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Thursday, August 7, 2014

NCLB and Race to the Top: The joke is on us.

It sounded too good to be true when waivers from No Child Left Behind were offered to public schools. It was kind of selling our souls though, because the waiver meant commitment to a new set of micromanaging rules from Race to the Top. Did you know that if a state didn't request a waiver from the impossible mandate of No Child Left Behind, "... as of 2014, if only one child in your school does not score as 'proficient' on state tests, then your school must be 'identified' as 'low performing' under federal law. This year, every school (in Vermont) whose students took the (state) tests last year is now considered a 'low performing' school by the US Department of Education." Some think this is a ridiculous law that is setting schools up to wear the DOE's scarlet letter or be bullied into its next bad idea.


Just because they say so doesn't make it true.



It seems that parents and citizens are being fooled by the misuse of student data. If we believe that these test scores define our children, their teachers, or their schools, the joke is on us. If we reject it as an absolute measure (no matter what the media's school rankings say), we have a chance to have our voices heard.

However, Vermont didn't apply for a waiver from NCLB because "... it would have forced the state to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores, which is unreliable and unfair to teachers and students." (And is now happening in Pennsylvania.)






Some people are saying that this misleading labeling of public schools is the government's way of convincing parents that schools are failing our kids, so we will welcome school choice.

Vermont state commissioner of education, Rebecca Holcomb, is treating parents and guardians with respect. She didn't give into the federal government's threats. Instead, she wrote a letter to families explaining that, "Vermont believes that schools have purposes that are no less important (and perhaps more important) than test scores."
Did I mention I love Vermont?





Some highlights from her letter:

“Just this week, a social media company that compares financial products (WalletHub) analyzed twelve different quality metrics and ranked Vermont’s school system third in the nation in terms school performance and outcomes."

“Nevertheless, if we fail to announce that each Vermont school is 'low performing,' we jeopardize federal funding for elementary and secondary education. The 'low performing' label brings with it a number of mandatory sanctions, which your principal is required to explain to you. This policy does not serve the interest of Vermont schools, nor does it advance our economic or social well-being. Further, it takes our focus away from other measures that give us more meaningful and useful data on school effectiveness."

“It is not realistic to expect every single tested child in every school to score as proficient. Some of our students are very capable, but may have unique learning needs that make it difficult for them to accurately demonstrate their strengths on a standardized test. Some of our children survived traumatic events that preclude good performance on the test when it is administered. Some of our students recently arrived from other countries, and have many valuable talents but may not yet have a good grasp of the academic English used on our assessments. And, some of our students are just kids who for whatever reason are not interested in demonstrating their best work on a standardized test on a given day."


"As parents and caregivers, we embrace a broader vision for our children than that defined in federal policy. Thus, we encourage you to look at your own child’s individual growth and learning, along with evidence your school has provided related to your child’s progress. Below are some questions to consider:
• What evidence does your school provide of your child’s growing proficiency?
• Is your child developing the skills and understanding she needs to thrive in school and
the community?
• Are graduates of your school system prepared to succeed in college and/or careers?
• Is your child happy to go to school and engaged in learning?
• Can your child explain what he is learning and why? Can your child give examples of
skills he has mastered?
• Is your child developing good work habits? Does she understand that practice leads to
better performance?
• Does your child feel his work in school is related to his college and career goals?
• Does your child have one adult at the school whom she trusts and who is committed to
her success?
• If you have concerns, have you reached out to your child’s teacher to share your
perspective?"



Read her entire letter here. Be sure to scroll down until you find it.


We must ask our public officials to represent what we think is best for our children.
Do politicians know best or do parents?









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