Monday, April 27, 2009

Does NCLB work?

New Study by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project:
NCLB Ignores What We Know about School Change and
Is Motivated by Politics

A new report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, a non-partisan research
center which has been systematically studying the implementation of the
federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) since its inception, finds that some of the
basic assumptions of the law are not working and may well be mistaken. In
this study, Why High Stakes Accountability Sounds Good but Doesn’t Work-- And Why
We Keep on Doing It Anyway, commissioned by the Civil Rights Project,
Researchers Gail Sunderman and Heinrich Mintrop evaluate whether the
accountability system endorsed by NCLB is likely to succeed or fail, and
whether it is compatible with what researchers across the country have
learned about the conditions needed for lasting school reforms.

The report finds that NCLB is failing on three fronts. First, there is
little evidence that high stakes accountability under NCLB works. It has not
improved student achievement and the sanctions have had limited effects in producing
real improvement. The law also results in high numbers of schools being
mislabeled as “failing” and far outstrips the ability of states to
intervene effectively in the schools it sanctions. Third, the law has
failed to connect in a meaningful way to the educators who must implement it --
they do not see the accountability goals as realistic and consider the sanctions
to be misguided and counterproductive for improving schools.

The most important finding is the damage the NCLB is doing to our
educational system. Under NCLB, the system “works” when education systems operate
within only a basic skills framework and with low test rigor. The cost to
our nation is revealed in an educational system stuck in low-level intellectual

Civil Rights Project Co-Director, Gary Orfield, concludes, “The new
administration has a unique opportunity to address the serious structural
problems of NCLB and to forge a more constructive and effective federal
role. To persist in sound-bite educational politics that sound tough but have
failed for a generation would be a tragic mistake. To claim that it would further
the civil rights of children increasingly segregated in schools that have been
officially branded and sanctioned as failures -- but not provided help that
makes a real difference -- would be a blunder.”

Even though the law is failing in some critical respects, the authors argue
that we may maintain NCLB anyway because many derive secondary benefits from
the system, specifically those who are politically and ideologically
committed to NCLB and those deriving economic or political benefits from the law.

The authors contend that after fifteen years of state and federal
sanctions-driven accountability that has yielded relatively little, it is
time to try a new approach. A system based on mandates and legal administrative
enforcement should be replaced with one that emphasizes respect for the
professionalism of educators and active involvement of communities in
developing the capacity to implement lasting changes.

The full report can be found at

A copy of the Executive Summary and Foreword can be found at the end of this
advisory. Copies of CRP’s previously released NCLB reports may also be
found on our web site above. Funding for this research was generously provided by
a grant from The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

About the Authors:

Heinrich Mintrop, Ph.D. taught middle school and high school for over a
decade in both the United States and Germany. He received a Ph.D. in education from
Stanford University in 1996. He is currently an associate professor of
education at the University of California, Berkeley. As a researcher, he
explores issues of school improvement and accountability in both their
academic and civic dimensions. He has recently published the book Schools on
Probation. How Accountability Works (and Doesn’t Work) at Teachers College Press. At UC
Berkeley, he is involved in programs that prepare strong leaders for
high-need urban schools.

Gail Sunderman, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Scientist at the George
Washington University Center on Equity and Excellence in Education where she directs
the Mid Atlantic Equity Center (MAEC). Prior to that, she directed a five-year
study examining the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
for the CRP. She is co-author of the book, NCLB Meets School Realities: Lessons
from the Field (with James S. Kim and Gary Orfield, 2005) and editor of
Holding NCLB Accountable: Achieving Accountability, Equity, and School Reform,
published in 2008. She is a former Fulbright Scholar to Afghanistan and
received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.

Executive Summary

The federal accountability system, made universal though the No Child Left
Behind Act of 2002, is at its heart a quota and sanctions system. This
system stipulates the progression of underperforming schools through a set of
increasingly severe sanctions based on meeting performance quotas for
specific demographic groups. While it includes standards, assessments, and
performance targets, sanctions are the means by which the higher levels of the system
put pressure on lower-levels of the system to take accountability seriously.
Even though the law formulates the sanctions in the language of improvement,
support, and radical renewal, the punitive core for districts and schools is
apparent: when improvement efforts fail, loss of control and threat of
organizational survival is at stake.

