Thursday, January 12, 2012

10 years of NCLB means it’s time to Occupy the DOE

This year marks the tenth anniversary of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). NCLB was and is the most aggressive intrusion of federal authority into a core issue that is constitutionally the responsibility of the states. However, NCLB passed with almost unanimous support from all political parties. Why?

Because, according to the supporters, NCLB was going to close the historic achievement gap between low income and minority students and middle class white students. It would make sure all students received a superior educational experience. It was going to hold all teachers, administrators and schools “accountable” for closing this gap. It would also hold schools and teachers accountable for all student achievement. And it promised that this would be completed by 2014.

Instead, after ten years and according to the accumulated empirical evidence, NCLB has actually caused a widening of the achievement gap. It has narrowed the curriculum to mostly test prep practice with a shortsighted focus on discreet reading and math skills. It has forced teachers to stop teaching and “prep” kids for tests and has pushed administrators into the position of data managers instead of instructional leaders. It has forced the closing of some community based schools and has actually ushered in a new form of segregation—poor and minority students are the most likely to have their schools reorganized with a bare bones scripted curriculum or to have their schools closed and then forced to attend a charter school that in all likely hood is no better and maybe worse than their original community based school. Also, for the middle and upper middle class students, their 10 year experience with NCLB has literally left them behind. These students are now 50% more likely to need remedial math and writing courses upon graduation from high school. In other words, NCLB has cost the taxpayers billions of dollars, practically destroyed America’s public education system and caused our children to lose ground academically— an absolute disaster.

Therefore I need to ask the community some questions. Parents. Why do you put up with this? Have you thought about opting out? Teachers. I know you know better. Why do you spend hours prepping for invalid tests? This is not really teaching (or why you became a teacher). Principals. Where is your leadership? Your teachers need you to call the kettle black. Superintendents. Why do you continue to do black flips in a system that, in the end, will dissolve any need for your type of educational expertise? School Boards. Why the silence as your community schools are being dismantled and property values decrease each year in direct correlation to NCLB scores?

How much longer will we allow this disaster to continue? Parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards please step up and end the unwinnable game. Our children’s future and the future of American democracy are at stake. Join us March 30th – April 2nd as we Occupy the DOE.


  1. While I strongly agree, telling teachers to stop the test prepping and parents to opt out is not going to make things happen. We need to help parents understand how to opt out, especially in schools where they are otherwise glad to have their kids. How do parents in a school build a critical mass to make opting out happen and to help the school absorb the consequences? Are the parent ready for the possible firings? The drop in ratings? In SC, for example, the score o a student who does not take the test counts as 0 toward the school.
    I want to take testing down as much as anyone, but we are asking people to go into combat with no plan. Casualties matter. We need to start building a plan.

  2. One Good Friday in 1963, 53 Americans, led by Rev. Martin Luther King- marched into downtown Birmingham to protest the existing segregation laws. All were arrested. Some people thought that a clergyman leading a march, and being arrested was wrong.
    The following day a group of prominent clergymen posted a public letter appearing in the Birmingham Newspapers appealing to be patient change is coming, and telling the black population to stop their demonstrations

    Dr. King powerfully responded with his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” this letter many people believe marks a turning point of the Civil Rights movement and provides enduring inspiration to the struggle for racial equality to this very day. >< As Martin's holiday approaches my thinking is he would say OCCUPY. Testing is not equity. Our schools are more segregated than ever, and NCLB/RTTT is leaving another generation of children behind.
    Sometimes you draw the line, sometimes you take a stand, and I look forward standing on that line with you in the Spring at the DOE.
    Jesse Turner
    Children Are More Than Test Scores

    1. It is time to draw the line in the sand! All Children are more than test scores. Teachers are more than test prep technicians!

  3. The key lies in the numbers. Parents have to talk with one another and support each other. Opting Out very much can be a community effort to save the fabric and integrity of their learning communities. Principals are not always to blame. I have seen some communications between principals and their DOE. They are bullied and threatened until they submit to do the same to parents. Numbers make the difference. If the numbers are high, the principal cannot be expected to "force" the test. If the numbers are high, it is a symptom of a larger problem. In the case of punishments... I find it interesting that in my state, schools are punished for lack of participation even though NCLB doesn't say they should be. The question is how do principals handle the blank tests. They must code tests upon completion here. Some codes count against the school and some don't.