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Often critics of No Child Left Behind, the Federal education law that is due for reauthorization in 2007(and hence SHOULD be part of the debate of every House and Senate race this cycle), focus on things like time drawn away from instruction for test preparation or the costs imposed on states beyond the funds provided by the fededral government. Some, including me, note how the law seems structured to define public schools as failing and to enrich certain educational providers who often have personal (Neil Bush) or political (Harold McGraw) links to Bush and those around him.

This morning I'd like to offer for your consideration a somewhat different perspective, one that attempts to place it all in context.  I will below offer the contents of a PDF released by the National Council Of Churches, downloadable here, entitled Ten Moral Concerns in the Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act; A Statement of the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy .  The document is only two pages, and well worth your consideration.

I will not quote all of the document.   I will offer the introductory paragraph, and then each of the ten concerns expressed by NCC.   I will offer a few comments of my own.  Where underlining and/or italics is shown, it appears that way in the original.

The introduction:

Christian faith speaks to public morality and the ways our nation should bring justice and compassion into its civic life.  This call to justice is central to needed reform in public education, America's largest civic institution, where enormous achievement gaps alert us that some children have access to excellent education while other children are left behind. The No Child Left Behind Act is a federal law passed in 2001 that purports to address educational inequity.  Now several years into No Child Left Behind's implementation, as its hundreds of sequential regulations have begun to be triggered, it is becoming clear that the law is leaving behind more children than it is saving. The children being abandoned are our nation's most vulnerable children--children of color and poor children in America's big cities and remote rural areas--the very children the law claims it will rescue. We examine ten moral concerns in the law's implementation.

Here is the complete first concern:

1.  While it is a civic responsibility to insist that schools do a better job of educating every child, we must also recognize that undermining support for public schooling threatens our democracy.  The No Child Left Behind Act sets an impossibly high bar--that every single student will be proficient in reading and math by 2014.  We fear that this law will discredit public education when it becomes clear that schools cannot possibly realize such an ideal.

Complete proficiency by 2014 is impossible for almost every school, even if you do nothing except test prep.  In the meantime, at some point just about every school will fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress and thus be in jeopardy of being labelled failing.

2.  The No Child Left Behind Act has neither acknowledged where children start the school year nor celebrated their individual accomplishments.  A school where the mean eighth grade math score for any one subgroup grows from a third to a sixth grade level has been labeled a "in need of improvement" (a label of failure) even though the students have made significant progress. The law has not acknowledged that every child is unique and that thresholds are merely benchmarks set by human beings. Now, four years into implementation, the Department of Education has stated it will begin experimenting with permitting 10 states to measure student growth. Too many children will continue to be labeled failures even though they are making strides.

The fact that the Department of Education is allowing such experimentation is seen by some advocates of the law that DOE really wants to see success.  I fear that there are two other reasons. First it is an indication that the law was flawed in its original design.  The second reason may be more sinister   -- allow flexibility now is intended to remove as much as possible the fact that necessary "progress" is not being achieved as a political issue in this election cycle.  If the full impact of NCLB is beginning to be understood in the states, it would make education a hot political issue.  NCLB was always in part intended to be something to remove the issue of education from political discourse because it was something on which Democrats had a significant advantage over Republicans.

3.  Because the No Child Left Behind Act ranks schools according to test score thresholds of children in every demographic subgroup, a "failing group of children" will know when they are the ones who made their school a "failing" school.  They risk being shamed among their peers, by their teachers and by their community.  The No Child Left Behind Act has renamed this group of children the school's "problem group."  In some schools educators have felt pressured to counsel students who lag far behind into alternative programs so they won't be tested. This has increased the dropout rate.

I think the foregoing is pretty self-explanatory.  Merely focus on the following  --  "failing group"   "shame"   "increased the dropout rate"   --- please explain how there are supposed to support the idea of leaving no child behind?

4.   TheNo Child Left Behind Act requires children in special education to pass tests designed for children without disabilities. schools by concentrating on the schools alone.

And because of this, one might argue that MCLB violates the spirit of three major laws designed to more fully integrate handicapped, learning disabled and other special education students, The Rehabilitation Act, IDEA, and ADA.

5.   The No Child Left Behind Act requires English language learners to take tests in English before they learn English. It calls their school a failure because they have not yet mastered academic English.

6.   The No Child Left Behind Act blames schools and teachers for many challenges that are neither of their making nor within their capacity to change. The test score focus obscures the importance of the quality of the relationship between the child and teacher.  Sincere, often heroic efforts of  teachers are made invisible. While the goals of the law are important--to proclaim that every child can learn, to challenge every child to dream of a bright future, and to prepare all children to contribute to society--educators also need financial and community support to accomplish these goals.

The incorrect underlying assumption of the testing regimen of NCLB is that what is being measure (a) is strictly the result of what happens in schools, and (b) that it is also an accurate measure of anything of importance within the school.  Neither assumption is correct, as point 6 makes clear.

7.    The relentless focus on testing basic skills in the No Child Left Behind Act obscures the role of the humanities, the arts, and child and adolescent development. While education should cover basic skills in reading and math, the educational process should aspire to far more. We believe education should help all children develop their gifts and realize their promise--intellectually physically, socially, and ethically. The No Child Left Behind Act treats children as products to be tested, measured and made more uniform.

This point addressed the narrowing of the curriculum as bluntly as is possible.  It points out that even were we educating every child by this approach, we would not be educating the whole child.  One can note that not onlysubjects not being tested being cut back or even eliminated from elementary schools, we are seeing a reduction of recess time.  We face a ballooning of chidlhood obesity, and we already know that children need time to exercise and burn off energy.  This approach is therefore dangerous to the longterm health of our children and our society.

8.   Because the No Child Left Behind Act operates through sanctions, it takes federal Title I funding away from educational programing in already overstressed schools and uses these funds to bus students to other schools or to pay for private tutoring firms.  A "failing" school district may not be permitted to create its own public tutoring program, but it is expected to create the capacity to regulate private firms that provide tutoring for its students.  One of the sanctions provided is to close or reconstitute the "failing" school or to make it into a charter school, but in many places charter schools are unregulated.

A succinct statement of one of the major failings of NCLB's punitive measures, the lack of regulation.  This lack of regulation also applies to the providers of supplemental services, many of which are for profit organizations with little or no track record of prior success in the kinds of services they are selling.

9.  The No Child Left Behind Act exacerbates racial and economic segregation in metropolitan areas by rating homogeneous, wealthier school districts as excellent, while labeling urban districts with far more subgroups and more complex demands made by the law as "in need of improvement."  Such labeling of schools and districts encourages families with means to move to wealthy, homogeneous school districts.

Racial and economic segregation, or should we properly label it as apartheid.  It will merely perpetuate what Jonathan Kozol years ago properly termed as "Savage Inequalities."

The late Senator Paul Wellstone wrote, "It is simply negligent to force children to pass a test and expect that the poorest children, who face every disadvantage, will be able to do as well as those who have every advantage. When we do this, we hold children responsible for our own inaction and unwillingness to live up to our own promises and our own obligations."  The No Child Left Behind Act makes demands on states and school districts without fully funding reforms that would build capacity to close achievement gaps. To enable schools to comply with the law's regulations and to create conditions that will raise achievement, society will need to increase federal funding for the schools that serve our nation's most vulnerable children and to keep Title I funds focused on instruction rather than on transportation and school choice.

Wellstone was one of the few in either chamber of Congress who truly understood the implications of this issue.   Here I would caution that money applied to the schools is an insufficient solution, because the inequality of our schools is a reflection of the inequality of our society at large.  This is a moral issue, and NCC recognizes it as such:

Christian faith demands, as a matter of justice and compassion, that we be concerned about public schools.  The No Child Left Behind Act approaches the education of America's children through an inside-the-school management strategy of increased productivity rather than providing resources and support for the individuals who will shape children's lives.  As people of faith we do not view our children as products to be tested and managed but instead as unique human beings to be nurtured and educated.  We call on our political leaders to invest in developing the capacity of all schools. Our nation should be judged by the way we care for our children.

I realize that some who read this will object to the injection of faith into the discussion.  I would remind those that without leadership by clergy, the civil rights movement would not have achieved the success it did.  When people attempt to impose their faith upon others, then I object even if there is congruence between their set of beliefs and my own.  But when people are motivated by their faith to seek to help those not of their own kith, kin or faith groups, and when they seek to do so by persuasion in the marketplace of ideas and by attempting to persuade policy makers, then I welcome the discussion.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 03:13 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I hope you find this useful (71+ / 0-)

    and will respond accordingly with valued commentary, recommendations if worthy of remaining visible, and the like.

    I regret that my own participation in the dialog may be limited, as I have to head off and proctor the SAT, and do not know how much access to a computer I will have.

    Behave yourself while the teacher is away.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 03:08:30 AM PST

    •  My heart goes out to all public school teachers (10+ / 0-)

      who work so hard to negotiate NCLB. I am not qualified
      to reply to this but am, anyway, since I'm one of those awake
      to read your diary. Teaching in a private school that tries to
      encourage every student, offer financial aid, keep the learning
      disabled & ESL students going on to graduation, without imposing
      faith on them, I can only say that faith, when used for the right reason, any time, can be in good faith.

      It is always hard enough to teach to the AP test for me. I don't
      know what I'd have to do to teach to the standardized tests
      that, as a huge bonus to us private school teachers, lead to
      100's of well thought out lesson plans on the internet.

      See? I'm not qualified to reply, but I do love your posts,
      teacherken, & hope you get through SAT proctoring. God,
      how boring that can be! Especially when the powers-that-be
      are monitoring that we not do anything but stare at the
      kidlets w/their booklets.

      It is never too late to be what you might have been...George Elliot

      by begone on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 03:42:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  More attention must be paid to our public schools (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Quotefiend, Unduna, imabluemerkin

      Thank you again teacherken for opening up the DK to a discourse on public education. Not enough time is spent on it.

      The children being abandoned are our nation's most vulnerable children--children of color and poor children in America's big cities and remote rural areas.

      In my opinion, the greatest threat to our Democracy is a silent killer – the apathetic view that so many people have of public education. And this is an apathy shown by many in the Democratic party.

      Complete proficiency by 2014 is impossible for almost every school, even if you do nothing except test prep.  In the meantime, at some point just about every school will fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress and thus be in jeopardy of being labelled failing.

      There are many in the Republican Party that have wanted to dismantle public education and the Department of Education. I agree that this may still be part of the ultimate goal of NCLB.

