Tag Archives: no child left behind

Department of Education

The Department of Education, also known as ED, was created in 1980 when offices from several federal agencies were combined together. The mission of the Department of Education is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access”. The Department of Education is responsible for a number of things including: establishing and monitoring policies on federal funds used for education, collecting and sharing data on America’s schools, determining key education issues and focusing national attention on them, and ensuring equal access to education.

 According to the Department of Education history, as reported on their website ed.gov, a budget of $15,000 and four employees in the 1860s has increased to a budget of $67.3 billion and 4,200 employees as of 2009, with an additional $100 billion to be used over a two year period as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A number of historical events led to the establishment of the federal agency known as the Department of Education. As the country watched the Soviet Union launch Sputnik and as large cities started to experience large areas of illiterate and poverty stricken neighborhoods, government officials saw an increasing need for government to step in and help with and monitor educational opportunity for all Americans.

There are a number of things that the Department of Education does NOT do. They do not establish schools, develop curriculum, determine criteria for graduation or enrollment, set state standards for education, or create and implement testing procedures for individual states to determine whether state education standards are being met. Each state has its own methods and procedures (involving both public and private organizations) that are involved in developing, assessing, and maintaining educational standards. Starting in 1969 the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics started conducting a National Assessment of Educational Progress, states can compare their testing results to these results to get an idea of where they may need additional or improved testing measures.

The Department of Education is headquartered in Washington, D.C. where 3,100 of the 4,200 employees are located. The other 1,100 employees work in regional offices located in ten areas throughout the country. For individuals that would like more detailed information, or contact information for the Department of Education, the ED.gov website provides phone numbers and mailing addresses for the Department’s headquarters and regional offices. The website also contains information about budgets and performance statistics, teaching resources, publications, federal financial aid, college accreditation, No Child Left Behind, and much more. The Department of Education even has a blog that covers current news and events relating to national education issues.

The Department of Education works directly with the President of the United States to make consistent, joint effort to improve the quality of and opportunity for education to each and EVERY individual. In the blog post Final Community College Regional Summit Focuses on Veterans, Military Members and Families on ed.gov/blog, the writer identifies one educational goal of President Obama “…having the best-educated workforce and the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020”. This is a lofty goal that can only be achieved through hard work and cooperation at a national, state, local, and individual level. Visit ed.gov to learn more about how the Department of Education can help parents, adult students, and students of all ages achieve the best education possible.

Sources: ed.gov, ed.gov/blog

Importance of Education

Understanding the importance of education is vital for both parents and students to encourage students to continue to stay in school and decrease the number of high school drop outs each year. There are also many statistics that show the average high school graduate and the college graduate are likely to make incrementally more money per year based on their level of education. While monetary facts do bode well for the importance of education, there are other valuable aspects of a student successfully making their way through school. Students that drop out of school prior to graduation are also more likely to be responsible for financial and social costs to the community and state in which they live. This is because some of those individuals that drop out of school are more likely to get pregnant out of wedlock or get into trouble with the law, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. About seven thousand high school students drop out each school day. The importance of education needs to take on a new direction to help decrease this number.

Because of the dire financial situation throughout the United States, the country can no longer absorb the costs and losses associated with the number of high school drops outs each year. This is why more and more efforts are being taken by the state and federal school systems to help encourage the number of students to stay in school through various efforts to get students educated by placing this heavy importance of education into the hand of each student and teacher. The true importance of education comes into play when high school students that do graduate face what they are going to do with their future. Which decision will they make? Fortunately more and more young adults are choosing to go to some form of college after high school whether it be a trade school or university. There are many educational opportunities for adults of all ages. By cashing in on the importance of education, young adults have a better chance at a brighter future because they will be able to make more money in the long run. While this is not the case for everyone, it does increase the likelihood of success for each student or individual.

Because of decreased spending in public schools and universities, the federal government is having to work on both a federal level as well as with the states individually to make for a change in the school system. Weighing heavily on the importance of education, lawmakers and school administrators are working together to come up with new ways to handle making education better for students while working with less money. The No Child Left Behind Act is currently undergoing major renovations to better help the students in the public school system. The idea is to revamp those requirements and instead help students truly get a a good education to take to college or post-high school educational opportunity. To learn more about the importance of education, be sure to check out the educationbug.org website to learn more about school, educational opportunities and much more.

