Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quality Education Government Influence.

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Education Government Influence.

16, 2008 – 5:16 am by

Did you know that
of Education (ED)

was started by President Carter in 1979? Before then it was part of
the Department of Health and Human Services office. Almost
immediately in the 80’s President Reagan wanted to disband the new
cabinet level department. He didn’t, but when George W. Bush took
office many thought he would. Instead he expanded the role of the
federal government in education.

Before the advent of
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) the role of the Department of Education
was mostly to determine who would get what federal money. If you ask
almost any educator about NCLB you will probably get an earful about
over testing and underfunding. You will get complaints about school
vouchers and the inability to hire highly qualified teachers
undermining the most “at-risk” schools. Today Margaret Spellings,
the secretary of the Department of Education, is
the country

stumping for support for NCLB.

Come what may in
January 2009 we will have a new president and smart money seems to be
on the Democrat. The assumption then is that NCLB will be changed or
completely taken away. Many lawmakers are already working on changes
to the law. The history is that once a government program starts it
almost never ends, why else do you think will still
The question I have is do you know what the law (NCLB) is really

The law starts with
some solid foundations: create high standards and hire quality
teachers to teach them. In practice the law has failed miserably.

To begin NCLB
requires all schools to hire high quality teachers to qualify for
federal funding. Most schools would love to do this, but the schools
who need high quality teachers the most have the most difficulty
finding them. Here in many middle class suburbs there are about 25
applicants for any open teaching position. In the city of
are teaching positions open all year long. Money isn’t the only
answer to hiring teachers, the city pays new teachers more than many

Most research shows
that even the best teacher alone in a bad school will have little to
no effect. As my dad used to say, “it is difficult to soar with
eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys.” Schools need good
teachers, good administrators, and strong partnerships with parents
to start achieving success.

The central focus of
NCLB seems to be the need to testing. Most educational researchers
have been saying for years that quality, informative, timely feedback
is one of the keys to improving education. One expensive standardized
test comes nowhere close to that goal. Feedback on the progress of
students can be measured by observation, short quizzes, homework,
warm-up exercises, and a dozen other methods that came be done
literally on a daily basis with almost no stress on the students. The
big difference is really that NCLB requires the data to be
disseminated in terms of low income, disabled, and racial and ethnic

All that information
that teachers would gather in an effort to figure out the grades of
their students is also good for determining how much students learn.
With the use of electric grade books and on line tools for parents
and administrators this information doesn’t have to be hidden in a
grade book inside the teacher’s desk. It can be shared almost
immediately. The real problem with this information is not that it
doesn’t work, it is because too often there is too much pressure to
socially promote students.

The rest of the law
deals mostly with carrots and sticks used to encourage schools to
implement NCLB. More on that at a future date.


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