Monday, May 2, 2011

President Obama shared ideas for fixing NCLB

ASCD’s David Griffith, director of public policy, and Tina Dove, manager of public policy advocacy, attended the speech, at which President Obama also shared the following ideas for fixing NCLB:

Here are my thoughts-

                Improve how we measure success and failure so that schools that are making progress with their students aren’t unfairly penalized and schools that are struggling get the help they need.
This makes me breathe a sigh of relief. I worked with several schools in Charlotte that were making progress with their students but still being penalized because they hadn’t reached the benchmark. I also taught in a couple of schools in Michigan that were performing very well (95% passing state tests), but looking at not making Adequate Yearly Progress because they had hit a plateau. My experiences are just a very small example of what is happening all over the country. I hope that a realistic solution can be implemented.

                Set better standards that prepare students for college and careers, and create better assessments that show whether students are making progress and mastering high-level thinking skills.
Better assessments? Did I read this correctly? THANK YOU!
One of my biggest concerns about standardized testing is not that it takes up too much time or the teachers are “teaching to the test”, but that the test don’t always measure what’s really important. Many times the test questions are poorly written or the answer choices are confusing. As a teacher and curriculum consultant I have had the opportunity to read many, many test questions from several different states. If the subject matter expert (me) reads a question and says, “What??” then how do we expect the kids to demonstrate knowledge? I have to say that over the last 5 yrs. the quality of multiple test questions has improved. But that brings me to my next point, multiple choice questions are not a good measure of what students really know. For awhile the tests were including constructed response or essay questions, but with budget cuts we went back to all multiple choice. It is no secret that these tests don’t do a great job of telling us what our kids REALLY know, but we have to assess them…
We are using these tests that are not a good measure of what students know to evaluate our teachers.

                Hold schools accountable for their students’ success, not through rigid mandates, but in ways that encourage creativity and empower educators and students.
Taking into account differences in schools and the students in those schools is key here. Individuals are motivated by different things (goals, relationships, incentives). I think it is very narrow minded to think that every teacher in every school will be motivated to perform by the same incentives or the same punitive consequences. So without creativity we will never discover what works.

                Make sure our certified teachers are also outstanding teachers by improving how we prepare and support them, measure their success in the classroom, and hold them accountable.
Authentic PLCs can go along way to supporting and holding our teachers accountable. Teachers should be meeting with colleagues on a regular basis to discuss current education research, looking student work and their own work. This is not happening. I know I have mentioned this before in my blog, but I feel so strongly that this could be the missing piece to the puzzle! If you haven’t already, purchase and read The Practice of Authentic PLCs: A Guide to Effective Teacher Teams by Daniel R. Venables (Corwin Press, 2011).

House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) was circumspect on President Obama’s proposed timeline for fixing NCLB, saying the committee needs to take the time to get it right. Kline also said the House would not approve one comprehensive education bill, instead breaking up NCLB reauthorization into separate pieces of legislation. 

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