Sources: whitehouse.gov, all4ed.org

No Child Left Behind Summary

For the past 10 years, The No Child Left Behind Act instituted by the federal government during the George W. Bush presidency. It is has been a controversial piece of legislation and continues to remain a debatable effort toward improving the educational efforts in public schools in America. The No Child Left Behind Act requires that specific efforts be taken in educating America’s youth.

These standards include:

  • Accountability for schools
  • Adequate yearly progress
  • Getting results
  • Closing the achievement gap
While many feel the No Child Left Behind Act is too regulatory without allowances, especially for children with disabilities and of a different nationality, there are many positive aspects to the educational advancement provided with No Child Left Behind. Many states are seeing improvements in overall test scores and student performance.

Accountability for schools
The No Child Left Behind accountability measures require states to set high standards and establish measurable goals to help improve the results of education in public schools. If these standards are not met, repercussions for the school are the result.

Adequate Yearly Progress
Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP reports are given to each school annually to determine each school’s fifth grades level of success based on end of year standardized test scores. If the fifth grade students within the school fail to reach these standards for one year or more, there are consequences and a series of steps that must be taken and may have results such as replacing of teachers or administration members. Each year of consecutive failure can result in more and more severe action.

Getting results
Like the previously mentioned categories, overall test results must be improving each year to ensure a successfully ran school under NCLB. Since the installation of the NCLB act, there has been improvements in reading, math and sciences throughout the country.

Closing the achievement gap
One aspect of NCLB educational development is to ensure that there is not a gap between those of minority races, white students as well as lower class and upper class. The idea is to narrow these class and racial gaps between students by giving all students the same standards to uphold. NCLB requires schools and districts to focus the attention on the students who need the most help and improvement, which often ends up being students of minority races or of a lower socioeconomic class.

The future of No Child Left Behind
Recently U.S. President Barack Obama has announced future changes to the NCLB legislation. The new plan is to focus more on making sure students are ready for college and the workplace that recognize student growth and overall goals toward school progress. Many felt like the previous concept behind NCLB resulted in too many schools setting extremely low standards for its students to ensure the NCLB testing objectives were being met. The new idea is to reward successes rather than low set goals.

Sources: http://www2.ed.gov

Merit Pay for Teachers

When it comes to merit pay for teachers, the whole discussion takes place on very shaky ground. On one hand it seems like a good idea to reward the teachers that are doing their job well. The teachers that are putting the little extras into their work to help kids like learning, like school, and excel to their full potential deserve to be recognized. On the other hand if students simply don’t apply themselves and don’t care about how well they perform, this may be interpreted as the teacher not doing his/her job well, instead of the child/teenager simply not trying and can hurt the teachers performance evaluations.

Higher education issues are nothing new, but merit pay for teachers has been a hot topic in the news with the recent bill passed in Florida. One major problem that teachers, principals, superintendents and school districts alike are seeing is that there is no funding to go along with the bill. Where it has already been 2-3 years since teachers have received a raise, the simple fact that a new bill was passed, does not make the money available to fund these “merit raises”.  Not to mention the extra money and staff that is going to be needed to fund all the additional testing int the schools that will be required.

But the debate goes deeper than just the additional money it is going to cost the school district and takes into account the pressure put on the teachers to try and teach students in a way that they can “pass the test”. In addition to the fact that money isn’t there right now and the testing means and method still need some reforming, a fundamental question being asked is how this will affect the teacher. Without the right type of evaluation process, the teachers that are doing a good job, but have a few kids that don’t do well on tests, could end up with their job in jeopardy.

On the up side,  merit vs tenure may be able to help get some of the teachers that are only there because they are tenured, out of the system. This may also give some of the new teachers more time to prove how valuable they are, instead of always being the first ones to be laid off simply because they are “the new guy”.

While there is still much debate and many questions about the new merit pay bill in Florida and how it will work, other states are considering the benefits of a merit pay system. The idea of rewarding those that do a good job is what people hope for. The nightmare of determining a way to effectively evaluate who is doing a good job is the major problem. Everyone likes to be rewarded for a job well done but having your pay and job determined by the results of how someone else performs (e.g. student test scores) just seems like another No Child Left Behind nightmare.