But whether this system is up to the job of achieving its goal of improving
the performance of persistently underperforming schools is an open question.
Using findings from the best available research, this report examines whether an
accountability system based on the imposition of sanctions is likely to
succeed or fail and, if it does persist, what the consequences may be for sustaining
an educationally rigorous system. The report asks three questions: (1) does
the system work, that is, does it produce the intended results, (2) is it
practical, that is, can it be implemented, and (3) is it legitimate, or is
it valued among those who must implement it. We conclude with a discussion of
the costs of maintaining the current sanctions system.

Does the System Work? There are two aspects to this question: does the
system as a whole produce the expected outcomes; and do the actual sanctions result
in school improvement.

Does the system produce the expected outcomes? There is little evidence
that high stakes accountability under NCLB improves student achievement.
Although state accountability systems appear to be a success since test scores
continue to rise in most systems, the picture looks far less positive when one looks
at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). When NAEP scores are
used, gains appear to be much lower, there is substantial variation among
states, and few states have narrowed the achievement gap among racial and
socioeconomic subgroups while improving overall performance at the same
time. Given the large discrepancies between NAEP and state assessments results, it
is not quite clear what the state tests measure. By all indication, state
accountability systems with their own pressures and sanctions are successful
at focusing schools’ and districts’ attention on state assessments.

Do the sanctions work? There is also a lack of evidence that the sanctions
themselves have been successful as an effective and universal treatment for
low-performing schools. Neither the transfer option nor the supplemental
educational service provisions have been widely embraced by parents or
districts. Whether or not the transfer option produces improvements in
school performance is a moot point since the percentage of students taking
advantage of this option (about 1% of eligible students) is so low. The response to
supplemental educational services has also been low (14% of eligible
students); and third party evaluations of these services are finding small, if any
statistically significant effects of the program on improving student
achievement. The corrective action and restructuring options, such as
reconstitution, charter school conversion or take-over by education
management organizations (EMOs), may work in some limited situations but are not
effective across the board. Among the variety of corrective action and restructuring
strategies that have been tried, none stick out as universally effective or
robust enough to overcome the power of local context.

Is the Sanctions System Practical? If the NCLB system was practical, it
would identify schools in need of improvement and restructuring with high
accuracy; appropriately direct schools to pay attention to students most in need of
help; produce an intervention burden for states and districts commensurate with
capacities to provide new impetus, ideas, resources, and personnel; and
lastly, through the imposition of sanctions, create momentum for deliberate and a
well articulated improvement processes for schools and districts stuck in low
performance. NCLB fails those practical criteria.

In state systems with at least moderately high performance demands, NCLB has
led to high numbers of failing schools that by far outstrip district and
state capacity to intervene. But it is not even clear if the bulk of these
schools are in fact correctly classified. Most notably, the system has no practical
answers to address the full spectrum of student performance and learning
needs, particularly for students far-below proficient, special needs students, and
marginally performing students; moreover, it does not speak to the
predicament of low-capacity schools and districts. While it may appear that the
sanctions system has succeeded in fermenting a climate of reform, such ferment, in
many instances, is more likely to result in unproductive turbulence than
sustained school improvement.

Is the Sanctions System Legitimate? Despite an almost twenty year period in
some states, accountability systems, and particularly NCLB, continue to
encounter serious legitimacy and acceptability problems among the groups
that they are designed to target—teachers, principals, and administrators in low
performing schools and districts. In general, while standards, assessments
of performance, and consequences for low performance are widely accepted ideas
in general, research suggests that attitudes about high stakes accountability
systems are more negative. This is because accountability systems designed
around sanctions violate core professional norms of educators and produce
widespread frustration and de-moralization among those charged with carrying
out school improvement efforts. Accountability goals are often not seen as
realistic, and the sanctions are considered to be misguided and not very
useful for improving schools. In efforts to improve test scores, teachers widely
report that they must compromise standards of good teaching in order to meet
accountability goals.

