Graphical Representation of Lack Of Comparability and AYP

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So this post is slightly out of order from where it should be but while I was researching political cartoons for the last post, I came across a couple of graphs that I thought would be good to discuss in this blog series because they further illustrate the points that I am trying to make.  Both of these provide good evidence to back up the claims that I am making in this presentation.

The first graph shows two maps of the United States of America which a series of shading on both of them.  The map on the left represents states that have schools who are not meeting the required standards.  This includes all schools that have fallen below the Annual Yearly Percentage for that particular state.  Now the map on the right represents states that are not meeting national standards.  When compared these two maps do not match up completely.  For example, in Mississippi the maps show that the majority of their schools are passing AYP but when compared to the map on the right, it shows that the students on the national ranking level are not comparing and are failing majorly.  To look at our own state, we see that Illinois schools are not doing well at meeting the state standards but when the students are compared on the national level, they are not as bad off.  The comparison between these two maps proves my point that there is a lack of comparability between states in the No Child Left Behind policy.  If the states are not performing on the national level, then there needs to be more serious consequences than just the threats that are currently in place.

This bar graph is another thing that I stumbled upon while doing my political cartoon research.  It provides a representation of how schools are doing according to the Annual Yearly Percentage.  In the beginning when No Child Left Behind was implemented (2002) the majority of the schools were passing but as the years went on that majority shrunk to a vast minority of schools that were passing AYP.  This is due to the fact that every single year, the percentage of students in a school that must pass goes up.  By 2014, the amount of students that are expected to pass the standardized tests is 100%.  Because of this progress scale, as the years pass more schools will begin failing the tests instead of passing.  This will help prove my point later when I try setting up a workable solution to the No Child Left Behind policy.  It will help me to show that not every child can be expected to pass these tests but we should expect our students to progress from year to year.

“Teaching to the Test”

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So after talking about the issue of comparability between states with the No Child Left Behind in my previous posts, I’m now going to move onto a different problem I also see with current system.  This problem is referred to as “teaching to the test”  and it involves the way a teacher teaches their curriculum under the No Child Left Behind system.  Normally when I teacher is teaching without the standards based testing system, they will create their own curriculum and teach they would like with few restrictions.  Their teaching would include a broad range of subjects to include math, science, reading, grammar, history, government, and so on so the child gets a well rounded education.  The teacher would spend their time shuffling from one subject to another during the regular school week and concentrate each subject at their respective time.  This may include having a series of projects and field trips or experiences that would allow the child to better experience each subject.

With the No Child Left Behind system now though teachers are feeling an ever increasing pressure (I will talk more about the pressure students and teachers face under the NCLB system later on in this blog series) to have their children succeed on these tests.  How a child is doing on tests now reflects how a teacher is teaching his/her students.  So if they students in a class are doing bad on the standarized tests, a school system will assume that the teacher is not doing an adequate job of teaching her students the things that need to be taught.  This could lead to poor performance reviews for a teacher, certain actions being taken and even leading to the eventual termination of a teacher.

So to prevent this action being taken and their performance reviews being poor, a teacher will take any action possible to make sure that their students test scores come out good so they remain in the clear for another year.  This includes changing their curriculum to include basically only the subjects that are included in standardized tests.  These tests include the subjects math, reading, and grammar (science is also included but in most states this section of the test is not included in the overall scoring of the child).  By changing their curriculum a teaching is excluding other subjects such as the different types of sciences, history and other social studies.  A student’s education than becomes less of a well rounded education with hands on experience and more of an education based solely on three subjects with complete focus on testing and the scores that come from them.

This is not good for a student’s education and ultimately limits in the future when they are trying to decide what interests them and what they are good at.  This changing of curriculum is known as “teaching to the test” and it has become the main focus for teaches in elementary and middle schools in the recent years.

Personal Experience with the Issue of Comparability

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So I made a video of myself talking about a personal experience I had with the NCLB system and the difference between education systems in Alabama and in Illinois.  I hope you can see the point I’m trying to get across with this video blog and how it relates to my previous posts on the issue of comparability between states as a huge problem in the NCLB system.

