Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Articles like this get my goat

From the local rag:

"Here is the list of Kalamazoo-area schools that failed to make AYP."

In all fairness, I know that the author, Julie Mack, is generally a proponent of public education, although sometimes it would be hard for a casual observer to tell.  On her blog  published not six hours later, she calls for a reform of NCLB.  Even in this article, she doesn't necessarily do anything wrong--she presents the information as it exists, in as succinct a form as the language will permit.

But when a parent reads this article, what they see is "Your school failed."  When an opponent of public education (or an "education reformer") reads this article, they see "Public schools fail."  Then there are the comments.  (I try not to read the comments in my local rag, because they inevitably infuriate me.  I understand that this is a common pattern among the comment section of newspapers online.  I read the first one on accident.)

Look, I'm on the data train.  I think we need good data to make the right decisions.  All stakeholders in education (which, the first comment on the "Your School Failed" article reminds me, is everyone) should have access to information about the achievement of their schools.  Saying that all schools are wonderful! obviously doesn't make schools better places.  There is no need to sugar-coat our shortcomings.  There's no reason we shouldn't ask the community for input on how to improve, and every reason to do so. 

This kind of thing, however, doesn't further that conversation in any meaningful way.  It casts aspersions in the guise of providing information.  It takes as its premise a flawed idea, the idea that naming and shaming is the first best tool for school improvement.  To reiterate, I'm certain that this is not what Ms. Mack intends to do, but I don't know that a reader could help but to see it as an accusation.


Ray said...

Thank you for sharing the articles John. I didn't see the Kalamazoo Gazette articles until you shared them. I had a conversation with our Superintend earlier today and he mentioned it.

My understanding is the waiver that is alluded to has been excepted and Michigan will be required to achieve at 80% proficiency in reading and math.

I am one of the few who is glad NCLB is law. I agree it needs amendments, but with out it, would we have even realized the level of our education of our children in our country. It has required us to be accountable for our students. I had a conversation with a instructional specialist the other day and told them of my fear because of our state taking a waiver from 100% proficiency requirement. I look at all of the work schools have done to train and educate the administration and instructional staff on quality instruction and learning, and most of that was driven by this law and requiring schools to improve.

Schools have moved from being about adults to being about kids and what they learn, not I taught it they can just learn it again next year.

I heard Deb Pickering make a comment that had everyone laughing but hit me as an important comment about how NCLB has changed teaching, she said, "You haven't been teaching 40 years, you have been teaching one year 40 times." There was nothing wrong with the content and curriculum 40 years ago but how students learn has changed and NCLB has forced schools to help make that change.

I could go on how NCLB has forced some schools to change how they treat students for discipline problems. Many schools now teach expectations about behavior and move toward a more positive approach without NCLB. NCLB has a drop-out and graduation competent and if you don't keep the students in the school you don't make AYP. Well, rather than fight the law, which requires more time and energy then changing what I do to reach the set goal, how about accepting it and do the things that will help "every" child have a chance.

Again, I see many problems with NCLB, but don't let anyone forget the positives it has brought to education.

I got off track and certainly agree that the articles do no good for public education and I also agree the author’s intent was not to attack public education, but it is what the stakeholders see. What my comments allude to are the comments at the bottom of newspaper articles. I too should not have read them.

JohnCosby said...

Ray, I think you make some good points about NCLB. They're ones I forget sometimes. In my post I say I'm on the data train, but if it hadn't been for NCLB, would I have ever boarded that train?

We as a profession have worked hard to get where we are, and we know we have a long way to go. And NCLB is a big part of why.

(I'll get into my cynical takedown of the motivations that allowed NCLB to pass Congress some other time.)