      •  which is why I have been pushing educ as issue (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jcrit, Quotefiend, dannyinla

        to every Democrat I can find who is running for office.  I cannot dictate what their position will be, but given reauthorization of NCLB in 2007, any candidate for Federal office really has to have a position, and it should be clearly thought out.  I try to nudge them away from the frame of just tinkering with NCLB, because in general I believe it needs to be totally rewritten  - that is, we need a very different approach to Federal involvement with education.  I will settle in the short term for ameliorating the worst punitive effects of the current law, even as I strive for much more.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:13:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  DOE Funded Stud: Pub schools outperform Private (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jcrit, DeweyCounts

          This just in.

          Actually, the war on public education has been ongoing for about 15 or 20 years now.

          It's basically a Christian right initiative.

          Anyway, here's a writeup on the study, and more.

          •  Ripe (0+ / 0-)

            Never has the institution of public education been more vulnerable.

            Conservatives are successfuly framing the debate. Do you believe all children can learn?  If so, when they don't; who gets blamed / held accountable? Do you want to throw good money after bad?

            Meanwhile, many of the minority students or "sub-groups" have parents that were SYSTEMATICALLY denied educational opportunities.  Perhaps that has had some influence on their current economic status, which in turn, has an impact on their ability to help their children be successful in school.

            So only a generation ago, the federal government didn't really give two toots about how well minority students performed in school.  The Republicans want everyone to believe that the effects of centuries of racial oppression can be erased by a mandate.  How convenient.

          •  Great writeup TF (0+ / 0-)

            Just got back from your site.  I will be reading regularly.

            The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

            by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 11:14:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Also, I know the NCC Approach was very calibrated (0+ / 0-)

          IN political terms, I'm sure the NCC statement was very carefully considered, but leaders of the Christian right have said rather bluntly what they're up to.

          Given the close association of the Christian right to the Bushg Administration then, I think it would have been appropriate for the NCC to at least raise the question :

          Is it possible that NCLB was actually designed to further the agenda of the Christian right ?

          How otherwise can we make sense of its results ?

    •  the moral equivalent of Medicare Part D (0+ / 0-)

      and destined to just as great of a corrupt failure.

      Bush gives pubic hair a bad name.

      by seesdifferent on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 09:35:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  New DOE study : Public Schools beat Private ! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, bee, imabluemerkin

      I've done two dKos diaries in succession on this.

      A DOE funded study from U/Illinois at Champagne-Urbana has determined that - adjusting for demographic and various other differences in student population, public schools do a better job than private ones. Further, conservative Christian Schools perform the worst among private schools generally.

      I've done a writeup on that study and on the Christian right's war on the public schools

    •  I have just finished SAT administration (0+ / 0-)

      I was able to watch the progress of this diary, as far as how many comments and where it was on the recommends list, but this is basically the first time sine about 7:10 that I have had a chance to respond.

      I have stopped at the Starbucks near school to make responses, postively (only postively I hope) rate comments, etc, before I head back to Soiuth of the Potomac.

      It looks like the students behaved well despite the absence of the teacher.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:08:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I hope you find this useful (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Thank you so much.  As an 8th grade teacher in Texas we are under alot of pressure every day.  It is especially bad over the next few weeks as we prepare for our state exams in April.  I will print this out for everyone in my school to read.

      "Only the educated are free." -Epictetus

      by 20shadesofviolet on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 11:35:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Apologizing for Beliefs should never have to be (14+ / 0-)

    It is one of the most tedious, annoying and exhausting aspects of life on the left that introducing one's beliefs, and perspectives of belief, requires a heavy dose of preface, qualification and --- for some value systems -- apology, as well.

    Of course, there is another side to this...

    The most tedious, annoying and exhausting aspect of life on the right is introducing one's reasons, and judgments based on reason, because that requires a heavy does of preface, qualification and -- when going against the herd impulse of the moment -- apology, as well.

    We're just going to have to figure out an optimum mix, somehow. :)

    more importantly

    This is some great work, Teach. :)

    We're all Helens now. :)

    by cskendrick on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 03:26:06 AM PST

    •  Tell me where on the Right (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cskendrick, bjackrian, sick of it all

      anything is based on reason.  I want to see!

      "In the beginning the universe was created. This has been widely criticized and generally regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams

      by LithiumCola on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 03:48:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  All kidding aside (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sick of it all

        It is not perfectly unreasonable to look out for number one.

        It's just dishonest, even evil, to pretend to do otherwise, when that is all one is doing.

        As for me

        Oh, I'm self-promoting as hell. But I think there's a market out there for what I'm selling --- Cheap laughs, and lots of them. :)

        We're all Helens now. :)

        by cskendrick on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:06:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  provided that is not the limits of your vision (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          here I think of the great statement of Hillel:

          If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?

          I do not ask that one ignore the needs of oneself, or of one's kith and kin, but it is immoral to consider only those needs -- we are, after all, part of a larger society.  Since the title of the education bill claims to leave no child behind, it at least implies ann understanding of a societal commitment to children other than one's own.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:17:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Figure/ground: flip your assumptions (0+ / 0-)

        Try this on for size :

        NCLB was intended - from the start - to tear down public schools.

        That can't be proven but it fits best with the known facts and the close political allegiance of the Bush Administration to leaders on the Christian right who have spoken - quite plainly - of their hostility to public education.

        They want to destroy it.

    •  glad you liked it (5+ / 0-)

      but I remember that when I offered my statement for Pastro Dan a year or so ago a lot of people were upset that the idea of operating from the basis of one's religious beliefs was even introduced here.  Oh well....

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:00:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I posted one, too. (6+ / 0-)

        I'll go ahead and be brave now.

        For some reason, many of our peers do not acknowledge that is possible to be both progressive and a participant in religious practices that might have any commonality with those our brethren on the right espouse.

        Though I suppose being a Quaker is by definition both traditionalist and contrarian to majoritarian will.

        See? I remember a thing or two. :)

        We're all Helens now. :)

        by cskendrick on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:04:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Last year's 'attack on Christmas' (6+ / 0-)

          was when I went back and read the constitution again.  I was struck by it's simple eloquence.

          Amendment I
          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

          That's when it hit me.  What this means is that the city fathers (or other designated group)can't put a nativity on the town square..... but you also can't PREVENT EVERY HOUSE AROUND THE TOWN SQUARE from putting up a nativity. Which approach  is a more  powerful expression of faith???

          The “war on Christianity”, shares some common elements with NCLB, one, in reality it has nothing to do with what it proclaims itself to be concerned about, and two, it’s really about collecting power (political, religious, economic) in the hands of a few.  Kinda like a dictatorship

          •  Our contemporary Pharisees (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            are no more worthy as trustees of faith as the ones of two thousand years ago.

            Not exclusively or even primarily because of their views on a certain rabbi out of Nazareth, but because of their turning faith into a weapon against those who need faith the most.

            We're all Helens now. :)

            by cskendrick on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:07:30 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  careful about Pharisees (0+ / 0-)

              since Hillel was a Pharisee, and since even Paul claimed to have been a Pharisee.   In fact, historically (if you look beyond the Gospel text) the Pharisees were in fact the more liberal and liberating of the two main strands at the time.

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

              by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:20:27 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Unless I missed something (0+ / 0-)

                They were a theocratic cabal with a political agenda and strong connections to both the court of Herod and the local Roman military bureaucracy.

                Which Paul had, too, prior to his becoming Paul.

                And I suppose, just like Republicans, they had some good eggs in there. Somewhere. :)

                We're all Helens now. :)

                by cskendrick on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:28:12 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  well, some Quakers are not traditionalists (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          given how many Meeting are willing to bless same sex marriages, for example.

          Thanks for remembering, and for your active participation in this thread during my enforced absence!

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:19:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I Understand What You Are Saying Partly (8+ / 0-)

      I am concerned that when we do these symmetrical constructs in an effort to do a little self criticism,   that a little bit of reality is lost in the process. In the end we might be feeding into stereotypes that do not do the left's public image any favors.

      The theme that many on the left have mentioned when talking about religion and politics is that the right focuses on the aspect of private morality and completely neglects religion's great traditions in public morality. I don't really notice the prefaces that come in when talking about it. When this atheist argues my view on the Iraq War, I frequently mention the so-called religous right is violating the concept of Just War theory that has been prominent in Christian theological discussions over the years. I don't know if you see the left apologizing for religion as much as you claim. A good percentage come to their views by way of religion. Even though I am an atheist, I have great respect for that.  

      •  wish I had time to respond in depth (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I don't, so accept for now at least the recommend in the place of commentary

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:05:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Teacherken invoked 'The Pastordan Project' (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It went way past pie war into full-fledged exchange of weapons of mousse destruction.

        Or less colloquially, a lot of folks were outraged. Remarks were along the lines that just because a lot of people still believe in superstitions doesn't mean that the left should accommodate them in the least.

        Much badness ensued. But it passed.

        The mousse was tasty, too. :)

        We're all Helens now. :)

        by cskendrick on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:11:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Like Fights In A Bar... (4+ / 0-)

          I usually try to avoid the pie fights. I grab my beer and crawl under the tables to the door. I do check the police reports in the paper the next day.

          People who have had a bad experience with religion growing up and are annoyed with Falwell right can really maintain a persistant presence on the threads at times. At times I do step in and try to make peace when the issue comes up. I'm an atheist who likes what Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell have had to say about religion. I have respect for the role of religion and feel that if as an atheist you do not come up with something to replace it, you are missing an element of the human experience.

          •  My PRACTICAL views on faith and practice (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, HL Mungo

            A code is provided every one of us, from the society, the civilization, the community, family, and setting  into which each of us is born.

            There are two kinds of people at heart; those who honor others, and those who honor themselves.

            At its best, religion (or the moral equivalent thereof, if that's not your bag) is a prescription of how to reconcile one's self-worth with one's duty to others.

            And I think, though believe may be more apropos, that we are not the only creatures that wrestle with this, that the legends and myths and scriptures and teachings and apocrypha of many faiths and value systems show a consistent message: that no being, with very few or singular exceptions, is above the temptation to abuse power and influence over others to suit selfish or destructive purposes.

            My own view is that faith as we know it long overdue in our own culture for a significant overhaul; one of the great strengths of Christianity in historical practice (which is why I still dig it) is both the personal message of salvation and responsibility,  (mostly, it's on your head to do right, and recognize that it really is more than just wearing a fish sticker on your car), and the resilience of the callings of the Gospels...leastwise, when they are not being egregiously abused by the leadership of the church community, both secular and clerical.

            A good message, I think, is adjustable to a wide range of persons, circumstances, places and times. It can even weather serious abuse...but only so much before something must be done about it.

            This applies to religious as well as political systems, I think.

            In my opinion, Christianity as practiced in America today is in dire need of an overhaul, because as it is being played out in many pulpits and politicians' hearts now, it is no more worry of being a vehicle for faith than the Pharisees were for the Jews, once upon a time -- people who used faith as a weapon against those who need faith the most.