Issue of Comparability between States

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One of the biggest issues I see with the No Child Left Behind policy is the fact that the current system lacks an efficient way for the quality of a states education to be measured to make sure that a state is educating the students to the best of their ability.  Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, NCLB is implemented by the federal government but how the program is actually carried out in the school system all depends on the state and their regulations.  The federal government’s only requirements of a state is to make a standards based testing system to measure how the students in the particular state are being educated.  However, since the federal government does not provide a national test and leaves it up to the state to determine how the testing will be done, each state has a different version of the test.  This means that some states may have an easier test than another state which does not truly reflect the value of the education in that state.  A state with an easier test will naturally have high scores reported than the state with hard test that actually challenges their students.  But based solely on test scores and not the education given to the students, the state with the easier test and higher scores will seemingly have a better education system.  So where does the federal government step in to make sure that these tests are given fairly and are doing the job of making a better education system?

Fortunately the federal government did see that comparability was going to be an issue when NCLB was being formed so Congress created a national standard  called National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  Unfortunately, however, the NAEP is good in theory but the actual implementation of the standards is tricky.

In an interview featuring The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent, Nicholas Lemann, he discusses this issue and how the NAEP is failing at creating a true national standard.  He says that although the NAEP creates a national standard it doesn’t actually work because there are no consequences for a state it they are “dumbing down” their standards test.  Lemann also said due to the lack of punishment factor on the states there is just the embarrassment factor of being a state with low education standards.  The NAEP does not do enough to deter easy testing so a state can basically get away with making their test easy and still look good in the federal government’s eyes because they are consistently turning out good test scores.  I personally think that system is completely messed up and it is not doing the job that it was designed to do.  The tests are supposed to make our education system better but honestly they aren’t changing anything!!!

Introduction to Blog Series and No Child Left Behind

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This post is the beginning of a two week blog series I will be doing for my final project in my English 102 class.  This particular series will be discussing the education policy No Child Left Behind and concerns raised by the current system of education.  I will be discussing the three biggest problems I see with this policy which are the issue of comparability between states, teachers changing their curriculum to “teach to the test”, and added pressure being put on teachers and students in the classroom to pass these tests.  I will also be discussing possible ways this policy can be changed in the upcoming years.  My argument will be made using pieces of research I have found in the midst of this project, personal experiences I have had with system from both sides of the perspective, and an interview from a professor of the School of Education who is deemed an expert by the rest of the department on this particular subject.  I invite you to participate in this conversation by commenting on different posts and joining in on the conversations already started on the blog.  Other people’s thoughts and experiences on this subject will make the argument much more convincing then just what I have to say.

If you were reading that paragraph above and had NO clue what I was talking about or you want a refresher of what No Child Left Behind is, or if you want to know a little more of the backgr0und of the policy this paragraph will give a brief introduction as to what No Child Left Behind is.   No Child Left Behind is the name of the education policy that is currently used in the United States.  The policy is implemented on the federal level but is carried out by each individual state.  The policy was passed by George W. Bush and his administration on January 8th 2002 to replace the old system of education and to create standards by which America’s quality of education could be measured.  The policy provides a way for quality of education to be measured by placing state and national standards that each individual school in the United States is supposed to meet.  NCLB received huge bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives (384-45) and the Senate (91-8).  This education policy is one of the few things that Congress has been able to agree on in both parties in the last few years.  Like I mentioned earlier, it is a federal implemented program that is carried out by the state level.  This is done by the federal government requiring each of the fifty states to set high standards and establish measurable goals for their schools to strive towards.  The standards based system is carried out by a series of annual testing in which a student must be able to answer a certain amount of questions right in order to pass the test.  A school must have a certain amount of students pass the test in order for the school to be considered “meeting standards.”  This concept of meeting standards is known as Annual Yearly Percentage (AYP) and they measure whether a school is doing a good job of teaching their students or not by requiring a school to have so many students pass these tests.

The idea behind this education reform is supposed to be for the general good in education but the system itself does not provide a way in which it can be easily carried out.  Students are still “left behind” no matter how much pressure is put on the schools and students to pass these test.  The national level that all schools need to be at by 2012 is 100% of schools meet or exceed AYP and with the amount of schools that are currently failing year after year shows that this will not be possible by next year.