August Survey Halfway Report

Halfway through our August survey on the Obama administration’s education leadership, we bring you a report of the results so far. If you haven’t yet participated in our August survey, you can vote here.

The survey question this month is:

Do you think the Obama administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are doing a good job of leading the country in the right direction with education?

The answer choices are:

• Yes: they really “get it.”

• Yes, national standards and the reform funded by Race to the Top are really needed, but we still need an overhaul of No Child Left Behind.

• Yes, the oversight of the for-profit schools is critical, and the other things I can live with.

• No, they’re off-track in just about every possible way.

• No, some things are okay, but Race to the Top and the national standards are a major step in the wrong direction in terms of educational quality and giving up local control.

• No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more.

Other (please specify)

So far, 81 votes have been cast, with 19 people (23.4%) voting for one of the three answers beginning ‘Yes,’ 55 (67.9%) voting for one of the three answers beginning ‘No,’ and 7 (8.6%) choosing ‘Other’ and leaving a comment.

The leading answer is: “No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more,” which has 33.3% of the vote.

Second place goes to: “No, they’re off-track in just about every possible way,” with 24.7% of the vote.

The least chosen answer is: “Yes, the oversight of the for-profit schools is critical, and the other things I can live with,” with 2.5% of the vote.

The responses to ‘Other’ include the following (lightly edited for typos, etc.):

• “After 10 years in education I have left the classroom and taken my 3 children with me, we will be homeshooling from now on. Until NCLB is recognized as the “Every Child Held Back” program that it is and we stop punishing teachers for going into the most illiterate schools in the country by touting Pay for Performance as a means of rewarding teachers that take the easy way out, it really isn’t that hard to teach children who can read and write BEFORE coming to school and who have parental support; well until that time my children and I will not set foot in a public school again.”

• “not so rigid on certification for international teachers who are already certified and brilliant on their country. And no discrimination on application. They are employing a lot of international teachers not knowing they are victimized by private agencies hiring them back home, charging them their whole salary upon employed and leaving them destitute and not to be renewed for the next school year because of the probationary certificate for the expensive visa they have paid from hard work. May the government have pity on the poor but bright international teachers that they are hiring for lack of teachers in science, math and special ed in the USA.”

• “Education is one of the small things in these bad economic times. Obama needs to get the economy better before he tries anything big like education.”

• “NCLB needs a major over-haul, less emphasis on AYP [Annual Yearly Progress] and less testing requirements. Students should not be tested every year, every other is plenty. National standards are already in place and working well. Merit pay could work if done right: it should be based on teacher performance and training, not student performance. Race to the Top as it stands will harm students. The biggest change that needs to happen is FUNDING REFORM. School funding should not be linked to property tax. At least half of school funding should come from the federal government. Our schools are not equitable and no amount of reform will help our students until school funding is equitable.”


• “Get rid of the Unions and schools might have a chance!”

• “more vouchers and school choice—they are good on charter schools

If you haven’t yet voted, we’d like to include your opinion for our final report, so please take the survey here.

Common Core Standards: Round 2 Results and Critique

The finalists from round two of the Race to the Top Program, an initiative sponsored by the federal government to reward states for educational reform under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, were announced yesterday.

Of the 35 states and D.C. that applied for the second round, 18 and D.C. were chosen:

• Arizona
• California
• District of Columbia
• Florida
• Georgia
• Hawaii
• Illinois
• Kentucky
• Louisiana
• Maryland
• Massachusetts
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Carolina
• Ohio
• Pennsylvania
• Rhode Island
• South Carolina

Finalists will present their plans to reviewers in Washington in early August, with winners announced in September. Not all finalists will receive grants.

Meanwhile the NYTimes in its Room for Debate feature, had panelists consider the question “Will National Standard Improve Education?” Here’s a summary of comments by invited contributors:

• Sandra Stotsky, professor at University of Arkansas in the field of education reform suggests that, contrary to the hopes of those who created them, the Common Core standards are likely to result in uniform mediocrity. Stotsky claims that the way the Common Core is structured may reverse the trend of increased numbers of students completing Algebra I by 8th grade, an accomplishment that enables greater achievement in both math and science in high school. She also critiques the Common Core “college readiness” standards as not being adequate for college-level work.

