Blue Flower

MDC&C-ED-RS-SSI                                                                                                                  12 NOVEMBER 2015

 

MEMORANDUM

 

SUBJECT: MDC&C Newport News Education Services, Religious Support, and Social Services Initiative

 

Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimated that 82% of this country's public schools are not passing the test in educating our children. Learn about the remnants of the No Child Left Behind Act and how the Obama administration plans to raise the bar on standards of education in this country.

 

People typically assume that what is wrong with the public education system is a lack of funding, but this is not necessarily the case. There are cracks in the foundation that the system is built on, and until these issues are addressed, no amount of funding will fix the problem:

 

No Accountability

 

The public education system is very rarely held accountable for the undereducated students it churns out. Schools have the ability to flat out ignore parents and anyone else they do not receive funding from. And if a school is rifled with bad teachers, what happens? Absolutely nothing. The teachers keep their job and the public school stays in business. Nobody wastes time on the concept of customer satisfaction. After all, the customers are merely uneducated kids who won't realize they are getting a raw deal until they enter college or the workforce and find that they can't keep up. Since 1960, the amount spent per pupil has more than tripled after dollars have been adjusted for inflation, yet the education our children are subjected to is not three times better. Why isn't the system being held accountable?

 

Wasted Funds

 

Despite higher-than-average per-pupil expenditures, public educated students in the U.S. are seriously lagging behind public-educated students in other countries. According to the Department of Education, public schools receive an average of $9,969 per pupil-twice the average amount spent per student at private and charter schools. Some areas, like the District of Columbia, spend in excess of $12,000 per public educated pupil. Where is the money going? Does anybody know-or perhaps more importantly-does anybody care? Those who run schools have no personal risk involvement and no incentive to cut costs or increase revenues. In fact, when a school does poorly or spends all of its money, more often than not that school receives even more funding. Without a dose of public outrage, the funds are almost guaranteed to be wasted.

 

Political Agendas

 

Public schools are not required to answer to parents, but they do need to heed the words of politicians and school boards-all of whom have their own political agendas. It would not be an exaggeration to say that these agendas are weakening the entire system. Schools and teachers are frequently forced to deal with supposedly brilliant education plans thought up by state judiciaries, legislatures, and bureaucracies. The taxpayers are then expected to flip the bill to put the plans into motion. For this reason alone, a separation of school and state may be beneficial. By shutting out the interfering politicians and giving the power to the parents and teachers, true accountability may actually come about.

 

One Size Doesn't Fit All

 

There is no one size fits all prescription for education, yet that is exactly what most students receive in a public school. Gifted students often take the same classes as students who need extra help. In rural areas, there are very rarely AP courses or other academic options that will allow students to excel. Good teachers aren't given a chance to spread their wings because they are forced to follow the plans that have been laid out before them. And in the end, it is the children and our society that suffers from the one size fits all teaching style.

 

NCLB

 

The No Child Left Behind Act was created to 'fix' our public schools, but in fact, has done more to damage the system than correct it. Under this law, extreme emphasis is placed on test scores and punitive action. What's worse perhaps is that school districts have been forced to train students for NCLB tests versus offering them the education they deserve. And while the House Education Committee refers to the act as 'unfair', and there is virtually no evidence that NCLB has done anything positive since its inception, the law is up for renewal this fall. Chances are more funding-money that could be used to actually improve the system-will be thrown at the law in a last ditch effort to make it work. But, as history has taught us (or should have taught us), laws should be based on logic versus the amount of funding that can be rustled up.

 

The Obama administration had plans to overhaul the nation's education system when they took office, but budget battles, health care and other priorities took center stage. Now, it appears that education will quickly be moving to the forefront as the current year's test scores from around the country show that the large majority of schools in the United States are missing their mark and headed for failure. With the No Child Left Behind Act created by the Bush administration now headed to the chopping block, the quality of education in this country is set to get another look by congress this spring.

 

 What is the No Child Left Behind Act?

