education is fully on standardized teaching and testing. No one is concerned with how many students score advanced on tests since the penalty and rewards are only for the score of proficient students.

The system requires teachers to obtain results from failing students without any concern why students have so much difficulty in learning.

It is interesting that the United States in viewing countries such as China and India simply disregards the problem of children in these countries that have problems in learning. The reality is that these children are simply ignored in these systems. Children that enter these schools with serious problems in learning are simply ignored.

As a teacher perhaps you should start to think about the effect of a policy for "proficiency" on curriculum and standardized testing. The function of teachers in class rooms is not to teach but instead to raise the number of students in the class that pass as proficient on a standardized test.

You are not really teaching Algebra and Geometry. Rather you are teaching how to pass a standardized test with a curriculum that is based upon memorizing items to pass the test. For example it is hoped that a student memorizes that n to the zero is 1 so the student can give the correct answer on the test. There is absolutely no concern regarding the reasoning or logic of n to the zero being one, and 6 months after the test the student has probably forgotten that n to the zero is 1.

As a teacher you might want to think about a public school where over 50 percent can not read as shown by national tests. These public schools teach algebra, geometry and other subjects to these students. Is there really any purpose in teaching these subjects to students that can not read by the 8th grade. Yes some of these students may have a memory good enough to memorize the items to pass the standardized test but are they learning anything without the ability to read.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 29, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse


Right on-Testing the students to see if they are reading and analyzing the data-you would
be shocked-most kids that are failing in curriculum subject classrooms have a reading,spelling problem at the core.

They read and guess many words,especially multisyllabic ones and afterwards they lose their comprehension.Can`t do anything without comprehension.

We are failing to teach properly K-3,one of the problem sectors is of course Hispanic,Latino students.The other is low SES students.We know so much about what we should do,just try to do it with reading instruction being tied to Corporate America.

Posted by: Reading101 | January 29, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse


It is not government's job to fix poor parenting. Our public schools have obviously failed to educate the current generation of impoverished minorities giving birth out of wedlock to the current crop of students. Our taxdollars are going to support the salaries of teachers who have to deal with what society deals them.

What you are saying is because of birth - 5 yrs. worth of ignorance, the public schools are unable to ever teach these children basic proficiency, cannot teach them to read, write and compute.

That's a cop-out.

Posted by: lisamc31 | January 29, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse


That`s a COMPLETE cop out!

Posted by: Reading101 | January 29, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse


It is not government's job to fix poor parenting. Our public schools have obviously failed to educate the current generation of impoverished minorities giving birth out of wedlock to the current crop of students. Our taxdollars are going to support the salaries of teachers who have to deal with what society deals them.

What you are saying is because of birth - 5 yrs. worth of ignorance, the public schools are unable to ever teach these children basic proficiency, cannot teach them to read, write and compute.

That's a cop-out.

Posted by: lisamc31
And what you are saying is that the policy of the United States is for teachers to overcome the intellectual neglect of children as though there was no problem in teaching these children.

Neglect a child for 5 year and expect the average teacher to simply overcome this neglect and the obstacles in learning.

We do not expect the average mechanic to deal with an automobile that has been neglected as though dealing with a car that has not been neglected.

If someone has totally neglected their car and wanted it fixed a reasonable person would know that it will cost a great deal more to fix and that the car may be in such a state that it can not be fixed. A reasonable person would not believe that a mechanic could fix all the problems by just doing what it is normally done for a car that has been maintained.

I can understand that many Americans do not want to pay extra for an attempt to overcome the problem of neglect before entering school.

In the same way it is unreasonable to simply hold teachers responsible for fixing the problem.

Contrary to popular belief teachers are hired to teach the children that can be taught.

It is interesting that if your house was on fire you would expect the local fire department to do whatever is necessary to put out the fire even if this meant calling in outside resources. You would want them to do this and you would not say that it was a "cop-out" since your local fire department should deal with every fire on their own.

Time for Americans to recognize that venting against teachers and expecting the impossible is counter productive.