            And that sucks, whether you 'believe' it or not. :)

            We're all Helens now. :)

            by cskendrick on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:05:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  and I have no hostility to your atheism (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            HL Mungo

            in fact, I largely operate without reference to God directly, but rather in attempting to see and respond to that of God in each person.  And here I feel I am on firm biblical grounds, since Jesus did ask how you could love your Father / God whom you could not see when you hated your brother whom you could see.

            Pastor Dan wanted to be able to communicate that progressives / liberals were not necessarily hostile to people of faith per se, even as we might reject those who seek to impose their particular vision of faith as a matter of law upon the rest of society.   Remembering how many people of faith are because of that faith progressive in the sense of feeling a responsibility for "these the least of my brethren" it seemed important to try to build bridges where possible, to develop coalitions that could help to win elections so that the kinds of atrocious policies we have had from this supposedly faith-based administration (and here I must refer to "by their fruits shall you know them" in response) will no longer be what we confront.

            Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

            by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:24:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Yick - I missed that one. Sounds like I was lucky (0+ / 0-)
  •  Hey... (0+ / 0-)

    Don't get caught in the rain with those SAT tests, ok?:)

    Life is not a 'dress rehearsal'!

    by wgard on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 03:40:30 AM PST

  •  Outstanding Diary (21+ / 0-)

    But, TeacherKen (I'm not a public school teacher, so don't take my word for this: this is just my view) I don't think you're not being hard enough on NCLB.  The National Council of Churches writes:

    The No Child Left Behind Act treats children as products to be tested, measured and made more uniform.

    THAT IS EXACTLY THE POINT  That is the purpose of NCLB.  As a thought experiment, imagine what Barbara Bush thinks about NCLB.

    Barbara Bush is very helpful, because she is too stupid to keep quiet about everyone in the Aristocracy really thinks, but won't say: that we serve at their pleasure.  NCLB is designed for exacltly that: to make our kids "uniform".  And also to shut down the very idea of "public responsibilty".  

    Uhg.  I could rant about this for awhile.  But you get the idea.

    "In the beginning the universe was created. This has been widely criticized and generally regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams

    by LithiumCola on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 03:42:23 AM PST

    •  Wow (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, sc kitty, ladybug53, JanL, Albatross

      I don't think you're not being hard enough on NCLB.

      How's that for incomprehensible?  I meant to write "I don't think you're being hard enough on NCLB."

      "In the beginning the universe was created. This has been widely criticized and generally regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams

      by LithiumCola on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 03:44:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understood you (8+ / 0-)

        and when I have talked w/Congressional candidates and/or their staffs, I point out that NCLB  is the current incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and unless you want NO federal funds for K-12 education, there has to be some bill.   One cannot simply refuse to reauthorize.   Therefore, the issue should be how it is shaped.

        Disaggregation of scores would be a positive if the size of the groups were meaningful, and if you removed the punitive sanctions

        quality tests aligned with the curriculum could ONE useful piece of feedb ack

        but instead of lagning test with what is taught, we are using (low quality) tests to drive (dwon) what is being taught.


        got to go report

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:04:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not just uniform products of the system... (9+ / 0-)

      One desired (by the Barbara Bush's of the world...) side effect of all this is to create a generation of obedient worker-drones who lack critical thinking skills. Because we all know that when children are encouraged to think for themselves and extencd theie minds beyond the "box" they tend to become thoughtful, reasoning adults. In other words, liberals/progressives.

      "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

      by RonV on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:06:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  NCLB highlights something I have noticed in NY (8+ / 0-)

    for years.

    Every single high school student, in NY, has to pass certain Regents Exams to get a high school diploma. They came up with this idea about 10 years ago. They keep moving the marker as to when this will be absolute necessary, as it is almost impossible to implement without huge numbers of kids not being able to graduate.

    I support higher standards. I think every child should be expected to meet those standards, as I think we do great harm when we tell kids they cannot meet those standards.  However - and this is a big, huge sticking point for me - we cannot expect kids to all perform the same at the same rate when they are coming to us with huge inequities. And the resources put into each child is also tremendously unequal - in a school district in Westchester they may spend $15,000 per student; in a poorer district, or an inner city, they may spend 1/3 of that.

    So if one looks at education as a recipe, there is no way it is right to expect the same results when you add different ingredients to the recipe.

    The Democratic party - the party of sanity, reason and kindness.

    by adigal on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:21:10 AM PST

    •  But I took the Regents exams (0+ / 0-)

      in the 70's.  Haven't they always been required?

      •  My father took the Regents exams... (0+ / 0-)

        during the 1940's. And they were required for graduation back then.

        "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

        by RonV on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 06:10:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Clarification... (0+ / 0-)

          My Dad aimed for and received a Regent's diploma. ONe could also get a local diploma by passing a set number of RCTs or Regent Competemcy Exams. RCTs have largely been phased out except for some IEP diploma students.

          As Adigal said, things changed about ten years ago when Vermont got rid of it's education commissioner and Pataki hired him for the same job in NY. They've been phasing in new requirements, but they've also had to adjust their scoring, including lowering the passing score to a 55 for the first several years.

          "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

          by RonV on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 06:20:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  We have always had them, but they were not (0+ / 0-)

        required for graduation in the 70s until the mid 1990s that I know of.

        The Democratic party - the party of sanity, reason and kindness.

        by adigal on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 06:21:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Regents exams have always been available (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, adigal

        in New York State to those students who were pursuing a "Regents Diploma."  (Well, by "always" I mean at least since the mid-60's when I was in high school in Massachusetts and we used booklet of past NYS Regents exams to drill for our own exam in Latin.)

        I was a very active parent in New York State about ten years ago. At that time the Regents diplomas were pursued mainly by the college bound students, and there was a second possibility -- a local diploma -- available on the basis of passing local exams based on local standards. Those who did not take regents exams had to pass what were called Regents Competency Tests (RCTs).

        At that time the state began phasing out the RCTs and local diplomas and phasing in five Regents exams as a requirement for graduation for everyone, I believe in English, math, one science, and two social studies (global and American history, I think).  There would still be many other Regents exams that kids could take but would not be required to take (in languages and sciences, for example). The new required exams were not the same as the old exams in the same subjects. The English exam, for example, became a six hour test administered over two days.

        I'm not sure what happens now -- my youngest graduated in 2001. I think the short answer is that they have not always been required, although they have always been available. They are required now, but the required tests are not necessarily the same Regents exams that you remember.

        "You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best you have to give." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

        by marylrgn on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 09:12:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  As another NY resident (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mlle L, adigal

      I can say that IF my daughter passes English and PE (!!!) that she will graduate, not with a Regents diploma , but with a local diploma. She lived out of state for two years, earned credit for courses passed, but will not take the Regents exams to get the diploma.

      I was suprised when I was informed that a local diploma was still an option, I thought it was supposed to be gone by now.

      My child is labeled at school, I don't know if that makes a difference.

    •  In terms of 'supporting higher standards' (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      may I direct you to some thoughts on that?

      Higher standards are touted by just about every politician and many are swallowing it without critical analysis.

      The reality can be very different.

      Just another perspective.

      •  I am fond of Alfie Kohn (0+ / 0-)

        although I also think I prefer to make my argument without referring to him, at least when talking with certain types, who as soon as they hear his name stop listening.   That is, I may rely on his arguments but not quote him, because his name becomes a distraction.  

        The piece to which you link is thought-provoking.  Understand that referring to "high standards" is a soundbite way of saying that you think education is important, and is supposed to give you cover.  Too bad the reality is something quite different.

        Perhaps at some point i will diary what i believe about standards.  

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:29:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is such a great point. (0+ / 0-)

          I know exactly what you mean about "that name"!

          Too bad, but a reality.

          Who can be against "higher standards"? :)

          Giving a teacher/students standards is like giving a hungry person a menu.  (Not mine, but can't remember who said it...)

    •  Graduation standards (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Graduation standards are such a bugaboo. Recently the LAUSD made it a requirement in L.A. that students need to pass Algebra in order to receive their HS diploma. On the surface that's not objectionable - kids should know algebra. But the problem is not black-and-white. The new standards were just recently put in place - so kids that never learned algebra in 4th, 6th, or 8th grade were now expected to pass it by 12th grade. The schools did not give the students the tools to pass algebra (and through social promotion moved them up to the next grade), but then made it a requirement to get a diploma. In other words, the social promotion game ended at the finish line. The result hurts the students that need the most help. Many students have no choice but to leave HS without a diploma. Now, instead of an algebra-challenged teen with a diploma trying to find work, we have an algebra-challenged teen without a diploma trying to find work. Before the higher standards were implemented a student like this could, at least, get a job that required a HS diploma. LAUSD has now increased the number of unqualified teens in the job pool. Good work LAUSD on leaving those children behind.

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

        The result hurts the students that need the most help. Many students have no choice but to leave HS without a diploma.

        Forced out of school or not certified to graduate?

        They were not allowed to come back and earn the one credit needed for the diploma?

        In other words, the social promotion game ended at the finish line.

        Where should it end?

        •  correct (0+ / 0-)

          earn the one credit needed for the diploma

          How are they going to earn that credit? They have failed algabra year after year after year. Failed it in forth grade when they started. Then failed it the next year. And so on. They couldn't pass algebra in 9th grade, or 10th grade, or 11th. And each year they would still get promoted to the next class because of social promotion. Then in 12th grade they still can't pass algebra. So what do you think will be the result if they "come back" to try to "earn the one credit needed for the diploma?"

          Where should it end?

          Wrong question.

          •  How are they going to earn that credit? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            How about the school district works with the local community college to arrange a semester of subsidized classes? The student pays nothing but is responsible for transportation.

            As for social promotion... I don't see how this is not an important question. Certainly there has to be some level of mastery required in order to earn a diploma.

            •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

              How about the school district works with the local community college to arrange a semester of subsidized classes?

              The problem is that the damage has already been done. The LAUSD failed these kids years ago. Many of the high schools already employ Saturday tutoring classes to try to help these kids pass algebra... but they are using the same failed system. More classes are not the problem. THese kids have had classes year after year. THe problem is that the mistakes were made years ago and cannot be corrected by simply making algebra are requirement.

              Certainly there has to be some level of mastery required in order to earn a diploma.

              You're right, but as with your other question, I think you're missing the bigger picture. Schools, driven by a misguided BOE plan, are serving the BOE and not the students. Yes, there must be a level of mastery for a diploma. But students must be instructed in such a way as to achieve that level of mastery. Your question misses that issue. Also - in the specific case of the LAUSD algebra requirment - it's a "level of mastery" that was required after the LAUSD failed to teach the subject of algebra.

        •  LAUSD and the algebra problem (0+ / 0-)

          Earlier this year, The Los Angeles Times ran a several part series on public education. Here is part of it. It's essential reading.

          Gabriela failed that first semester of freshman algebra. She failed again and again — six times in six semesters. And because students in Los Angeles Unified schools must pass algebra to graduate, her hopes for a diploma grew dimmer with each F.

