June 21, 2007

The civil rights battleground of our time...

One of the things that infuriates me about a lot of "conservatives" is the way they refer to NCLB (the No Child Left Behind Act) as a foolish liberal boondoggle, and an example of Bush's naivete in working with Teddy Kennedy. In fact the money involved was a sweetener (and a bribe) for a bill that gave the feds some extremely big sticks to force change on the nation's public schools. And public schools are the civil rights battleground of our time, where the poor and minorities suffer oppression to maintain the power base of the Democrat Party. (Hmmm. Funny thing how these things repeat. Slavery, defended by Democrats. Jim Crow....defended by Democrats.) I think Teddy was snookered by a much smarter guy.

But it has been frustrating for me because there is little reporting on the subject. The Big Stick won't work unless it is used, and bureaucrats tend to resist doing what the Bush Administration wants. And I don't know much about what's going on under the surface. This article, By Nancy Zuckerbrod, is rather interesting...

NEW YORK - The scarlet letter in education these days is an "R." It stands for restructuring — the purgatory that schools are pushed into if they fail to meet testing goals for six straight years under the No Child Left Behind law.

Nationwide, about 2,300 schools are either in restructuring or are a year away and planning for such drastic action as firing the principal and moving many of the teachers, according to a database provided to The Associated Press by the Education Department. Those schools are being warily eyed by educators elsewhere as the law's consequences begin to hit home.

Schools fall into this category after smaller changes, such as offering tutoring, fall short. The effort is supposed to amount to a major makeover, and it has created a sense of urgency that in some schools verges on desperation....(Thanks to Orrin)

See below for a bit more of the article. Including the sentence, "The administration also wants the federal law to override provisions in collective bargaining agreements." Jeez, for being "not conservative," Bush sure does some funny things...

....Other changes the administration is pushing include giving schools in restructuring more options. The Education Department has proposed letting them become charter schools, which are public but operate more freely than traditional schools, regardless of state limits on how many charter schools are allowed. The administration also wants the federal law to override provisions in collective bargaining agreements to ensure failing schools have complete control over who works there.

"These are schools where there are some significant problems," Briggs said. "Without more serious action, we're going to keep getting what we've gotten."

Regardless of whether No Child Left Behind is altered, the message is getting to schools that they must make real changes now, said Douglas Anthony, principal of Arrowhead Elementary in Upper Marlboro, Md., a suburb of Washington.

During a recent visit, first and fourth graders alike were busy with math and reading basics.

It was around 2 p.m, shortly before the school day was to end, and a time when elementary-age students might typically be playing tag, working on craft projects or just easing into the end of the academic day.

But at Arrowhead, a school in the restructuring planning stage, math worksheets were on the desks, kids were sounding out vowels and special-ed teachers were working with small groups of children.

Superintendent Deasy acknowledges the atmosphere at Arrowhead is more intense than at schools that aren't facing restructuring. He said lessons at schools missing testing goals have to be very targeted, and he says there often isn't time for electives and free play like at other schools.

Critics of the law complain about such constraints. But Deasy said Arrowhead's test scores are heading in the right direction, precisely because students are on task and teachers are talking about instruction rather than cafeteria menus or bus schedules.

Said Principal Anthony: "There's a new level of urgency about the work we have to do for students."
Posted by John Weidner at June 21, 2007 7:14 AM
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