Friday, August 08, 2008

The Mobile Press-Register's rose-colored glasses

My apologies to this beagle. And Voltaire. The P-R's Alabama schools continue to improve isn't a total dud yet I hope somebody down there has at least heard of Education Sector's The Pangloss Index: How States Game the No Child Left Behind Act by Kevin Carey. Alabama Policy Institute's Gary Palmer had even cited it in the past as per a LTE I dropped in my hometown Randolph Leader (that was edited!) in response to one of his rare efforts that I initially found some sympathy toward.

I've posted often on the many, many flaws in Bu$hCo's NCLB. And I've also admitted that Ted Kennedy and others on the left are due a good share of the blame. Some of the liberals that went along with the plan were I think tricked by promises of funds flowing to address the root causes of some of the problems facing public education. I also accept that the movement toward "accountability" started way back in the days of Reagan.

One of my favorite posts sent you to Daily Kos via Bu$hCo's No Child Left Behind applied to football. There's also Bu$hCo's DOE Makes NCLB Even Worse where I look at Alabama's supposedly wonderful Reading First program. I tackled much in that last post and I still would like to have had some feedback that I never received. I did a parenthetical stream of consciousness type post with George Will's Right is Wrongerest. Also, profiteers milking NCLB have received some attention. The Big Mules in testing that often make errors in, or merely deliver late, the precious data have also been scolded.

But my main beef is the whole model of NCLB. Good teachers, not bureaucrats, are celebrated! works for a jumping off point. No Child Left Behind - Four Years and Doubting is another.

Like the WaPo did here, the P-R simply accepts NCLB's measures of success without question. Maybe they can lure Jim "the Tool" Wooten away from the AJC? They have shown sympathy toward privatization in the past so Jim might fit right in.

Let's travel across the state for some additional reporting on this latest round of numbers from some of the smaller papers ... Kerry Whipple Bean of the Brewton Standard provided some context for reporting on numbers in the Brewton/Escambia County system. In that same neck of the woods Adrienne McKenzie on the Atmore Advance reports Nine out of 11 schools make AYP where she interviewed some of the local bureaucrats, None were bold enough to attack the flawed legislation. Guy Rhodes of The Tuskegee News reported All Macon schools make the AYP grade and likewise local and state officials took the safe route in their replies. I can't help but think of Upton Sinclair's "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

County school system achieves AYP from Peggy Blackburn of the Wetumpka Herald likewise didn't offer any criticisms of NCLB. School report card should please all of us from the editor(s) of Dekalb County's Times-Journal rightly pointed out that funding promised when NCLB was passed didn't follow but claimed that was "typical for Washington, D.C."

Kelly Tabor of the Dothan Eagle/Enterprise Ledger reports Enterprise High misses mark in special education reading and supplies some limited criticisms of NCLB. Leada Gore of The Hartselle Enquirer began her reporting with "Imagine getting all A’s on your report card before the school year even started. That’s what’s happening for Hartselle City Schools, as school leaders celebrate perfect scores on the state’s annual yearly progress report." yet did she attempt to explain the mysteries of NCLB??

Justin Schuver of the Andalusia Star-News gets some snaps for including the following quote from Andalusia City Schools' superintendent Dr. Beverly McAnulty:

"I think there's some good that has come out of NCLB, because it has required us to look at standards and help us to understand whether or not all kids are really achieving," she said. "But at the same time, I don't think the test measures everything that we do in the school, so there are other success factors that I think are important if you're deciding whether or not it is a quality school."
Most if not all snaps are taken back by the title Schools meet U.S. standards since in fact there are no U.S. standards.

The Sand Mountain Reporter included the following in their review:

These standards are set up in the federally mandated “No Child Left Behind Act,” and there are serious flaws in this system. Still, it is encouraging to know all our local schools are either at the standard or making progress towards reaching it.
I'd have welcomed their expaining the serious flaws yet admitting they are there is appreciated. Most papers, especially the smaller ones, seemed to just parrot what they are told from the state and the locals. They could do better.

Given all the above I surely appreciate the following wisdom from John Ehinger of the Huntsville Times. He closed an editorial looking at these generally positive numbers with:

... no one should conclude that the AYP results alone automatically guarantee that schools are educating children to prepare them for the world they will encounter in only a few years.

The annual AYP evaluation is only one among many, many measurements, but it's proving useful nonetheless. Education is a lifetime activity, and public education is a work in progress. Everyone has a stake in ensuring that it does the job society needs.

Amen! The Huntsville Times also shared Behind the ratings as a clear, concise summary of how these figures get figured. I also note that the P-R's Rena Havner supplied How does the state rate its schools? - Answers to frequently asked questions but it is more stenographic than I'd have preferred.

Finally, the P-R's piece should be contrasted with the way the Montgomery Advertiser opined on the generally positive news. Their State's academic progress is real pointed out how in the past the Post Office's "on-time rate was up mostly because of the new definition" of "on time". However, the Advertiser also didn't question the foundational flaw of NCLB that measurement of academic progress is best determined by how well a child does on a high stakes test that measures only a limited facet of learning. I loathe Jim "The Tool" Wooten yet his "ash and trash" analogy is at least somewhat correct as even he accepts many variables influence how a child learns that are clearly out of the hands of the schools/teachers.

I'll close with what I wrote back on April Fool's Day in 2007. John Gunn

Standardized testing is fine for some limited purposes and in some subjects yet NCLB, thus most every public school, especially those serving the truly challenging students, essentially forces teachers to focus on those simple matters that can be measured. And this results in some things that are really important being ignored or at least minimized to the point of no positive result. Taking time to think takes away from the "canned and scanned" we get from "accountablity". The global, knowledge-based economy is going to require thinkers not test takers! Winners in the 21st century are going to need to be able to work with fluid, often copious amounts of information, rather than being able to recall one damn fact after the other. Isn't this rather certain? Tell me where I'm wrong please if you think I'm wrong.
UPDATE ~ Does Dothan High being "under the gun" relate to this story on their failing to meet AYP for at least three different reasons or this story where it is reported, "The first day of classes turned sour at Dothan High School as some students were sent home and two parents were arrested, including a mother who was shot with a Taser as police on campus detained her son on a burglary warrant."?

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