          Midway through 12th grade, Gabriela gathered her textbooks, dropped them at the campus book room and, without telling a soul, vanished from Birmingham High School.

          Her story might be just a footnote to the Class of 2005 except that hundreds of her classmates, along with thousands of others across the district, also failed algebra.

  •  Well articulated (5+ / 0-)

    It's so helpful to have the points so well articulated.

    I'd been groping towards some of these thoughts but this really helps focus the debate, and in ways I think can be useful and easily understood.  
    Points 3 and 4 are especially pertinent for our school situation, generally and specifically.  I'd like every teacher and administrator who has said, "I don't want to say that it's a bad law, but..." to me this year to have a copy of this.

    •  As an administrator (9+ / 0-)

      We CAN'T say that.  Because our job is to make it work.  Look, we don't think it's the best solution.  But our job is prepare students for the tests and do the best we can.  The law isn't going away.  And high stakes testing isn't going away.  Education is becoming more and more centralized.

      What I would like to see Dem leaders get back to is the frame of "local control".  For years the repugs used this frame to justify lower fed ed expenditures.  But now they are pushing testing policies that have the effect of increasingly centralizing the content of courses.  

      Dems should be saying, look, all of this testing takes decisions about curriculum out of the hands of local school boards.  Is that really what we want?  

      But I fear it's too late, as the culture of statewide testing is so engrained now.

      The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

      by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:02:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  please quit your job (5+ / 1-)
        Recommended by:
        Mlle L, marylrgn, Kirsten, BMarshall, Philoguy
        Hidden by:

        "But our job is prepare students for the tests and do the best we can."

        No, your job is to prepare students to be engaged, critical, reflective, active participants of a democratic social order. If you are not doing that, you are committing a crime.


        This law most certainly is going away, as all unjust laws do.... day more one day deeper...

        by DeweyCounts on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:10:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Of course (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          James Earl, teacherken, Luam

          No, your job is to prepare students to be engaged, critical, reflective, active participants of a democratic social order.

          Of course this is true. But look, my students have to pass this thing to graduate.  If I don't help them graduate I'm doing them a disservice.  But it's not "either or".  You can and should do both.  

          I take offense to your comment "please quit your job."  Screw you.  I've devoted 15 years to helping kids.  If every good educator--and I am a good educator in spite of your rather summary evaluation--quit their job because they don't like NCLB where would we be?  

          The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

          by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 07:44:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  you misunderstood the comment (0+ / 0-)

            if you think your job is to raise test scores, the end, then i stand by the comment. if your job is to help create an engaged, critical, and active citizenry, then we are on the same side.

   day more one day deeper...

            by DeweyCounts on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 08:47:28 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  You're right, but (1+ / 1-)
          Recommended by:
          Hidden by:

          It is very uncool to tell someone to quit their job.

          The law will eventually go away hopefully it won't be re-authrised in 2007, but this administrator has to deal with the laws he has and the students are affected by the laws in place.  Normally I am an advocate of civil disobedience, but not in this case when it is the students who would suffer.

 the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent
          -G.W. Bush
          -7.00 -7.74

          by Luam on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 08:16:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  thanks for the troll rating...please take a look (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            at all of my diaries and reconsider.


            And, if you think the law is just going to go away without people working collectively to do so, your understanding of history needs adjustment.http://

   day more one day deeper...

            by DeweyCounts on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 08:45:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes... but (0+ / 0-)

              I agree with you that teaching to the the test is not really educating and I think that the strength of American education compared to many other systems is that we teach more creative and critical thinking than many others systems do.

              What I do not agree with is telling people to quit their job, even if you disagree with them.  To me that is flaming, much worse than swearing or random name calling.  It is clear that daveriegel was offended, and I think that he has every right to be.  I may be in the minority in thinking that it was an over the top flame, or it just may be that I am willing to troll rate people whom I agree with and they are not.

              I won't remove the troll rating, but I have recommended the comment I am replying to in compensation.

     the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent
              -G.W. Bush
              -7.00 -7.74

              by Luam on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 09:40:25 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  I understand your point, but (0+ / 0-)

          I also agree with dave's response below    -  I cannot sacrifice the future of my students to my belief that the testing regimen is bunk at best, and more likely destructive.  Thus I try to walk an increasingly narrow line of both challenging and preparing them as you suggest, but also acknowledging the reality of the tests.

          Isn't it interesting that an increasing number of fairly prestigious colleges are moving away from tests, that places like Bates and Wellesley have dropped requirements for the SAT with no loss in the quality of students?  Isn't it interesting that the prestigious prep schools (such as the Andover attended by the president) have never relied on such external measures of their students' accomplishments.   Hmmmmm

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:33:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Well, Shouldn't (9+ / 0-)

        rather than can't. Because they have said it.

        I think what I hear from the teachers and administrators is an expression of the frustration they feel trying to work with the law while also helping kids.

        Look, I'm a just a parent trying to help my kid. And when a child becomes a set of numbers, a rank in a class, a set of performance metrics measured against an apparently arbitrary standard, and against kids who are nothing like him, it's frustrating. Children aren't numbers, or metrics, but people.

        My kid has trouble reading because he's dyslexic. He's not in the bottom 10%. Why not? Well, the bottom 10% includes the kids who started school knowing no English whatsoever, and the kid who has a home life so screwed up that it is generally known in school that s/he needs a social worker more than special ed, and the kids who have sundry other problems. So my kid, who is very articulate (thanks, he "has the vocab of a 5th grader"  and reads below pre-primer) can't get help. Oh yeah, they also observe that "he's trying really hard" and making some progress, so no help. Because he doesn't qualify by the numbers.

        His teacher isn't happy about it, I'm not happy about it. No child is just a set of test scores. And because there is a collision between the need to meet the standards (what seem to be new ways to the lay-person outside observer, me) and the need to help kids (old ways to the lay-person), when kids do get help, they still have to complete all the other work...which just means that they have MORE work to do and then fall farther behind trying to catch up.

        Seeing these dynamics in action is, I think, where the "I don't want to say it's a bad law, but..." comes from.   (end rant)

        •  Dear Kristen (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Unduna, JanL

          I hear you.  I find that schools are really no place for tuned-in, pro-active parents of typical kids with specific needs.  These kids don't qualify for special ed (I know, I'm a school psych), but that doesn't mean they don't need help.  

          You know your kid; please help him get the resources / help he needs outside the school district. (I know about this, too, because I've got one of these kids myself.)  Check into the budget-busting Lindamood Bell stuff, or neurofeedback, or whatever seems like it will work for your kid.  Forget the idea that the school will help you with educating your child and the road becomes smoother.

          Crazy, I know, but practical.  I hope this is helpful.

        •  Have you tried a 504 plan? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          504 plans offer services to kids who do not qualify for IEPs. You child may be eligible for supports even though he may not meet the requirements of having a discrepancy between aptitude and ability.

          •  correct section 504 of rehabilitation act (0+ / 0-)

            can provide at least some of the modifications in day to day instructional situations.   Unfortunately it does not have the same impact of obtaining modifications for testing regimens, so some students still fall in the cracks.

            Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

            by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:35:42 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  MSDE allows 504 plan testing accommodations (0+ / 0-)

              for response, setting, scheduling and presentations. The form in Montgomery County for 504 plan accommodations looks suspiciously like the one for students with IEPs. The only accommodation that wouldn't pass muster for either group (as I see it) is reduced workload.

      •  hmm (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JanL, dannyinla

        What I would like to see Dem leaders get back to is the frame of "local control".  

        That works except when the locals are a bunch of right wing, homophobic, religious zealots. The repugs have had remarkable success at getting these fascists elected to local school boards. GW has allowed them to consolidate their power. The best situation would be to federalize education, give teachers autonomy, triple funding, and throw out GW with all of his evil friends.

        •  Which is easier (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lefty Mama

          Fighting a group of fundies controlling a local school board or fighting a group of fundies controlling national education policy?

          The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

          by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 07:46:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  YOU ARE SPOILING MY QUICK FIX (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, Unduna

            Reality strikes again.

            Let's fight the fundies wherever they are. Wanted, dead or alive. Take the fight to the enemy....and all of that.

            Seriously, education is a national security issue and the federal government needs to fund it accordingly.

            If the federal government would fund and require that every single classroom in grades 1 - 4 had to be capped at 12 to 15 waivers, we would see an ASTRONOMICAL drop in crime rates within ten or 12 years. It would pay for itself. People generally want to be successful and if they see a bright and promising future, they would be far less likely to engage in criminal activities.

        •  which is why pro-public school people (0+ / 0-)

          need to run, above the radar, for local school boards.

          I live in Arlington.  Even the one republican on our board is very pro-public schools.  Our community as a whole is also, so someone who was attempting to subvert the public schools probably would not get elected.   And we only tend to elect people with a long track record of being involved with schools.

          Howard Dean talked about taking our country back.   He has talked about a 50-state strategy, leaving no republican unchallenged for Congress.   That approach needs to be broadened  -- to state legislatures, county boards, city councils, and especially school boards.  

          It often does not cost much to run - and win - in school board elections.  And having won such elections, those people are likely to have more influential voices with elected officials further up the food chain.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:38:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Think about this: (0+ / 0-)

        But our job is prepare students for the tests

        Then, think about this:
        "Our job is to educate students, to strengthen their minds and bodies, nurture their hearts, and prepare them to live independently and joyously in the world."

        Can we have it both ways?  Do we want to be part of a system that privileges the former at the cost of the latter?

      •  you can do both Dave (0+ / 0-)

        at the same time you fulfill your legal and moral obligation to prepare your students for the test, you can also as a professional educator be trying to influence policy makers at every level  -- from school board all the way through Congress -- that this approach is counterproductive, that in fact it will produce students who are LESS prepared for life and the workplace.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:31:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  NCLB & tracking (17+ / 0-)

    These are problems that teachers have raised for a long time but I have another issue that is never addressed.

    In the two states in which I have taught,  tracked classes (especially at the middle school level) are disappearing very quickly.   This phenomenon is especially common in liberal districts which like to think of themselves as being the best of the best.

    The general explanation given is that everyone learns better (especially the low performing students) when there is a mix of abilities in the classroom.   Of course, this makes sense in some subjects where content is the focus, not skill.. like Science (at least until you get to Science classes which require specific math skills).   But what about skill based classes like Math?   It seems unreasonable to me that every student in the building should be lockstepped through the curriculum.  

    Math, especially middle school math, is developmental.  Not everyone becomes abstract thinkers at the same time which means that those students who do develop the skill early are ready for more challanging work than their peers (this is NOT always a sign of giftedness... just brain development).   Those who have not yet developed it will eventually but until then are not really ready for the advanced skills.    Furthermore, not everyone has mastered the basic skills like fractions, factoring, mult/div and so on that are really  necessary to be successful in Algebra and beyond.  Those kids need more practice, more work.