It is interesting how politicians have made teachers responsible for the problems in public education while these are the same politicians who can not do anything about our economy. Apparently everyone else has to be held accountable except the individuals calling for the accountability of others.

It is time for Americans to grow up. Deal with the problem or accept that there are large number of children that may never learn because of intellectual neglect prior to entering public school.

It is interesting that before NCLB there has been the acceptance for over two hundred years in this country that not every child can be taught. There has always been high failure rates for poverty children. It is not something that suddenly appeared and can be easily be fixed.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 29, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Our taxdollars are going to support the salaries of teachers who have to deal with what society deals them.
Posted by: lisamc31
First of all only the teachers in the poverty schools work for taxdollars from the federal government.

The salary of most teachers is from property taxes from Americans that are happy with their teachers and their schools.

The poverty schools have always had problems in finding teachers. Before NCLB there was the problem of children that had difficulty in learning. Now after NCLB there is the problem of everyone screaming that it the teachers fault in these schools that these children are not learning. Most teachers do not want to work in these schools as no one wants to be screamed at for not being able to teach children that have problems in learning.

It really appears that Americans want to scream at teachers and they really have no concern with the large number of children that have great problems in learning because of neglect.

In many ways they are as silly as an employer screaming at a worker that alone can not lift a 200 pound box. Maybe the employer feels better for screaming but it does not move the box.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 29, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I'll give you an example from my hometown, a highly impoverished area where roughly 80% of students in the county qualify for free/reduced lunch (and there are no private schools). A few years back, 3 out of 6 elementary schools placed in the top 10 test scores in the state, with averages above proficiency. Now ask me how many people from that same school system go to college? Roughly 30-40% start, only about 20% finish, and of those only about 10% have 4 year degrees (the rest being associate degrees)(I'm also assuming that these stats will hold true for some years to come).
Now some may argue that the elementary schools may have done some shady things, but assuming that their scores were legitimate, I would argue that "Playitagainsam" is absolutely right. You can get 8 year olds to buy into the test-taking, regurgitation behavior just because they're so gosh-darn eager to please. Once they get a little bit older, and you're still boring them, they're done with school. They hate it. And their futures suffer for that reason.

"It really appears that Americans want to scream at teachers and they really have no concern with the large number of children that have great problems in learning because of neglect."

Agreed. I taught in a school,and was screamed at. This isn't to say that teachers should always be improving, but school districts should also do a better job of preparing teachers for that environment, i.e. training in motivating kids who are high poverty and allocating additional resources to help teachers devote the time and energy needed for such kids, individual counseling for abused/neglected kids, etc. (and maybe some parenting classes too, perhaps?). Which will never happen since we continue and continue to cut educational funding to said schools.

Posted by: md1408 | January 29, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: md1408
I agree with you and I think that Americans have to accept that either something fundamentally different has to be done in poverty areas or there should be simply acceptance of high failure rates.

The reality is that this country is looking for a single uniform solution when the reality is that you can not use the same structure and solution when areas have very different problems.

The middle class public schools have the problem of boredom and apathy and these problems are only made worse by a reliance on standardized teaching geared towards standardized testing which has come from NCLB.

The reality is that standardized teaching geared towards standardized testing makes no sense in the poverty area. You can fire all the teachers in these schools but this will have no effect on the inability of the students in these schools to read.

NCLB has simply created a problem in public education without solving any problems.

Either we should address the problems of the poverty children in their inability to learn to read or simply accept large numbers of children that will never learn.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 29, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I see that I should clarify my previous statements about national tests that show over 50 percent failure rates in 4th and 8th grade reading in poverty areas.

These are not failure in proficiency but in basic skills which is the lowest level and indicates that these children simply can not read.

At some point there has to be recognition that there is complete futility if children can not learn to read.