What are the Costs of Maintaining a Sanctions System? The combination of
uncertain effects, loose connections to the broader educational values and
norms of educators, and the difficulties or impossibilities of carrying out
the system day-to-day makes the sanctions system a prime candidate for declaring
it a failing system. But there is a way to maintain the system, although this
way produces high educational costs. As long as states maintain low-rigor
systems that concentrate on basic skills, and the more lenient options for school
improvement or restructuring are chosen, the system can persist with
relative ease. NCLB “works” when systems place low demands on the cognitive
complexity of learning tasks and, subsequently, on teacher capacity
building. State accountability systems that operate within a basic skills framework
and with low test rigor tend to produce lower numbers of failing schools.
Because such systems tackle school improvement goals that are fairly light,
affordable, and manageable, they are more practical within the NCLB framework. Systems
that are more ambitious produce an intervention burden that makes them

Monday, April 20, 2009

Proposition 1 A

Prop. 1A -- Frog Soup, Anyone?
You know the story of the frog who is thrown into a pot of water. If the water is too hot at the beginning, the frog jumps right out. But if the water is comfortable enough at the beginning, but then the temperature is slowly increased, the frog will stay in the water until it is boiled alive. That's exactly what Californians will be doing if we vote for Proposition 1A -- slowly, but permanently destroying public education and public services in California.

Proposition 1A, and all of the little attachments, is bad for our schools and bad for the people of California. Whatever short-term benefit we get from the state's budget-rescue package pales in comparison to the long-term disasters that await education and other important programs which are supported by the state.

I'm having a hard time getting the "spending cap" to make sense in my mind when I also realize that there's no "human-dignity floor," or a level of human-needs services that we also agree never to go below. We've already cut many of our state programs so severely that the next step is to eliminate many vital programs altogether. The state budget is already rigged so that it's impossible to get new revenues and new programs in place, so every cut is permanent.

The other dynamic is that the fastest growing part of the budget is prison funding, carrying with it a host of mandated funding increases. With mandatory sentencing laws and 3-strikes laws on the books, along with federal court mandates to dramatically improve its abysmal prison health care program, the prison-funding part of the budget can only increase. Which means that with a spending cap, the rest of the budget can only go down.

And, we're locking in the spending cap at a shockingly inadequate funding level. Our schools are already the most poorly funded schools in the country. Sure, the temporary pay-off in Prop. 1B will keep us at 48th or 49th out of 50 states for a few years, but that's as good as it will ever get! Mental health programs have already been decimated, and Prop 1E will take more. Prop. 1D is going to tap into children's services. We're robbing our own kids, and this is the best we can do?

I'm also deeply dismayed that my own union, CTA, is endorsing this package. Remember the good ole' days when CTA used to fight against Schwarzenegger's hare-brained ideas. Thankfully, the California Federation of Teachers is opposing Prop. 1A, and so is the California Nurses Association, SEIU and an expanding group of other wiser labor unions.

California needs a better deal. Let's scrap California's budget process altogether, with its un-democratic two-thirds majority requirement for new funding, get rid of Prop. 13, and write a new state constitution.

Please vote no on 1A.
From: Thomas Morse. The Teacher Lounge.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

California Proposition 1 A and 1 B

No on Prop. 1 A.

Since 2002 the CSU has lost almost $1 Billion in state funding. Students have been charged more fees to make up the difference. A spending cap on the state budget will make these cuts permanent. The CSU budget will not be restored to the levels of 2002.

[Prop 1A] would actually make it more difficult for future governors and legislatures to enact budgets that meet California's needs and address state priorities. It would amend the state Constitution to dictate restrictions on the use of funds put into the reserve and limit how "unanticipated" revenues can be used in good years. It could lock in a reduced level of public services, including university education, by not taking proper account of the state's changing demographics and actual growth in costs. Prop 1A would also give future governors new power to make budget cuts without legislative oversight. Like several other propositions , Prop 1A came from a deeply flawed process that resulted in measures written in haste and without public input or analysis.

Yes on 1 B.

California's k-12 education system is in crisis because it is underfunded. Contrary to the wishes of the voters, politicians continue to fail to adequately fund our schools. When comparisons include cost of living- California ranks 47th. out of the 50 states in per pupil expenditures. Our schools are suffering. This is unacceptable.

Prop. 1 B would repay the schools some $9 Billion taken by the Legislature from school funding this year in response to the economic crisis. The money would be repayed beginning in 2011, when we hope this economic crisis will have passed. Prop 1 B would return California to the Minimum guarantee of funding for schools that exists in current law.