    The biggest complaint I have heard about tracking has been that it makes the kids in the lower classes feel dumb.  But there are two groups in there.. the average group and the very low group.  

    Those students who are in the special math classes are a different story; they know why they are in those classes and they are not going to feel any better surrounded by 25 or 30 students who get it most of the time when they almost never get it.  They are embarassed and ashamed that they can't understand the work and even worse, incredibly frustrated.   They need work they are ready for.

    It is something I hear in my classes every week from the average students I teach because I am forced to teach them a curriculum they are not ready for.  The simple answer for my students is you are not  dumb, this is where you are supposed to be, this is where most students in your grade are around the country, this is math that  most kids your age aren't even taught and it can be very hard the first time you do it.   When they say they are dumb or feel dumb, I talk about this very firmly and they settle down... they are on track, this section is not easy and they will be ready for high school where they will see this again.

    In my experience, putting the advanced students together with the average students and the low students is a bad idea.    They tend to get frustrated with each other.  Everyone is too slow and too stupid for the advanced kids.   The average students are annoyed with the advanced and bored by the low kids.  The low students rarely ask questions at all, are embarassed and are frustrated.

    •  Differentiated instruction (7+ / 0-)

      Even though students are grouped heterogeneously, teachers are expected to differentiate instruction within their groups to meet the needs of all students, including those who are gifted.  

      In practice, this is extremely difficult to do, especially if you have high numbers of IEP students and if your total teaching load is high (and if you teach in America, it is.)

      Many good teachers are able to manage this.  Some are not.

      The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

      by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:48:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sleighting the gifted too... (7+ / 0-)

        Back in the '80s, when 'gifted' was something that got a school extra funding, the classes my daughter took were quite imaginative and wide-ranging. My grandon in the NCLB era just gets a lot of extra work. Enough so that he hated it and ended up being put at risk - so we voluntarily pulled him out of the program.

        Being gifted doesn't mean you want to do 2 years' worth of work in 1 semester. Having watched it for some time, girls seem to like the extra work more than boys do. Another shortcoming of educational focus these days is not recognizing or working WITH differences among students.

        •  Gifted = more funding (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, ghostofaflea, Unduna

          Yeah. And, as you state, it's not true anymore. My kids' school is experiencing this as we speak. We have a program for gifted kids (comprising one-fourth of the student body). As a result, the school is now in high demand and more and more local families are leaving private schools to attend our public school. These families live in the district and get preferential enrollment over those who live outside the district (ie there is no open enrollment). The result is that our school now has a more affluent demographic... and that means less Title I funding. Two years in a row we have had a $100,000 shortfall that must be met or we lose nurses, librarians, PE teachers. It's a vicious Catch 22.

      •  Differentiating instruction (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, cassidy3

        Is easier to do

        when you have taught that curriculum for more than one year..

        if you don't have to differentiate for more than two groups  (ESL, LD, Spec. Ed., gifted,...)

        you are given enough prep time.

    •  It's not tracking (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, Mlle L

      if students are frequently assessed (uh oh) and have the opportunity to accelerate.

      Not everyone becomes abstract thinkers at the same time which means that those students who do develop the skill early are ready for more challanging work than their peers (this is NOT always a sign of giftedness... just brain development).

      Our elementary reading program uses this model.  

      If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything-Mark Twain

      by Desert Rose on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:45:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

        but very few schools do this... especially above elementary.

        •  well, I try to do it within my classes (0+ / 0-)

          that is, I try in individual assignments to recognize the differences.  Thus even on one assignment I do not treat all students the same.  So far I have gotten away with it.

          It would be far easier to do if I did not have 6 classes and did not have 153 students.  On the other hand, even at our wonderful high school I can think of several teachers in our department that even were the students in a class of only 20 with those teachers I think they will get a more personalized experience with me in a class of 30, so I don't complain.   I do not have children of my own, so I can work the ridiculous hours necessary to do that.

          But our school successes should not be dependent upon the extraordinary efforts of some teachers and administrators.   That is also part of what is wrong with our current setup.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:44:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I taught algebra I last fall to freshmen (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lisa, Luam, BMarshall, dannyinla, ama, Pumpkinlove

      as a long term sub for the last six weeks of a trimester.  It was very frustrating as there were students who came into class missing the skills to  excel at the class.  The failure rate in Algebra I was up to 50%.  I find this unconscionable.  The bright students were bored, the students who were struggling were frustrated to the point of giving up, and those in the middle muddled through.

      I think tracking has gotten a bad rap over the years.  I truly believe that people learn in different styles with different examples and at different rates.  Especially in essential to life classes such as math, we should celebrate and plan on these differences with programming.

      It also dismays me to know that we hold the kid with and IQ of 62 with developmental disabilities to the same standards as the kid with an IQ of 125.  They are obviously not going to be coming into high school with the same skills and are not going to take even remotely the same path after high school.  

      It is an injustice to test for socio-economic level and then declare a school passing or failing based upon situations outside the teacher's and administrator's control.

      Trust in God, all others bring data.

      by Mlle L on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 06:23:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Teachers, most of them mere mortals, must exist in the realm of reality.

        Polcymakers, on the other hand, are not bound by the burden of reality. Their plans are derived from ideals and boyhood dreams. All they require is a catchy acronym, a five point plan, and a power point presentation. Fortunately for them, all of this can be had on the cheap side of a dime. When goals are not met they wring their hands and secretly dream about the immediate benefits of creating a permanent underclass.

      •  It is a problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        What do you do with the child who has passed all of his classes except Math?  He can't stay behind but he's not ready for next year's math class.  Do you make him repeat?  Put him in an easier class (that probably does not exist)? Set him up to fail again?  Yep... that's the one.. cheap and easy.

        •  Exactly (0+ / 0-)

          It's a point I specifically addressed in a post of mine upthread.

        •  again, isn't the problem our structure? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          why should we assume lockstep progression in age group cohorts, when individuals of that cohort develop at different speeds, and that applies not only to the whole child, but also when different domains of learning are examined?

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:45:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The popular dogma (0+ / 0-)

            refers to this obsession with "structural problems" as an attempt to avoid responsibility.

            The solution is within each of us.  We must merely light our torch...and go forth inspired to meet the challenge with courage and persistence.  Our task is of such great importance that we must not countenance falling short of our goals.  Failure is not an option.  This is a crusade...a war against ignorance.  We have screwed up the world and now we must prepare future generations to live in it like good Americans...indebted, distracted, submissive, under surveillance.

          •  We need to change our system (0+ / 0-)

            but what it is possible to change into, I don't know.  Teacher certification really causes a lot of problems.

      •  my school's answer (0+ / 0-)

        We didn't have tracking - no AP or honors classes - but every so often students were allowed to move ahead a year in things like math. I essentially skipped pre-algebra amd took algebra in 7th grade (k-12 magnet school). There was also a huge focus on peer tutoring (Paidea model - Mortimer Adler), so that we did a lot of group work and I think had a greater sense of responsibility for the class as whole.

        We also didn't do any of the specific test prep kinds of things and yet as a whole were significantly above the city average on standardized tests - and I think the still are.

        But then, we had small classroom sizes - a lot of interaction with the teachers...and seminar style learning. I really wonder how they are doing under the new NCLB.

    •  Thanks for understanding development (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and for reassuring your kids.  Shame makes it so much harder to learn.

      I am always amazed (saddened) at how much human development is ignored in education, and how much of that ignorance is borne by confused, frustrated, discouraged kids.

    •  there is another possible approach (0+ / 0-)

      which is to allow some level of mixture, but also recognize that thee are extremes that cannot be supported in the regular classroom.  This sometimes includes the very gifted.

      But we also need to totally reexamine the entire structure of classes and grades.  If you want to explore that subject, with all its implications, believe me I am game.  It might be a first step to truly reforming our educational system away from a model that really does not serve all of our students well.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:41:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  But what do we do? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mlle L, tryptamine, Kirsten, JanL, Andy30tx

    I have yet to meet a teacher who doesn't despise NCLB.  I meet parents all the time who think it is ruining their children's school experiences.  But there it is.  Is it hopeless until we have a Democratic administration?

    •  Testing not the problem (13+ / 0-)

      As someone stated upthread, diagnostic testing which is able to be disaggregated is extremely valuable to school districts and policy makers.  It shows us where we are meeting standards, where we are not.  

      One problem is the high stakes attached to testing.  Punitive measures attached to the testing force school districts to devote inordinate resources to preparing for the tests at the expense of other worthwhile activities.  Furthermore, the high stakes almost always end up punishing urban, predominantly minority districts.  I had high hopes that NCLB when passed would provide federal funds to those districts to assist with needed interventions to help students in those districts succeed.  That is how the law was designed.  But of course, that is the FIRST part of the law to become unfunded when Bush decided to spend billions on his god forsaken war.  Easy to cut the funds of urban students whose parents don't vote Republican and who happen to be of color.  

      The other problem is simply the lack of funding for schools in general.  In Ohio, where I live and work in education, schools are being bled dry by the legislature.  And the voters' anger gets directed to local school boards who have to ask for local tax increases to make up for the loss from the state.  So the Republicans in Columbus never pay a price for it.  Why are voters so stupid?

      The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

      by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:55:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  'Why are voters so stupid?' (6+ / 0-)

        Because they attend schools with a myopic focus on performance rather than on engagement...

        no competent individual needs a scantron to determine whether or not a school is failing. tests are for efficiency. day more one day deeper...

        by DeweyCounts on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:14:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My thoughts exactly (7+ / 0-)

          Standardized tests require students to come up with the correct answers.

          If civil society is to endure, our kids are going to need to have the capacity to ask the important questions. They system is set up in a way that discourgages questioning and rewards deference. The true mission of educational reform / attack, is to produce service workers who will kneel at the feet of the elite and behave like good consumers.

          •  Right/wrong, black/white (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lisa, Mlle L, reahti, cassidy3

            The right is all about making sure that everything is reduced to two simple choices--right/left, good/evil, etc.  This is just another example.  Standardized tests are deeply appealing to conservatives because they fit their world view: there is a right answer, and there is a wrong answer.  On the other hand, we as liberals tend to see more nuances (see the comment upthread about how we tend to apologize for our views and acknolwedge up front that there's another side to the story).  That makes us more likely to resent standardized tests with one right answer and to prefer better ways to understand.

            •  asdf (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lisa, bjackrian, Andy30tx

              Directions: Use a #2 pencil to bubble the letter that corresponds to the most accurate answer.

                1.  Republicans are

                     a) narrowminded bigots seeking to dominate
                        the world.

                     b) pissed off because their ideas are at once
                        limited, simple, and dependent on

                     c) confused by their inability to reshape
                        the world in their own image.

                     d) all of the above.

