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  • Will Education Standards Really Help Failing Schools?

    President Obama’s proposal Monday to link Title I funding to adoption of education standards has the education world abuzz. During a speech to the National Governor’s Association, President Obama stated:

    I want to commend all of you for acting collectively through the National Governors Association to develop common standards that will better position our students for success.and today, I’m announcing steps to encourage and support all states to transition to college and career-ready standards on behalf of America’s students.
    First, as a condition of receiving access to Title I funds, we will ask all states to put in place a plan to adopt and certify standards that are college and career-ready in reading and math. Once you’ve got those standards in place, you’ll be able to better compete for funds to improve teaching and upgrade curricula and to make sure that we’re delivering for our kids, we’re launching a competition to reward states that join together to develop the highest-quality, cutting edge assessments required to measure progress; and we’ll help support their implementation.

    What does this imply for the supposedly “voluntary” common standards effort underway in many states? The New York Times ran this statement from the White House:

    ‘In better aligning the law to support college- and career-ready standards, its proposed rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law would ‘require all states to adopt and certify that they have college- and career-ready standards which may include common standards developed by a state-led consortium, as a condition of qualifying for Title I funding’

    Even the Fordham Foundation, which has supported the common standards movement, has raised strong concerns about the new proposal. Andy Smarick writes:

    This is big and interesting news when combined with the administration’s push, via RTT [Race to the Top], for common or national standards. This could potentially mean that a state that refuses to give up its age-old prerogative to unilaterally determine the content of its academic standards could disqualify itself from hundreds of millions of federal funds annually.

    What remains to be seen is if states like Texas or Alaska that are balking at the national standards push would be able to argue that their non-common standards are “college- and career-ready.

    I do wonder, however, if a governor might stand up after the president’s speech and ask: ‘Mr. President, your secretary of education continues to say that the federal government doesn’t have the answer and that Washington should get out of the way and allow states to make the most important decisions in K-12 schooling. How exactly does that square with your message today that states will lose access to Title I funds unless we relinquish our right to make the final call on arguably the most important K-12 matter: what our students learn?’

    Great question. The Obama administration has billed the common standards movement as a voluntary effort by 48 states to adopt what the NGA/CCSSO deem the academic content all students across the country need to know. While Race to the Top creates a strong federal incentive for their adoption – the $4.35 billion in competitive grants has just been increased by another $1.35 billion – this move to link Title I funds to their adoption would up the ante considerably. Nearly every school district in America participates in the $14.5 billion Title I program. The program was the original 1965 federal intervention into local education to provide extra funding for low-income children. In other words, Title I represents perhaps the most powerful leverage Washington has over local education.

    This would put tremendous pressure, for example, on a state such as Texas, which until now has declined to participate in the common standards movement and RttT grants. But it may be difficult to eschew its share of Title I funding for low-income school districts.

    In addition to these concerns about federal funding and administration pressure, the actual content of the standards have some experts questioning the wisdom of adopting the NGA/CCSSO plan. In a joint press release issued Tuesday, the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy (Massachusetts) and the Pacific Research Institute (California) raise concerns about the negative impact on state education reforms across the country:

    ‘With the façade of voluntary adoption gone and this looking more like a federal takeover of educational standards, Massachusetts and other states that have gotten their acts together over the last 15 years have a choice to make,’ says James Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts. ‘Since education reform, Massachusetts and its localities have invested $90 billion in our schools; the feds not even hitting 10 percent of school spending. We implemented hard-won reforms centered on our liberal arts-rich academic frameworks. Why would we give that up – why would we give up leading the nation on national assessments and college entrance tests, and competing with the best nations in math and science to line up behind standards that look more like West Virginia’s than the nation’s best?’

    Lance Izumi, Koret Senior Fellow and Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute states:

    ‘This new study underscores the serious pitfalls of the current headlong effort of the Obama administration to push states to adopt common, i.e. national, standards. The drafting process has been opaque and the draft standards are not well written or sufficiently rigorous, which is especially disturbing for states like California and Massachusetts that already have high standards. California went through a very transparent and deliberative process to adopt its rigorous standards, so it would be tragic if these well-functioning and highly praised state standards were replaced by academically inferior national standards.

    Even as the administration’s health care proposals assert greater federal control over that sector, early signs are that its ideas for this year’s looming education debate are moving in the same direction. And that’s the wrong direction for America’s students.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Will Education Standards Really Help Failing Schools?

    1. Al Wunsch, Fl says:

      The states would be smart to try to shed as much of federal subsidies that they can and become self sufficient. So long as we have the far left influence in education, I don't see education succeeding. On the federal level, with deficits going thru the roof, I would hope that the new congress in 2011 will start reining in spending and the education dept and programs such as these would be good candidates for cutting off federal funding.

    2. MarkV says:

      Great!! Another dumb idea from Big Government. The biggest problem with our school system is something the school system cannot fix. It has nothing to do with funding; it has nothing to do with "good" or "bad" teachers; and it has nothing to do with teachers unions (though I admit sometimes wish it did). The biggest problem with our education system is the Parents!

      The difference between private education and public has never been the teachers or the system. In private education, the student usually has an involved parent who will oversee their progress, and they are surrounded by similar students with like-minded parents. Are their good and exceptional students in public education? Of course. There are more than we give the system credit. But for those kids, it is an uphill battle. And to those parents, I have the utmost respect and admiration. Those parents give up their child every day to be influenced by children whose parents pass on their laisse-faire attitude of life to their child who in turn create the peer pressure for the good students to choose immediate gratification over future successes. The student without a father being and a disinterested mother is not the fault of the teacher.