Suggested by Duane Campbell

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

California Dropout crisis

New Report Underscores Education Reform Needs

Senator Gloria Romero
Current High-School Dropout Rate Means 1 in 3 Students Will Fail
Today we again highlight the need for reform in California’s education system based on a report released yesterday by the California Dropout Research Project stating one in three high-school students will drop out of school before graduating.
It is simply unconscionable that we can project a failure rate in educating future generations. I’m not willing to wait one more year—and loose another 140,000 students—to enact serious reforms. We must make changes now that will enable kids to succeed in school and put California back on a path to real and long-term economic recovery.
According to the report in California, students abandon middle and high schools at the rate of 140,000 per year—equlivant to the populations of Pasadena, Elk Grove or the entire County of Napa—and cost taxpayers $46 billion annually in crime, social welfare, health, public assistance and other taxpayer costs. Even in the best of times, the high costs of dropouts to the state are a drain but, today starting new engines of economic growth are the rallying cry of all state and national governments eying recovery.
California’s needs an education system that produces more skilled high-school graduates today more than at any other time in our past.
In fact, for every $500 of wealth that households headed by a high-school dropout accumulate, households headed by high-school graduates possess approximately $5,000. This means that there would be an additional $74 billion in collective wealth in the United States if every household were headed by an individual with at least a high-school diploma, according to a 2008 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education.
The Public Policy Institute of California predicts there will be twice as many high-school dropouts in California in 2025 as there will be jobs to support them. Meaning twice as many high-school dropouts will have no hope for employment. This evidence underscores the importance of early intervention and prevention.
In March the Senate Committee on Education held an informational hearing with the objective of viewing education initiatives through the lens of economic recovery. The hearing and outlined the steps needed to ensure that a skilled workforce, representative of the state’s diversity, industry and need, will be ready to fuel the next stage of economic growth in the state. Further, this year I along with Senator Steinberg have also co-authored SB 651 that would use data to assist educators in developing better public accountability and a stronger focus on dropout prevention.
California’s economic development strategy must focus on growing human capital, and human capital starts with education. Education is the single most important factor in ensuring a capable and competent society in which every member has the opportunity to succeed.
A recent report by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy and the California Educational Opportunity Report, Education and Access (IDEA) and All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity (ACCORD), found widespread correlation to renewed attention of the relationship between educational investment and the state’s economic health. The “achievement gap” represents the difference between what California public school students achieve today versus what they will require to gain work in a global economy.
To that end, Senate Democratic members have introduced a package of legislation “Jobs of Tomorrow” which asserts the real link between education and the economy. These bills seek to enhance California’s education system through:
• SB 675 (Steinberg) – Clean Technology and Renewable Energy Job Training, Career Technical Education, and Dropout Prevention Act of 2010
• SB 471 (Romero and Steinberg) – Education: stem cell research
• SB 515 (Hancock) – Career technical education
• SB 43 (Alquist) – Health professions
• SB 725 (Hancock) – Regional occupational centers or programs: California Apprenticeship Preparation Program
• SB 651 (Romero and Steinberg) – Drop out tracking
• SB 747 (Romero) – Career technical education- aerospace
Posted on April 14, 2009

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Federal bailout funds arrive for schools

Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Reports California to Receive More
Than $1 Billion in Recovery Funds for Federal Education Programs
SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today announced the U.S. Department of Education has awarded California an estimated $634 million for students with special needs and $564 million for socioeconomically disadvantaged students in the first disbursement of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

"The federal economic stimulus funds will help us educate some of our most vulnerable students – those in need of special education services and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged," said O'Connell. "I have directed divisions within the California Department of Education to get these education recovery funds out to our schools as quickly as possible in order to save and create jobs as well as improve student achievement."

The nearly $634 million for special education constitutes half of the ARRA recovery funds for California dedicated to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B program. The funds will be used to help districts in this fiscal year and next. The remaining 50 percent of the IDEA funds will be awarded in the fall. These recovery funds constitute a one-time increase for IDEA, Part B programs. The Obama Administration has made clear that the funding should be used for short-term investments that have the potential for long-term benefits rather than for expenditures that cannot be sustained once the recovery funds are expended.

