Obama hasn't "whittled down" No Child Left Behind. He's DOUBLED DOWN on it:
In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified.
On Friday, the Department of Education plans to announce that it has granted waivers releasing two more states, Washington and Wisconsin, from some of the most onerous conditions of the signature Bush-era legislation. With this latest round, 26 states are now relieved from meeting the lofty — and controversial — goal of making all students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Additional waivers are pending in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
“The more waivers there are, the less there really is a law, right?” said Andy Porter, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.
While No Child Left Behind has been praised for forcing schools to become more accountable for the education of poor and minority children, it has been derided for what some regard as an obsessive focus on test results, which has led to some notorious cheating scandals. Critics have also faulted the law’s system of rating schools, which they say labeled so many of them low performing that it rendered the judgment meaningless.
In exchange for the education waivers, schools and districts must promise to set new targets aimed at preparing students for colleges and careers. They must also tether evaluations of teachers and schools in part to student achievement on standardized tests. The use of tests to judge teacher effectiveness is a departure from No Child Left Behind, which used test scores to rate schools and districts.
Far from "whittling down" the accountability mechanisms of NCLB, Obama has doubled down on them and transferred them to teachers and administrators.
There is certainly a heavier reliance on standardized testing now under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration.
Under Bush, we tested ELA and math.
Under Obama, we will test everything - ELA, math, social studies, science, art, music, foreign language and physical education.
And it will only get worse as we move toward 2014 and the adoption of the nation-wide Common Core "State" Standards tests the administration is pushing for every state in the nation to collectively adopt.
Here in New York State, as a result of the NCLB waiver and the new teacher evaluation system agreed upon by the governor, the NYSED commissioner, the Regents chancellor and the union heads, students will take as many as 35 tests a year in math, ELA, social studies, science, art, music, foreign language and physical education - both state AND local tests - not for diagnostic purposes but simply to be used to evaluate their teachers, rank them on a bell curve and fire the "ineffective" ones.
How the hell is adding 35 high stakes standardized tests a year for every student "whittling down" NCLB and essentially "nullifying" the law?
Quite the opposite - it's simply moved the "accountability" from individual schools to individuals.
Instead of labeling schools "failing," the administration wants states to test their students throughout the year and label the teachers of those students who don't "add value" to their test scores as measured by a value-added algorithm "failing".
And the administration wants those teachers fired - just the way they wanted all those teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island fired.
Doesn't matter what other challenges teachers and schools face, doesn't matter if even conservative columnist George Will recognizes that there are mitigating outside circumstances that can make a teacher's job very, very difficult - to Barack Obama and Arne Duncan there are "no excuses!"
Teachers MUST raise test scores or be fired.
Nothing matters more than test scores.
The Times article does get a critic of the waiver process to note that the administration is still putting a heavy emphasis on testing, but quite frankly, this is article gets most of this story wrong.
The fact is, the Obama administration's education policies are much worse than No Child Left Behind and the waivers they have provided for states from NCLB simply move the burden from schools to teachers.
Arne Duncan slings some crap in the article about there being "mix of indicators" states can use to evaluate teachers, but that's total jive.
The administration only gave waivers to states that used test scores as the primary evaluation measurement and the administration is promoting the adoption of the CCSS tests and assessments in all subjects by all states so that teachers can be evaluated and ranked nationwide.
Barack Obama's education policies are much more draconian and punitive than George Bush's.
They also rely on standardized testing as the primary mechanism to measure who gets punished - just as Bush's did.
Only under Obama, most schools don't get labeled "failing.
Instead, individual teachers will be labeled "failing" - and then fired.
It's a shame that the NY Times and many of the other media outlets can't see beyond Arne Duncan's jive to understand that and report it to the public.
But once the Obama policies become complete and children have to take 35 high stakes standardized tests a year simply to evaluate their teachers, the public is going to see just how full of crap Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, and the media are about this "whittling down" of NCLB.
Especially when the firings commence and Johnny's favorite 4th grade teacher - the one highly respected by her principal, her colleagues, her students and the parents of those students - is fired because she came up on the bottom of the highly flawed VAM bell curve two years running.