      Modern education in the public school system has some of the brightest and most educated teachers our country's history! And when I was growing up, there were never so many make-up tests, extra credit, or extra hours put in by the teachers after class as their is today. Yet the greatest detriment to our entire system are the children's parents. Today's children are sent to school in a bubble from the 'real world'. We have an environment where punishment is not allowed, criticism is outlawed, and failure is not an option. None of those things are the fault of the teacher, the union, or the school system. They are the fault of the parents, voters, and (in some instances) the legal system. Today's parent is a narcissistic individual who has no time to check their child's homework or even see if they did it. The television has replaced the babysitter, and schools replace daycare. And parents expect the teachers and school system to play "parent" while they get to relive their youth.

      A local elementary school here in CA tried something unique and got amazing results. It did not involve new text books — they stayed the same. It did not involve better buildings or better technology — the school is still 40 year old. It also had nothing to do with good or bad teachers — there was no change in personnel. Instead what they did was had on campus classes for parents. The student grades improved. The program was cut two years ago due to funding. Administration, not teachers, undermined the students' success. And that success involves a good parent.

      And why does home schooling work so well and get the results we see all the time? Again, it is the parent.

      So it is time to end the attack on teachers and their pay. And a Conservative, I am shocked at how many times I hear the mantra of 'merit pay.' On its face, it is a foolish idea. We like to talk about how private schools work on such a scale and get results, but that is wrong. Private schools do not have money for bonuses, and this ignores the fact that parents who send their children to such schools are involved in their children's lives and education. We trumpet the idea that merit pay works great in the business environment, but a class room is not a factory, and a child is not a widget. We do not "produce" great students! In business, you are rightly held accountable if those below you do not produce. But that is because you have something to hold over them — their job and their paycheck!! But in public education you cannot fire your students. Thus you are stuck with the good AND the bad. I do not see the importance of paying my kid's teacher "on commission," because that is what 'merit pay' is actually analogous to in the business world. I will give you another example of where 'merit pay' is outright stupid! The administrators of a local middle school just changed their school day from 5 periods of 90 minutes to 6 periods of just over 60 minutes. How many of you out their would like your boss to cut your work day down by 33%, ask you produce the same results, then tell you that your pay was based on that new performance?! None of us, of course. Yet that is exactly what we ask teachers to do with 'merit pay'. At another school, teachers voted not to change textbooks because they knew where all the material was and the book worked for them. Administration convinced parents that the 2 year old text book in math was outdated. One we spoke to said it was a struggle all year to get used to how the new book was arranged. Anyone hear about any amazing breakthroughs in math in the last 50 years that would warrant a two-year old text book obsolete?? Yeah, me neither. Another instance where teachers' success depended on outside forces. And yet some of us want their pay tied to that.

      And while we are at it, we should stop admonishing the teachers for "gold plated" health care. Let's think about this one too. Recently a 6th grader brought a gun to school more out of ignorance than malice, thank God!! But remember, the school system is now one of zero punishment and only positive reinforcement. And this environment is NOT the teachers' doing. It is our legislatures. Do any of us have anything analogous at our jobs where your coworker or subordinate can show (potentially) extreme malice and you have no ability to correct them or terminate the situation? Let's knock that off too.

      Does this post suggest that all teachers are great and all parents suck?! Of course not. We are not Liberals, so let's not read posts like Liberals. But I am sure that some will respond as if I did. I think we also forget most teachers are not single. They are wives and mothers too. They have children in the same system, and they want the same results! Children succeed in both private AND public education because of their parents, not their teachers. Good parenting facilitates good students and ultimately good responsible citizens.

      So where should that put this post? Dump the Department of Education. This is America. We tried it, and it did not work. Lets cut back on state-wide administrators. Money is tight and we do not need more administrators than we have teachers. Lets improve the idea of vouchers. Teachers unions are not against the voucher system — they are against the private schools' ability to expel students but keep the funding. There is workable middle ground here! And leave teacher pay alone. I want my kids' teachers concentrating on teaching, not looking over their shoulder wondering if they can make their house payment because we thought it was cute to pay them 'commission' to 'produce results' instead of educate children.

      Most of all, in this society of "blame others" attacking teachers is the ultimate "pass the buck" sin. At some point in our post-60s history we are going to have to wise-up to the fact that parents are going to have to be "grown ups" not buddies. We cannot quantify bad teachers when there are still A thru F students in the class. But we can quantify bad parenting based on student performance.

    3. Miki, Tucson, AZ says:

      Thank you bringing this important issue to the forefront. I definitely believe that a national standard would be detrimental to our children's future. I was educated in Massachusetts and know it was above the standards I would have received in any other state. Why not encourage other states to follow in Massachusetts' high standards path, which has proven beneficial on the state, national and international levels?

    4. Dave, Minnesota says:

      I have an idea! Out-law all unions in our education system. Close down the Dept. of Education at the Federal level! Let all education return to each individual State. One of the criticism of the Charter system of schools is that it allows the removal of unwanted teachers through a merit system! The federal government does nothing more that collect tax monies and return it to each state after the administrative costs have been removed. The federal government does nothing to help our national school system but get in the way!

    5. Pingback: Will Education Standards Really Help Failing Schools? « WorldClassStandards

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