Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Are 80% of Schools Leaving Children Behind?

WASHINGTON - MARCH 10:  U.S. President Barack ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

President Obama gave a major address on education yesterday.  He spoke at a middle school in Arlington, Virginia.  The speech provided an outline of the changes he will be proposing to the No Child Left Behind act.  You can read the speech here.

The portion of the address that got the most reaction was the claim by Education Secretary Duncan, that was repeated by the President, that 80% of schools in the country are failing under the NCLB standard.  20% won't get you a passing grade in many classrooms.

The President applauded the goals of NCLB.  Accountability and high standards are still a part of the playbook.  Shining a light on the achievement gap, between black and white students, and between those with and without disabilities, was also lauded in the President's speech.

One statement by the President was particularly encouraging.  Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I hate standardized tests.  They are particularly not suited for measuring good schools vs bad schools.  Poor children, for example, do not perform well on standardized tests.  I could go on, but I won't.

In the president's speech, he embraced the concept of measuring individual student progress vs. standardized tests.  Many of us advocate this method.  Yes, there are problems.  Even with the computerization of our society, it is a lot harder to measure the collective progress of individual kids than to have them sit for a big test, particularly if the kids have serious cognitive problems.  But this seems to be the new direction and that is great.  From a standpoint of fundamental fairness the progress method is a big improvement.

The changes still have to make their way through the Congress.  Lately the U. S. Congress has not been an inspiring place.  So hold your breath and get ready to write to your representatives.  This process of being a citizen is pretty time consuming, but it sure beats the alternative doesn't it?

So what do you think.  Should other changes be made to NCLB?  Do you like the President's approach?  Does the focus on the achievement gap help kids with disabilities?
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