              •  NCLB is intended to destroy public schools. (0+ / 0-)

                It was never intended as a constructive program.

                Meanwhile, a new DOE-funded study shows public schools actually outperfomr pruivate ones.

                I've written up that study plus an analysis of the Christian -right war on the public schools.

                •  Awesome (0+ / 0-)

                  Troutfishing, I will be reading this...

                  I agree that the R's want to destroy public ed.  Keep in mind though that Kennedy cosponsored NCLB... I think he and other Dems were duped by Bush and Boehner into believing that they would actually fund it.  Yeah, right.

                  The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

                  by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:54:08 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  let me try to remember (0+ / 0-)

                what someone who was critizing standardized tests posted in a recent exchange on one list in which I participate

                Which of the following Shakespearian plays helps us understand something about life and the human condition?

                a)  Hamlet

                b)  Julius Caesar

                c) King Lear

                d) Macbeth

                e) Romeo and Juliet

                Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

                by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:48:05 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I suppose (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  ...they don't offer an "all of the above," eh? Not all "life and the human condition" is teenage passion. Some of it's war, some of it's pathos, some of it's pretense, all of it's comedically absurd...

                  I got a great public education, and so did my husband. Our kids did not, and my grandkids aren't either (save a mid-school charter worth its weight in gold and lots of home-based encouragement/tutoring). Hate to say it, but my observation is that it started with desegregation (when they couldn't avoid it any longer, circa 1970) and was made worse by requirements to integrate special ed and gifted into the same classes. How the heck is a teacher supposed to do well at that, with more than 30 kids per class and only about 40 minutes a period?

                  High school is doing well here though. Only 4 classes a day per semester, so they're long. Rural, and with this sort of split-up not crowded. Instead of 40 minutes of English Lit a day for a year, they get 90 minutes a day for a semester and then take history next semester. Works quite well, with an elective a semester as one of the 4.

                  But we're very lucky to be a long-term project for Duke. They choose and purchase the serious academic textbooks, maintain the web backup, purchased computers for all classrooms, stock the labs, and even offer full one-on-one tracking plus scholarships to the gifteds from as soon as they're identified through graduation. Large investment on their part (as part of their Dept. of Education and Development), and they actually pay retired scientists to take up residence in our lovely locale and teach.

                  I wish big universities in every state did that, for all school districts.

        •  performance vs. engagement (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Because they attend schools with a myopic focus on performance rather than on engagement...

          I like that phrase. There are other ways of saying the same idea, perhaps, but that's a good one.

          I also agree with cassidy3 that the idea is to reward deference and discourage questions.

          I also think that the main purpose of the NCLB is to eliminate public education, except, perhaps, in homogeneous suburbs, replacing it with unregulated private schools for profit.

          I also think it's a cultural problem. In America, teachers usually say the goal is to get students to perform or to master skills. In Japan, teachers usually say the goal is for students to comprehend. And yet, somehow, the Japanese always master skills and perform better than the Americans on standardized tests........

          None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

          by Toddlerbob on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 09:01:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Critical thinking must not be forgotten (7+ / 0-)

        If test means that critical thinking and deeper understandning of the world is ignored, then testing is wrong. I'm afraid that's the case today. Lots of rote learning and meaningless memorization day in and day out.

        We get human robots who vote for people like Bush and cannot think for themselves.

        Today balance in the media means a balance between political fact and reactionary ideology.

        by Joe B on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:22:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Tests (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          not quite that bad.  The tests in Ohio are not great, but they could be much much worse.  Can't speak for the rest of the country.  But the tests focus on comprehension and understanding... they do incorporate some higher level thinking.  

          Still, they are standardized, so they are not great.

          The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

          by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 07:50:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Test Scores & Property Value (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, dannyinla

        I've mentioned this to my son and jokingly suggested that the kids should get together and ask for a piece of the action from homeowners who are able to enjoy the rewards of high demand in areas where the test scores are high. Maybe a percentage of home resales or an equity refinance. Real estate agents should take the kids out for ice cream around test time.

        •  There is a huge correlation (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, HL Mungo

          But one feeds the other. Often the higher test scores are a result of the increased property values/more affleunt demographic. Then the Catch 22 is that increased affluence among the student body results in a loss of Title I funding which creates the threat of a downward spiral for the school via a budget shortfall. So the result is that the more affluent families end up donating money to the school out of pocket to retain the same level of services that the govt once paid for.

    •  we organize (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lisa, Mlle L, Kirsten, Philoguy

      and we protest. we use the public sphere to get teachers involved. we organize a Boston Test Party where teachers all over the nation gather and burn tests... day more one day deeper...

      by DeweyCounts on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:12:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The House (0+ / 0-)

      It isn't the administration which makes the laws.  Since teacherken mentioned that it is up for reauthorisation in 2007 we can block it then.  All we have to do is win back a piece of the legislature or get the Senate to filibuster it.

      Given how unpopular NCLB is, I wouldn't be surprised if they had significant trouble getting it through even if we don't have a majority. the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent
      -G.W. Bush
      -7.00 -7.74

      by Luam on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 08:23:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Won't happen (0+ / 0-)

        What politician is going to give his opponent the ammo of "lowering standards" by opposing NCLB?  That's part of what makes it so insidious.  I think the targets will be adjusted and funding improved, and that's probably the best we can hope for.

        Just speaking as a pragmatist. This stuff isn't going away.

        The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

        by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 11:19:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  all schools left behind (13+ / 0-)

    Even the best schools, the schools that "win" have been crippled by this dumb program.

    The NCLB act has caused hardship on the teachers in the "wealthy, homogeneous school districts" too.  Not only does it rank the students, it ranks the teachers.  Instead of helping teachers by giving them tools and resources it gives them ....tests.  Yessirree, that is the NEW training tool, brought to you by the GOP, the test.  We learn by testing.  Test, test and more test.

    The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. Thomas Jefferson

    by Thea VA on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:48:50 AM PST

  •  My school is on the list (12+ / 0-)

    and constantly reminded that very bad things could happen to us - reconsitution, being closed, etc.

    Our numbers? 95.5% free lunch, non-English speakers 37.5%, total minority 97.7% (you mean we have a white kid?).

    We had some people come in and check us out twice, but feedback was negligible. That's the federal intervention, I guess.

    •  Me too (9+ / 0-)

      Our school is 100% free-lunch, 99.2% minority, but a very small group of non-English speakers - I think 4 kids.  Our school is being closed and then re-opened as an all-boys school because there is some research to suggest that some kids do well in single-gender schools.  We are all heart-sick and worried about the kids we've all known since they were pre-schoolers...where will they end up in this large district?  Because of funding issues, the kids are gonna be shuffled around yearly until who knows when.  Sigh...happy spring break, tho!  

      Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

      by JanL on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:01:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank You (13+ / 0-)

    As an urban school teacher facing the daily poverty that my students endure, thanks for bringing this up and being so blunt.  I believe the goal of the Republicans is to "privatize" our educational system so that even if the kids are doing poorly, someone is making lots of money.  Thanks also for mentioning Jonathan Kozol - his books should be required reading.  I teach primary students and they are making great progress, but they will not make the yearly benchmarks NCLB requires.  Eventually, I fear they will drop out and then, of course, the cycle will continue.  The system is cruel and all Americans should be ashamed. Very well written, and thanks for the link.

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:54:28 AM PST

    •  Agreed (11+ / 0-)

      I think their long term goal is to defund urban districts and divert the money to private parochial schools.  It is happening here; the legislature is now diverting more and more money into vouchers while most districts are struggling with expenses.

      The Republican Party: Redefining Oppression for the 21st Century

      by daveriegel on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 04:57:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ohio (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lisa, Mlle L, ghostofaflea, ladybug53, Andy30tx

        I read upthread a bit and see you're in Ohio as well.  It's ghastly, I feel like we're being made into a small third-world country.  Sadly, GM & Delphi are also leaving Dayton (live & teach here) so we're really in for a tough time.  You're right, the legislature never suffers the rage of the taxpayers, just the school districts.  

        Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

        by JanL on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:07:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  People like Neal Bush (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I believe the goal of the Republicans is to "privatize" our educational system so that even if the kids are doing poorly, someone is making lots of money.

      And then people like Neal Bush start Ignite! - a learning company that sells a study aid called COW to school districts (mostly in Texas and Florida). His brothers "raise standards" and then Neal sells the school boards a system in how to meet these increased standards.

  •  NCLB is a failure (6+ / 0-)

    We should require tests of the idiots who designed this program.  They should be tested annually.  

    •  It should be more... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      As a new teacher I've taken 3 state tests this year. My students have already taken 1 state test and they will have 2 more to take after Easter (they're 4th graders). They should have to take at least as many tests as a 10 year old.

    •  NCLB does exactly what it was designed to do (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's part of a Christian right plan to destroy public education. Public schools - a new DOE funded study shows - outperform, private schools. Performance isn't the point. Really.

      Here's a recent Bloomberg/WaPo article:

      More than a quarter of U.S. schools are failing under terms of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, according to preliminary state-by-state statistics reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

      At least 24,470 U.S. public schools, or 27 percent of the national total, did not meet the federal requirement for "adequate yearly progress" in 2004-2005. The percentage of failing schools rose by one point from the previous school year. Under the 2002 law, schools that do not make sufficient academic progress face penalties including the eventual replacement of their administrators and teachers.

      The results raise doubts about whether the law is working and its results are fairly calculated, said Michael Petrilli, vice president for policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based research group.

      Kevin Drum, for Washington Monthly, ventures an explanation for the dysfunctional nature of the NCLB act, its perverse outcomes: "the Bush administration wants to see lots of public schools labeled as failures. It's basically a long-term plan to erode the public's faith in public schools and thereby increase support for private schools and vouchers."

    •  will you include Dems who signed on? (0+ / 0-)

      The law would not have been passed without the support of Representative Goerge Miller and Senator Edward Moore Kennedy.  Attempts were made to persuade them not to, and I participated in some, but the two gentlemen seemed to think they could get more money for public schools and were willing to 'wheel and deal" to accomplish that end.  They got badly played, and now all of our schools suffer.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:51:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  techerken (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mlle L, Joy Busey

    i am really in your pocket and if i make it to vegas would love to buy you dinner... day more one day deeper...

    by DeweyCounts on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:15:47 AM PST

  •  Molly Ivins (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mlle L, JanL, Andy30tx

    Wrote about these problems in "bushwacked".

    Couple of points from the book:

    There was a story about testing and how some consultants tell the schools to concentrate on the "bubble kids". Those are the kids that are close to passing the threshold. The lowest achievers are just a waste of time.

    And the state testing is strange, Texas kids did better every year on state tests but not on the federal ones.

    And there are other shenanigans, read the book if you want to ruin your day.