"I am pleased to note this increase in IDEA funding because the federal government historically has not met its commitment to provide 40 percent of funding needed to serve students with disabilities," said O'Connell. "The ARRA funding is a welcome increase, and I will work with educators to achieve continued increased funding."

Some possible uses of these limited-term IDEA recovery funds include:

Obtaining state-of-the art assistive technology devices and provide training in their use to enhance access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities.
Providing intensive district-wide professional development for special education and regular education teachers that focuses on scaling-up, through replication; proven and innovative evidence-based school-wide strategies in reading, math, writing, and science; and positive behavioral supports to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.
Developing or expanding the capacity to collect and use data to improve teaching and learning.
Expanding the availability and range of inclusive placement options for preschoolers with disabilities by developing the capacity of public and private preschool programs to serve these children.
Hiring transition coordinators to work with employers in the community to develop job placements for youths with disabilities.
The $564 million in ARRA funds allocated to benefit socioeconomically disadvantaged students constitutes half of the ARRA recovery funds dedicated to Title I, Part A program expected to go to California. The remaining 50 percent of the Title I funds are expected to be awarded in the fall. These recovery funds constitute a one-time increase for Title I, Part A programs. Again, the federal government intends this funding to be used for short-term investments that have the potential for long-term benefits, rather than for expenditures that cannot be sustained once the recovery funds are expended. Some possible uses of these limited-term Title I recovery funds include:

Establishing a system for identifying and training highly effective teachers to serve as instructional leaders in Title I school wide programs and modifying the school schedule to allow for collaboration among the instructional staff.
Providing new opportunities for Title I school-wide programs for secondary school students to use high-quality, online coursework as supplemental learning materials for meeting mathematics and science requirements.
Developing and expanding longitudinal data systems to drive continuous improvement efforts focused on increased achievement in Title I schools.
Districts are also encouraged to consider using these funds to support and improve preschool and early childhood development programs which are an existing allowable use for Title I.

ARRA was signed into law in February by President Barack Obama. The entire spending and tax package to benefit the nation's schools includes more than $100 billion for elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education; $4.1 billion for early education and care; and $26 billion in education tax incentives. A total of $5 billion is expected to benefit public education in California. This unprecedented investment will provide public education and early childhood programs with critically needed funds that can be used to avoid teacher layoffs, continue efforts to close achievement gaps, and improve educational opportunities for California's children and youth.

"President Obama recognizes that investing in education is a key way to rev up America's economic engine," O'Connell said. "The severity of our state budget crisis has resulted in billions of dollars in cuts to California schools. This federal funding is vitally needed to help lessen the blow to public education. I am pleased to be working with the Governor, the Legislature, and the education community to get these resources out to schools quickly so the recovery funds can be put to use as they were intended."

O'Connell is working with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as well as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, and the California Legislative Leadership to make sure California obtains maximum funds for which the state is eligible. For more information on ARRA and how it will benefit California, please visit American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - Allocations & Apportionments. For a preliminary list of how much ARRA IDEA funds each school districts is expected to receive, please visit CALIFORNIA-20090213-HR1-LEAs (PDF; Outside Source). For a preliminary list of how much ARRA Title I funds each school district is expected to receive, please visit ESEA Title I LEA Allocations Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Outside Source).

A final list of exactly how much ARRA funding each school district will receive will take a month to compile.
# # # #

Jack O'Connell — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No Banker Left Behind

In for a Penny, In for $2.98 Trillion

By Robert Scheer

The good news on the government’s “No Banker Left Behind” program is that, according to the special inspector general’s report on Tuesday, the total handout to date is still less than 3 trillion dollars. It’s only $2.98 trillion, to be precise, an amount six times greater than will be spent by federal, state and local governments this year on educating the 50 million American children in elementary and secondary schools.

The bad news is that even greater amounts of money are to be thrown down what has to be the world record for rat holes.

Where did the money go? Almost all of it went to the bankers and stockbrokers who got us into this mess by insisting that the complex-by-design derivatives they trafficked in should not be regulated by government since they were private transactions between consenting professionals. Sort of like a lap dance: If it doesn’t work out, that’s the problem of the parties involved and no concern of the government.