 

According to a report at the Washington Post, the No Child Left Behind Act was a signature educational initiative that originated with President George W. Bush in 2001. The goal of the legislation, which received bipartisan support at the time of signing, was to require schools to bring 100 percent of their students to proficiency in math and reading by the year 2014. Proficiency would be evaluated through annual exams given to students in third through eighth grade and one additional test during high school.

 

Reforming the No Child Left Behind Act has been a focus of the Obama administration because the current president would like to revamp the structure of the legislation to make it more appropriate to the current state of schools today. Part of the changes President Obama would like to make include loosening the accountability rules for schools that are performing well, while cracking down harder on those that do not make the grade.
President Obama would also like to shift the purpose of the legislation beyond simply looking at test scores each year to actually monitoring the progress school are making toward producing more students who fall within math and reading guidelines.

 

The Bar is Raised

 

This year, No Child Left Behind will come to the forefront of the congressional agenda if the number of failing schools predicted by Education Secretary Arne Duncan is correct. According to an article in the New York Times, Duncan has told congress that more than 80,000 of the nation's 100,000 public schools will receive failing grades this year under the act. The numbers are based on an analysis of testing trends and the current state of the act's pass-fail system used to rate schools. Duncan has proposed that the dire 82 percent of failing schools in the country is an indication that the No Child Left Behind Act is not working the way it was originally intended. According to the Los Angeles Times, Duncan told the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, "No Child Left Behind is broken and we need to fix it now. This law has created a thousand ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed. We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk."

 

Duncan is referring to the fact that No Child Left Behind is considered idealistic by the standards of many education experts today. It does not take into account the challenges of states that have diverse populations in terms of race and income level. The law also could demoralize schools with so many achieving a failing grade, which could in turn lower property values and mislead parents about the quality of education in their areas.

 

Schools Unable to Perform to Expectations

 

During the years since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law, schools have been failing to meet minimum requirements toward this goal in larger and larger numbers. During the 2006-2007 school year, 28 percent of schools failed to meet their proficiency goals. In the past academic year, that number rose to 37 percent. Some education officials were predicting that the law was nearing a tipping point, where the majority of schools would be unable to meet their goals, despite the hard work put in to do so.

 

Still, the huge jump to 82 percent of schools for this academic year is a surprise. Some school officials and members of congress have even expressed skepticism over the predictions. Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, told Education Week, "I hope they're right. They're dealing with their credibility." He has asked the department to draft a technical paper explaining its calculations in more detail.

 

Others have been much quicker to criticize and question the data. Charles Barone, the director of federal legislation for Democrats for Education Reform, told Education Week that the number was highly misleading. Barone added, "I think they're going to regret this. While I understand their frustration in trying to pass the law, I think it's only going to hurt them. They're creating an atmosphere of fear."

 

The changes President Obama would like to see to the No Child Education Act include a replacement of the 2014 proficiency deadline with a goal to have all students ready for college or the workforce by 2020. He would also like to shift the focus in problematic school districts to improvements in student performance rather than simply rating by test scores. However, schools that fall into the bottom five percent of the ranking system would still face the requirement to follow one of the Education Department's turnaround models to bring about the necessary improvements for the benefit of their students.

 

The Montessori model

 

Students should experience themselves as triumphant problem solvers. This exhilaration helps make computer games addictive. Like video game players, students should go on to the next level only after mastering the previous one, taking as long as they need to solve each problem, and staying with it as long as they like.

 

Though it might seem impossible, offering individualized, self-directed learning in public schools has been done. The Montessori method, which uses these approaches, has been successfully adopted by public school systems, including in inner cities. Students in these schools achieve equal or superior academic performance to their peers, and superior outcomes in social skills and engagement. While this method isn't a panacea, it provides a feasible, well-tested basis for developing teaching methods grounded in cognitive neuroscience research.

 

Scientifically sound, individualized instruction should be our new educational standard. It's time to shift our focus from administrative changes to fundamental classroom reforms that will truly make a difference. This is an urgent necessity — our children's well-being and our economic and technological edge in the 21st century are at stake.

 

 

 

Contact Madison Downs Chaplaincy and Consulting (MDC&C) for more information.