    Britain does follow the European model, in its foundations-though obviously the Thatcherites reject it. Jacques Delors

    by allmost liberal european on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:26:25 AM PST

  •  Thanks, Teacherken (0+ / 0-)

    This is an excellent diary and the comments from teachers and administators are very interesting and helpful.

  •  I welcome this statement (6+ / 0-)

    and you can see how the focus is on the issue at hand, and the question of religious concern is left at the conclusion.

    The problem with the public schools is politics.  The Extreme Right loves NCLB because they want vouchers and the taxpayers to fund their religious schools.  The statment from the Council of Churches I think puts moderation into the discussion and away from extreme elements the radical right likes to pimp.

    The moral and self-righteous think nothing bad will happen to them, especially at the hands of their own government.

    by Yankee in exile on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:59:22 AM PST

  •  thanks Ken (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lisa, Mlle L, Kirsten

    My mom's a special ed teacher, and you listed the sticking point she has w/ this law.

    Not to mention - her district is known for excellence in special education so they have a crazy high percentage of students w/ special needs.

    Help me retire to Hawaii by age 30! Pimp my site Simple Vegetarian Recipes!

    by OrangeClouds115 on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 06:01:31 AM PST

  •  NCLB & Poverty (9+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lisa, sheba, Mlle L, Kirsten, reahti, cassidy3, Unduna, JanL, ama

    Thank you for the very thoughtful discussion on education.  The 600 pound gorilla in the classroom is poverty.  This is the view presented by an Arizona State Univ. researcher, David Berliner.  He states that high and middle-income students do fine on tests and in international competition; it's the low-income students who do badly on these tests.  He goes on to lay out some of the ways in which poverty does its destructive work.  His paper "Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform", is online at
    I did not read all of this lengthy paper but skimmed it and many of the teachers who have taught in urban and rural schools can certainly relate to what is in this paper.  Again thank you for your thoughtful discussion.  I am a retired elementary teacher.  

  •  Thank you for writing this. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lisa, Kirsten, JanL, dannyinla

    You have cited and quoted a terrific document.  It does a phenomenal job of unpacking the realities of NCLB.

    It is a moral concern and one worth fighting.

  •  real progress in education takes money (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassidy3, ama

    Do not trust this administration on education, the defense industry runs the show.

    Bush gave us this NCLB law to destroy education in areas of poverty. Ten years from now they would have a potential army of future recruits. And they are already planning the wars to use them.

    We have to make some big changes in Washington.

    •  THIS JUST IN (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      CFN = Cannon Fodder Numbers

      •  Cute--but not really true (0+ / 0-)

        Just because people can't read doesn't mean they don't have enough common sense to stay out of the army, which young men and women are doing in droves these days.

        "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

        by Alice in Florida on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 08:11:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Money (0+ / 0-)

      is simply used by school districts to hire educators and provide a learning environment.

      To say that a school system lacks money is to say that:

      1. that the staff is underpaid or
      1. the school district lacks staff.

      Many educators feel that they are unpaid because they live in neighborhoods where people in the private sector earn more money.

      The truth is that people in the public sector have more secure jobs. They can qualify for a larger mortgage for a given income.

      Conversely, the private sector workers need to larger income to live in the same neighborhood as the public sector workers.

      A teacher making $50,000 a year will often live in a neighborhood with business owners making $75,000 and salesmen making $90,000.

      An English major may get a job in the publishing industry in New York City. If she does, she will probably work long hours and make less than a teacher.

      The second thing money controls is staffing levels.

      If you would compare the staffing levels of a school that was filled with Italian and Yiddish speaking immigrants with a modern school, you would find that the staffing levels are much higher today.  

      •  Money (0+ / 0-)

        The truth is that people in the public sector have more secure jobs

        Teacher job security is certainly related to salary.

        There are fewer and fewer people who are interested in entering the teaching field because salaries are not competitive. Thus, fewer people are competing for teacher positions.

        An English major may get a job in the publishing industry in New York City. If she does, she will probably work long hours and make less than a teacher.

        Are you suggesting that teachers don't work long hours?

        If the English major gets to have more than 25 minutes for lunch and pee more than twice during the work day, the English major has a better deal.

        If you would compare the staffing levels of a school that was filled with Italian and Yiddish speaking immigrants with a modern school, you would find that the staffing levels are much higher today.  

        Case closed. Thanks for reminding me of how we have really made a lot of progress.

        •  'salaries are not competitive' (0+ / 0-)

          Teachers often earn a pension too.

          The local school district isn't likely to file for bankruptcy and leave the pension promise in the dust.

          The long summer vacation is nice too.

        •  I was a retail worker and during the Christmas (0+ / 0-)

          selling period the lunch period was the amount of time it took to wolf down a sandwich.

        •  You see the lucky business people (0+ / 0-)

          and the successful sales people.

          There are unlucky business people and unemployed people that didn't met last month's quota.

        •  'If...better deal' (0+ / 0-)

          If your school district took you up on that you'd pee in your pants.

        •  be careful on the security issue (0+ / 0-)
          1. you do not have security without tenure
          1. some states (for example Virginia) do not have tenure
          1. some states require 3 years of teaching before you get tenure, and up to that point you can be dismissed with little recourse
          1. The Republicans are out to smash tenure, and the protections provided by NEA and AFT, which they view as little more than democratic constituency groups.   Thus they attempt to demonize both associations, and anything they propose
          1. There are those in the Dem party who also do not believe in tenure.   One reason I opposed Kerry (until he picked Edwards as VP candidate, at which point I reluctantly decided to vote for him) is that he had advocated doing away with all teacher tenure  (and before we go off on a tangent, I live in VA and my vote was not going to make a difference in the outcome of the electoral vote nationally).

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 10:56:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  another great diary! (0+ / 0-)

    Look forward to your diaries on a regular basis. There's another good diary by a teacher this morning that ties in with this one. Here's the link.

  •  a look at our current president.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mlle L, cassidy3

    exemplifies why some children should be left behind.
    Actually, I feel that all laws with lofty sounding lables should be held to a higher standard of scrutiny just because their real usefullness is in the promotion of the people responsible for the legislation. Clear skies, Clean water, NCLB, all are smokescreens for sinister diversions.

    Peacemaker rockets? You buy that? We'll sell a shitload.

  •  In depth analysis of NCLB is good, but... (5+ / 0-)

    Bush was pushing hard for it. Thus I knew, without any doubt, the program was designed to do EXACTLY the opposite of its stated intention.

    I knew that NCLB was designed to cripple public education.

    And from everything I've heard subsequently, it is doing just that.

    In addition to all the negatives described here, aren't there also some rather sinister rules for teachers about their behaviour, clothing, personal style?

    A cardinal law of this era is this: "everything Bush touches turns to shit. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident."

    But make no mistake. Bush is pure toxicity. You cannot go wrong intellectually by assuming everything he does is to the detriment of the people, the many, and in service of the most regressive agenda imaginable.

  •  Bravo Ken (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    So glad to see the churches getting involved in this. It truly is a moral issue, and some people view morality best through a church lens rather than a universal ethical prism.  Thanks for bringing this piece to our attention.

  •  W's NCLB vs. Jebbie's A++ (0+ / 0-)

    Another interesting feature of NCLB is how it presents conflicting results compared to state-level programs such as brother Jeb's "A++" which was designed with a similar purpose (i.e., to weaken public schools by providing private school vouchers to students in "failing schools").

    Basically, Jeb's program gives each school a "grade" based on average test scores, while NCLB scores schools based on the poorest-performing subgroup--thus leading to the bizarre situation of schools that get an "A" or "B" from Jebbie yet an "F" or "needs improvement" from W.

    Incidentally, the Florida Supreme Court tossed out the voucher portion of Jebbie's program, stating that it violates the state constitution. Most Florida voters agree that public money should go to public schools, so with any luck that decision will stick.

    "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

    by Alice in Florida on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 08:07:09 AM PST

  •  Essential Diversity of Gifts Not Valued (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, reahti

    In my opinion, NCLB is an example of a terrible law that will never work and will only serve to make our kids less educated even as they become better "trained" in math and science.  It is an effort to fix our problems so that our society can avoid having to face the real problems undermining all efforts to educate all of our children, unequal financing of schools and the deterioration of families and communities caused by poverty.  To remedy the problem would take a national commitment and a sustained, focused effort similar to Kennedy's call to land a man on the moon.

    Bill Moyer's did a great show about 10 years ago profiling 10 very poor schools that successfully pulled themselves up, each in their own way.  I wish I could find the program and will try to at PBS.

    Science has shown that we all are blessed by nature with different brain wiring which provides society with essential diversity of ideas and talents.  Imposing a narrowly focused "one size fits all" system on every kid, school, and community in the country makes it even harder for kids to discover what their natural gifts may be and for the educational bureaucracies to meet the needs of as many kids as they might otherwise be able to do.

    Inflexible politics of the right and left may be the the biggest impediment to fixing our system.  Neither side has a monopoly on good ideas and both sides have valid poinits to contribute to the search for a solution.  Schools don't exist in a vacuum but as part of the communities they serve.  The left's compassion and understanding of the poorest communities should not blind them to the necessity of having high expectations of the students nor the profound damage caused to communities by the decline in moral behavior.  Poor people too can control their behavior, and hormones, and once used to do so.  The power of personal choice is where the power to fix the problem over the long run comes from.

    We all know about the right's terrible social policies and anti-tax stand so they will have to cooperate, even if it is only from a sense of what's in their best interest in the long run.

    Ultimately it is not about who's dogma will win out.  It is about comming together to do the best we can to provide for all of our nation's children, to give them the best shot at a reasonbly happy life.  And politics be damned.

  •  I have heard... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unduna, dannyinla

    ...that here in Maryland, schools in Havre de Grace have lost federal funding for school lunch, because their initial scores were so high they cannot continue to improve them. Thus, under NCLB, they fail... and the poor children starve.

    Thanks, NCLB! We really needed that!

    •  New DOE study shows : (0+ / 0-)

      Public schools perform better than private ones.

      Regardless, one recent analysis finds that even though Massachusetts schools are ranked at or near the top in the US, by 2014 when NCLB kicks in in force 3/4 of Mass schools will fail to meet the provisions.

      Other state schools will fare even worse.

      NCLB is intended to destroy public education.

    •  I doubt school lunch would be affected (0+ / 0-)

      because that is funded through Agriculture, not education.

      What they might be losing is Title I funds, which would be transferred to providers of Supplemental educational services.

      So far the only schools being taken over are in Baltimore, and that is political.   Remember that Nancy Grasmick was appointed by Don Schaefer, who is now a political ally of Gov. Erlich, and she was on Erlich's short list for Lt. Gov last time, and may be under consideration as a replacement for Steel (although I would bet on Wayne Curry).  This action now seems patently like an effort to damage O'Malley to soften him up before the general, under the assumptiont that he is the likely Dem nominee.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 11:01:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bravo! (0+ / 0-)

    I will write more later - I am on my way out the door.