• Richard D. Kahlenberg, a Century Foundation senior fellow, points out that in the past, conservative desire for local control and liberal opposition to the testing programs linked with strong standards has prevented a move such as the current Common Core. He notes (without criticism), that it is the state’s impoverished budgets that has lead to the consensus.

Neal P. McCluskey, Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom associate director, remarks that having national standards does not change the underlying situation that public schooling is a monopoly and that those within the system have a strong motivation to have as little accountability as possible. He suggests that parents, rather than the government, should control educational spending and autonomous educational options, rather than the government, provide the choices, and states that research shows that free-market education performs better than monopolies, while there is no “meaningful” evidence that having national standards improves educational outcomes.

Michael Goldstein, MATCH Charter Public School’s founder, says that while he doesn’t think the curriculum will help his school in Boston, Massachusetts (Massachusetts has been touted for its high-quality standards), the Common Core standards are potentially beneficial for “millions of at-risk children” because it will allow successful schools and teachers to share seamlessly with other schools without different state curriculums getting in the way.

Alfie Kohn, an author in the field of education and human behavior claims that the most dedicated proponents of national education initiatives such as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind “tend to be those who know the least about how kids learn.” He points out that uniform instruction offers only an illusion of fairness. What he seems to be arguing, although he does not say so explicitly, is that an excellent education for Child A, who may have the capacity to do college level calculus while still in high school may not be the same excellent education that would suit Child B, who has the capacity to become an internationally acclaimed oboist, or Child C, who has the capacity to repair the family car at age 14. What the Common Core standards say, according to Kohn, is that these children should be offered the same instructional demands. What Kohn seems to be advocating is an equally excellent education for each student.

Bruce Fuller, and University of California, Berkeley professor of education and public policy points out that when standards-based accountability was first introduced, gains were seen, especially in students who had weak literacy skills, but worries that the approach to education called “liberal” (not to be confused with the political persuasion)—which he characterizes as nurturing curiosity and the ability to question the status quo—will be lost in the attempt of the standards to make learning fit into uniform modules.



Unintended Consequences

Two education stories that came out over the weekend revealed unintended consequences to education of US law and a United Nations Security Council resolution.

The first story—”A Popular Principal, Wounded by Government’s Good Intentions” (NYTimes, July 18)—tells of the removal of a Burlington, Vermont school principal Joyce Irvine from her leadership position at a school with 97 percent low income children, and 50% foreign-born children, a large number of whom are refugees who have had traumatic experiences of one kind or another.

Although all comers are impressed by the accomplishments of the children from year to year, the testing system under the No Child Left Behind Act—which has meant that some new-comers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan, for example, have had to take an English language state math test after a month or less in the United States, for example—is not adapted to this type of situation.

As a result of standardized tests offered under these conditions, the school scored poorly, and the school district was faced with a choice of fulfilling heart-breaking requirements—closing the school; removing half the staff and the principal; or removing only the principal and transforming the school—to receive as much as $3 million in federal stimulus funds, or forgoing the stimulus funds. The decision was that removing the principal was the least damaging choice.

The principal is so highly regarded that she has been given another job by the school district that removed her and both the Burlington school superintendent and US Senator Bernie Sanders have spoken very highly of her.

The second story—”Standardized English Tests Are Halted in Iran” (NYTimes, July 17)—explains that the UN Security Council resolution of sanctions against Iran as well as US sanctions make it impossible for Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), to accept payment of registration fees from Iran.

As a result, registration for the TOEFL testing program has been suspended, making things more difficult for people whom the sanctions were not intended to affect in this way. The situation may, however, be short-lived because a State Department spokesman has reported that explorations of alternative means to allow the program to resume are under consideration.

