Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Tables Are Turned: NCLB Results Are Out

This morning I saw the headline in the "New Haven Register" announcing that 290 schools in Connecticut have failed the No Child Left Behind standards based on the Connecticut Mastery Test scores. That paper listed results for New Haven county. I then rushed online to see the results for Fairfield County, to check the schools in my own town.

To the mother of a friend with over 30 years experience teaching in one elementary school who chided me about homeschooling being bad and ineffective and who stated outright that a parent untrained by college degree in education could never be competent to teach her own children...I see your school has failed in math and reading.

To my sister-in-law middle school math teacher, who has given me flack about homeschooling as never being able to measure up to the superior job that teachers in public schools can do....I see your school has failed in MATH and reading.

I am happy to see my hometown has passed. I am not sure how good the schools were back then but at least now they are passing.

I see the town in which I lived and paid property taxes in for 6 years has passed.

The town in which I presently live and pay property taxes to support and pay for the schools, has passed. Phew. That is good for two reasons, perhaps it will help our property value not be reduced in value and if my children ever do go there, at least they won't be entering failing schools.

The middle school in my husband's hometown has failed. That means that the middle school that my six nieces and nephews will attend is a now-failing school. Many, many relatives in my husband's family live in that town, pay taxes, and have questioned homeschooling's effectiveness, while touting how good they feel the schools in that town are. The same sister in law who works at a failing school in another town lives in this town with a failing school.

I read a bit about NCLB and how it is administered. I find it confusing and now see why in the past some school staff has complained that to figure out the rules and procedures, much staff time is used. There are certain categories which I don't understand such as "safe harbor" and "needs improvement". Each designation means a different thing will happen to that school.

One thing that I see is that the passing grades started low and increase each year. The passing test scores seem so low to me.

Passing Scores for 2006:
68% Reading
74% Math
70% Writing

Also 95% of students must take the test or the school automatically fails.

There is a quote by a principal in the New Haven Register that he feels that as the test standards get higher and higher that eventually 100% of schools will fail. Wow, how is that for a negative outlook?

I was surprised to see that in year one and two of failing, that a student has the right to change to a different school or to receive tutoring services. Private tutoring for every child can be costly ($75-80 per hour here). Suddenly having students changing schools can throw a monkey wrench into things such as space, teacher to student ratio, etc. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.

I am trying not to be prideful but hearing that 290 schools in my state have failed to meet standards makes me happy that I am homeschooling, and happy that my children are performing above grade level in reading and math. If I am not careful the NCLB scores could make me want to push my children even harder, to achieve more, for their sake and to prove that homeschooling works. But that is not what homeschooling is about for me, it is NOT about me as the parent trying to be better than someone else (the school teacher).

Many people including every school teacher I know has had no problem stating that homeschoolers (including our family) should be accountable for their children's academic progress. Every teacher I know as a friend, relative or acquaintence has stated directly and plainly that they feel that MY homeschooled children should be tested with standardized tests and evaluated by the public school staff for my competency as a teacher and for my children's academic progress for the sake of the child, and if they "fail" they should be forced to go to public school.

I have also been practically accused by the public school teachers that I know of possibly doing my children harm by homeschooling them, that I would do best by them if I were to turn them over to the public schools. However these same teachers have complained to me about NCLB and stated that testing THEIR public schooled students is not right or fair, and that they don't feel it is right to be held accountable for their students performance.

I am trying very hard not to gloat or to revel in the failure of the schools, especially the ones that my friends and relatives work at, so I'll vent my feelings here on my blog rather than to them directly as I feel that would not be polite. Note that the teachers I know are outspoken with me on their negative opinions of me but I hold my tongue when I get a chance to say negative things to them (even when they are based on facts such as the NCLB standards and on test scores). But it is so hard!!

1 comment:

the spouse said...

This is my favorite TheThinkingMother post ever.

Much of a typical public school student's year is spent taking and preparing to take these tests. At my dd's school, hours are spent each week doing practice tests all year long. In Westchester County, NY, the parents became so alarmed at the amount of time and attention eaten up in this endeavor that they all went on strike and refused to let their children attend school during the testing days. Since a school can automatically fail due to non-attendance, this must have made a big impact (it certainly got national media attention).

At my dd's public school, we are informed months in advance about when, exactly, the state testing will take place and are asked not to schedule any family vacations during this three week period. We receive more information on this one subject than any other from the school. We receive no curriculum summary, let alone detail. We cannot get any information about the new math program that has been chosen for the upcoming year, or details about why it was needed or selected (even the local newspaper reporters cannot extricate this priveledged info). At the close of the year assembly, the principal had nothing to say about her school's academic progress or forthcoming academic goals. I wonder if this is because all of those topics are much less important to the school administration than testing and through what they emphasize and what they de-emphasize they are trying to get us on board and thinking the same way. Somehow I think that is very unlikely.

They have not made a real connection between content taught and success in general (not just mandatory test success). This little local school of ours has no reason not to score in the 99th percentile on these tests. But they do not. They are comfortable to say they do "ok," "fine," "well," with "B" level scores in the 80's. If you are going to spend the resources to engage in this testing circus, shouldn't the only acceptable outcome, and one that the school openly strives for, be "outstanding"? Otherwise, it is all a silly exercise. No more effort needs to be given towards achieving mediocrity.

By the way, when we lived in NY State for one year I was told that my dd could join the public schoolers in taking their annual assessment exams (and for free) if I was interested in having her do that. However, they pointed out very strongly that under no circumstances could her scores be included in the official group scores. Why? They repeatedly stated that they knew that the scores of a homeschooler would skew the group results. To the upside.