    But Bravo!

    Have a recommend

    "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants, and the creed of slaves." William Pitt

    by plf515 on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 09:00:05 AM PST

  •  What do standardized tests measure? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Canadian Reader, reahti, Unduna

    I had a discussion yesterday with a group of librarians about standardized testing for information literacy skills.

    Problem is, informational literacy skills cannot be easily measured on a standardized test because it doesn't measure transferability and application, which is what really matters. It only measures "knowledge" -- which we know is the bottom rung on the Bloom's Taxonomy ladder. Important, but bottom rung.

    Standardized testing does not and cannot measure criticial thinking skills. Therefore, critical thinking skills are not taught. Therefore, we are educating a populace that does what? Just "knows" stuff and sees solutions to problems in either/or and right/wrong.

    And we wonder why our college students hate problem-based learning and drop out of the classes that require them to tackle issues which do not have "right" or "wrong" answers.

    One cannot help but think it's all a plot to dumb down the American electorate.

    TeacherKen, thank you for yet another thought-provoking diary! And thanks to all the responders. Excellent discussion.

    My dear hubby is about to tumble head first into differentiated instruction at his school. Didn't they used to do this by establishing levels of classes? Separate classes? Why force teachers to juggle 3 different levels in one class? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. And kids are getting "grouped" anyway. Smart kids over here...slow kids over there. Am I missing something?

    •  not completely accurate (0+ / 0-)

      it is possible to design tests that do measure critical thinking, but they are expensive.  It is best done in Compuyterized Adapted Testing environments, where you can use an answer to one question to probe further with the next.  It is possible to construct tests to far more accurately ascertain the underlying knowledge or skill than the normal selected response test with everyone answering the same questions.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 11:02:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  the agenda behind (0+ / 0-)

    NCLB is the eventual privatization of el-hi education in America.  The program is designed to guarantee the demise of the public school by dictating standards which the majority of schools can never meet.  I suspect that the NCC clearly sees this as a movement by the Christian Right to establish government funded schools of that persuasion.

  •  Wonderful diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Wonderful diary, very informative.  I don’t have school age children, or grandchildren, but feel there are fewer things more important than education.  

    In my opinion, and apparently several others’ above, the intent of NCLB is failure, as an alternative is privatization.

    I don’t see apathy as a problem. In our area, we continually vote for tax increases to fund education.  I don’t think people are hearing enough of the details of NCLB. Nor are they being made aware that funding for it is cut, or that it puts certain children at an extreme disadvantage.  It’s like so many things this administration has done, put a pretty name on it and people will assume it’s a good thing. As long as the press goes along with it, they win.  I wish this could be introduced again into the mainstream media. Now that it’s apparently safe to criticize Bush, perhaps we could get decent, analytical coverage on it.  As I write this, though, I realize it could be considered apathy that the majority of Americans rely on the media for information about their schools or their government, but that‘s a different discussion.  I, too, hope that this issue is given a major role in 2006 campaigns.  

    I have no objections to religion being included in a discussion or movement, in fact, I welcome it, so long as it preaches inclusion, not exclusion.  To me, this is an honest, true example of Christianity, as opposed to what we’ve been bombarded with the last 5 years.  I don’t think anyone should need to apologize for being religious, nor for citing (siding with) religious groups.  Regardless of the religion, or the discussion.

  •  Most significant diary ever posted on KOS (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, cassidy3, JanL, dannyinla

    This is an incredibly powerful statement from the National Council of Churches.  This diary, IMHO, is the most significant ever posted on Daily Kos.

    Item #6 to me is the key.  The United States has the highest rates of child poverty among advanced economies.  On that measure, it is no exaggeration to say that we rival Mexico. Wealthy American kids start school with a working vocabulary five times that of poor kids.  The latest science indicates that children of affluence get the full benefit of their intellectual potential, while community environment swamps the potential of the poor.

    Schools are not the source of the achievement gaps with which children start school. It stands to reason they cannot be the entire solution.

    I see the predictable posturing of Republicans below.  Their six-year-long lament about the plight of poor children was always entirely unconvincing, nothing but crocodile tears. This statement from a church group, disinterested in school politics, is a compelling statement about the moral implications of NCLB.  


  •  I would like to add one other moral issue here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, ghostofaflea, dannyinla

    No Child Left Behind jeaopardizes the cultural integrity of many different subcultures in America.

    By mandating a one size fits all standard, NCLB is in effect being used as an instrument of cultural invasion.  Among many Native American communities, for example, and in particular the one in which I live and work, tribal language instruction is being dropped in order to avoid the awful state of being in corrective action.  

    On the Navajo Nation, for example, one such school district has been taken over by the state of AZ, and has had teachers and administrators installed from outside, all in the interest of "bringing the district up to AYP".  In my district nearby, the talk is of abandoning the district Cultural Center and turning it into a library.  Many of my students endure 5 hours of reading and math instruction, and get nothing in cultural studies.  

    And, with the horrible turnover rates, as well as the threats against Navajo tetachers regarding making AYP, the kids are losing cultural values, as well as language skills in Navajo language because the teachers are either non-Navajo speakers, or are intimidated too much to use Navajo language in the classroom.  For the elderly of these poor, rural communities, it is another nightmare of foreign values imposed from without.  Over and over again, this just keeps happening.  For them, this is an awful thing for them to contemplate, after years of trying to re-integrate the native culture into a school system that used to physically and emotionally punish them for speaking their native language.  Ever watch a community simply dissolve before your very eyes?  Visit a Rez town sometime, and witness one of the prime examples of good intentions gone askew.

  •  NCLB (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, dannyinla

    Interesting, well thought out citicisms of NCLB by the Church group and in the comments above. It would seem that the law is so unwieldy, fraught with unintended consequences and/or Republican Trojan horses, underfunded, distorting of teaching emphases, and so forth, that we ought to start over. Although: I think we could all agree that we should do some testing rather than none, to find a basic knowledge of what students are learning. What the tests should be, what standards they should employ, how the results should be used, are up for grabs. But we can't let complacency with underperforming schools and students return, in many places, back to being the norm.

    Like many who visit here, I am of the opinion that Republican support for any bill signals evil motives (he can use the word, why can't I). I don't have to run through the examples, from "tax cuts", to "tort reform", to "immigration reform", to "health savings accounts" and so forth. Include NCLB, of course. The Democrats made a Faustian bargain - that this would crack open failing schools to real reform. You can see, for instance, that the NY Times always strongly supports NCLB, whatever its problems, however many its problems, for this very reason. They don't want to go back. But, yes, they have made a deal with the devil and are betting they can win. Getting the Democrats in power, so that for once a bill might have a chance to be considered out in the open and debated on its merits, would seem the only way out toward salvation/salvage. Not that every Democratic bill doesn't come with its own truckload of special interests and hidden motives - but there is less of the evil factor.

    One little anecdote: We had a speaker come to talk about NCLB's effect on mathematics teachers. I asked him, "What does 'proficient' mean?" He said there is no accepted definition - each state gets to make its own definition (although one suspects that Margaret Spellings gets veto power). So what are we dealing with? Each state will define proficiency down, teach only proficiency, and make their own exams measuring proficiency, so that the goals of NCLB can be met? That is not a good recipe for real educational success.

  •  NCLB plans and assessments (0+ / 0-)

    The actual law:

    •  NCLB looks voluntary to me (0+ / 0-)

      SEC. 1111. STATE PLANS.


      (1) IN GENERAL- For any State desiring to receive a grant under this part, the State educational agency shall submit to the Secretary a plan, developed by the State educational agency, in consultation with local educational agencies, teachers, principals, pupil services personnel, administrators (including administrators of programs described in other parts of this title), other staff, and parents, that satisfies the requirements of this section and that is coordinated with other programs under this Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998, the Head Start Act, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

      Note that the "plan", must have been " consultation with...teachers, principals...and parents."

      Both teaching professionals and parents had a chance in each state to express their opinions going into NCLB.

      •  that's why it's not unfunded mandate (0+ / 0-)

        since there is NO requirement to take federal funds  - NCLB is what is called a condition of aid  --  Federal Highway Funds are similar  -- if you wanted the feds to pay 90% of the cost of highways, you had to raise drinking age to 21 (sorry NY, Louisisana, DC and all the Midwest 3.2 beer gardens), and the spped llimit (originally to 55, then allowing rural areas to be 65).

        But so far the Feds havenot wanted state to pull out.  When Utah came close to pulling out, the DOE and Spellings lobbied very hard so that they didn't.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 05:57:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Adequate yearly progress (0+ / 0-)

      (C) DEFINITION- Adequate yearly progress' shall be defined by the State in a manner that--
      (i) applies the same high standards of academic achievement to all public elementary school and secondary school students in the State;
      (ii) is statistically valid and reliable;
      (iii) results in continuous and substantial academic improvement for all students;
      (iv) measures the progress of public elementary schools, secondary schools and local educational agencies and the State based primarily on the academic assessments described in paragraph (3);
      (v) includes separate measurable annual objectives for continuous and substantial improvement for each of the following:
      (I) The achievement of all public elementary school and secondary school students.
      (II) The achievement of--
      (aa) economically disadvantaged students;
      (bb) students from major racial and ethnic groups;
      (cc) students with disabilities; and
      (dd) students with limited English proficiency;
      except that disaggregation of data under subclause
      (II) shall not be required in a case in which the number of students in a category is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information
      or the results would reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student;

      Statistical unreliability is a defense against a charge of failure.

    •  'assessments shall-- (0+ / 0-)

      (i) be the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all children;

      (ii) be aligned with the State's challenging academic content and student academic achievement standards, and provide coherent information about student attainment of such standards;

      (iii) be used for purposes for which such assessments are valid and reliable, and be consistent with relevant, nationally recognized professional and technical standards;

      (iv) be used only if the State educational agency provides to the Secretary evidence from the test publisher or other relevant sources that the assessments used are of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under this Act and are consistent with the requirements of this section, and such evidence is made public by the Secretary upon request;

      •  Assessements also must (0+ / 0-)

        (vi) involve multiple up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding;

        •  just a quick note (0+ / 0-)

          when CT wanted to test only every other year because of their higher quality tests which are aligned with their curricular standards and because it would be too expensive to implement yearly testing at the same degree of accuracy, Spellings said no and that they could fulfil the law by using cheaper, off the shelf tests.  So much for what the law says.

          And the Feds have not come close to providing was promised for implementation.

          I wish I had more time to respond.  

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sun Apr 02, 2006 at 09:57:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Teacherken- (0+ / 0-)

    A snapshot of this diary is in the NYT Adam Ngourney article when it was front paged!

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