Homeless Education

Prior to 1987 more than 50% of homeless children were not being given a formal education on a regular basis. In that year Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. This act enables all children, regardless of income or social status can get a good education. For this Act the government had to define clearly what “homeless” meant. Once that was established several things were put into place:

  • Grants must be issued by the U.S. Secretary of Education to the states for the education of homeless children.
  • The states are to make sure that all children have equal access to a suitable education and they must ensure that they can fulfill this obligation.
  • Each state must have a “Office of Coordinator for Education of Homeless Children and Youths” who will oversee data collection, and activities for the homeless children in their state. This office is also to disperse funding to local agencies for the education of homeless children.
  • In 1994 it was added that all homeless preschool children have the right to a free preschool program.
  • Also in 1994 the school systems were to begin working with the housing authorities on these issues.
The No Child Left Behind Act directly affected the McKinney-Vento Act in the following ways:
  • The definition of “homeless” was changed to take in children living with family members other than their parents or legal guardians. This also takes in those children that have had a loss of their housing, financial hard times, or other similar reasons.
  • Homeless children are not to be segregated in anyway from other children in school.
  • The schools have to provide transportation for the children no matter where they are coming from.
  • If there arises a conflict about what school a child should go to, the parent chooses and the child attends that school until the conflict is resolved.
  • Children should be placed where their needs are best met. They should be kept in their school of origin unless it is against the will of the parents.

The struggles of the homeless child are many. They deal with lack of nutrition, living conditions that can be sub-standard, lack of health care, transient living, and emotional stress. These issues away from school can cause struggles in their education. None of these obstacles is to big to overcome (educationally speaking) but the key is having the people in charge of our education system know the intricate details of what the children go through so that they are better able to get the resources together to help the children on an individual basis.

Remediation and What Schools Offer

Remediation by definition is the process in which you correct a fault or a deficiency. In education this term is commonly used in respect to learning disabilities. This is not to say that it only applies to those with big name disabilities but it even applies to the student that struggles in reading and needs extra help. No matter the severity of the need, remediation may help the student succeed.

States really hold all the control on what remedial coursework is offered to students. With the No Child Left Behind Act many states are taking a closer look at their remedial programs and what is offered in an attempt to help students resolve issues that they have in learning. In some schools these attempts are only made for those with reading problems while in other schools they offer remedial help for students struggling in a variety of subjects.
When it comes to remediation at the two year college or four year college time things are controversial. The proponents see the benefits of giving these students a second chance at being ready for college coursework while naysayers believe that this is “double dipping” as far as the funding for such programs.
Statistics show that 45% of those students that took two or more remedial courses graduated with at least an associates degree. Oddly, even with these statistics those students that received federal aid for college were limited to 4% allotted for remedial courses. As a side note, statistics show that those students that were given more challenging college prep coursework in high school were more likely to do better college regardless of their grades in high school.

Progressive Education

Progressive education holds it’s roots in the belief that students learn best though real-life activities. The educators that subscribe to this form of education say they go off of the most recent and best scientific theories of education and learning. These educators believe that students learn best by a process like John Dewey’s model of learning which includes:

  1. Realize the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Give ideas on how to solve the problem
  4. Come up with the consequences that may occur based on one’s own experience in the past
  5. Put the most likely solution to the test

Basically you could say that progressive education is “learning by doing”. That is a slogan often used by educators in this philosophy.

This method began in the late 19th century. The No Child Left Behind funding act has viewed this philosophy and alternative educational method compared to the test-oriented instruction.

Some of the things that progressive education programs may have in common are:

  • Learning by doing or hands on learning (experiential learning)
  • The curriculum is based on units with themes
  • Focus is on problem solving and critical thinking
  • Promotes teen work and social skills
  • Prefers real understanding and ability to apply skills rather than rote knowledge
  • Provides collaborative learning and cooperative learning projects
  • Teaches social responsibility and democracy
  • Uses the community in everyday curriculum
  • May use text books but prefers a wide variety of learning resources
  • Teaches that learning is a life long journey
  • Focuses on the social skills of students
  • Assessments consist of looking at a student’s projects and actions

Between 1919 and 1955 the Progressive Education Association was founded by Stanwood Cobb and others. The founders did a lot of research during the years of the Great Depression that compared students of this method to those of conventional schools. What was found was that at the college level the students from the progressive method did just as well if not better than their peers from conventional education. The study also found that the more conventional schools strayed from the traditional education methods the better the students did overall.