Currently there is no attempt to separate children that can not read in an attempt to address this problem. These children are simply placed in classes with children that can read.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 29, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Your last post is a great idea-like Finland,put 2-3 teachers who are trained in the science of reading in the early grades-up to grade 3-do all the work necessary for them to learn-only 5% will continue to struggle after real research based-science of reading-instruction.
Then,in grade 4 you have a more homogeneous classroom that can tackle curriculum acquisition.

Math today is very language based,it will help those scores too.

Posted by: Reading101 | January 30, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

NCLB and RtT are a mess!

The assumption that teachers can "force" all students to perform to an arbitrarily determined, oftentimes high, standard is laughable.

Can you, for example, reach a high standard of proficiency in your areas of personal deficit? Do you believe you can be taught to be proficient at anything and everything?

Think of something you simply cannot do to save yourself. Think of something that is really hard for you. It might be ballroom dancing, you might have 2 left feet. Or, maybe it is drawing...anything.

Do you believe that if you were placed in a class of 25-38 students representing the normal continuum of natural aptitude for the activity that you could be run through a prescribed number of lock-step lessons and at the end of the unit everyone, including you, would be proficient or better at the activity? I've taken group dancing lessons, I was a disaster, not the instructor.

Let's allow that if you are one of the strugglers your teacher will find a few minutes here and there to "reteach" you, or you might even stay for a few minutes after class for some 1:1 coaching. Do you believe that in a set amount of time you would master the skill? Or, might progress with a much slower progressing curriculum taught in a smaller group and perhaps even then you might only get by, achieve barely basic proficiency, never becoming proficient? That would be me in dance. Thank God I don't have to dance. Just think of what NCLB and RtT could do to the ballroom dance studios of America!

When I took a group ski class in high school that lasted about 8 weeks, once per week, I noticed that the range of talent in our group class was huge. Ostensibly everyone was new to skiing, yet there were 1-2 people who looked like they had been skiing since childhood by the 3rd lesson, and a few who were so overwhelmed and struggled so mightily they dropped out midway and avoided skiing from that moment on.

Does anyone really believe that public school teachers can guarantee equal outcomes (accountability)? Why don't we talk about this foolishness? Or, is it just too convenient to attack and excoriate our public school teachers who are working on the public dime for moderate salaries?

The special education students who are rightly excluded are the moderately and severely mentally retarded, for crying out loud. The mildly retarded and the low average to borderline scoring students are still expected to reach proficient and to graduate college-ready. Suddenly, there is no such thing as natural talent, intelligence, cognitive variation anymore.

Students are empty vessels and teachers simply pour in the knowledge (Waiting for Superman) and teachers who pour well, or mix-up more resilient solutions to pour, are successful.

Anyone can see that this is the height of wishful thinking, or deflection of responsibility.

Posted by: silverstarent2003 | January 30, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

...a great idea-like Finland,put 2-3 teachers who are trained in the science of reading in the early grades-up to grade 3-do all the work necessary for them to learn-only 5% will continue to struggle after real research based-science of reading-instruction.
Posted by: Reading101
This might be an answer as well as other ideas.

The real problem is that there is a refusal to admit that if children can not read there is no point in attempting to educating them further since with out the ability to read it is futile.

If this was accepted the effort would be made to teach children to read in the primary schools.

I really believe that higher percentages of children in the poverty schools could learn to read if this was seen as the absolute goal in the primary schools.

The reality is that there is no real purpose in sending the over 50 percent of children that can not read by the 4th grade to the next grade.

There may be cases of children that have some physical problem that prevents them from reading but this does not explain the over 50 percent that fail to learn to read in the poverty schools by the 4th grade.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 30, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: silverstarent2003
I am not a public school teacher.

I agree with you completely and I feel sorry for teachers that have to live with the lunacy of NCLB and how it has degraded public education and public education teachers in this country.

Public education in this country will not improve until this the lunacy of NCLB is recognized.

Posted by: bsallamack | January 30, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I may be telling my age, but Head of the Class wasn't a bad high school show. It pretty much took place solely in the classroom, and the kids actually participated in scholastic activities and were smart, to boot.

Posted by: Carol7701 | January 31, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company