As my loyal readers know, I was a member of the NAGB (National Assessment Governing Board) panel of experts about the testing of students with disabilities on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). We worked to tighten the exclusion of too many students and the need for accommodations that maintain the NAEP’s validity. HOPEFULLY, the new policy, newly adopted by the NAGB, will solve the challenges pointed out below by Richard Innes. If we can’t compare apples to apples, then the NAEP truly loses its shine.

(Kentucky vs California and exclusions).

2009 NAEP scores are in!

It’s hard to know what the NAEP scores mean for students with disabilities–since we don’t have a handle on the exclusion rates and accommodations policies that differ from town to town and state to state. Hopefully, once NAGB’s new and improved (!) policy is implemented these test results will be more consistent and easier to interpret. At the end of the day, we would expect the scores of students with disabilities to be lower than those of their general education peers, due to their disabilities, but I’m not a statistician and can’t estimate what the different ranges should be.

Look what came ‘across the pond’ from England!….

(Classroom discipline crisis caused by ‘middle-class parents buying off their children’ says British teachers union).

Their approach is to dock child government benefit of parents who fail to discipline their children and force parents to attend parenting classes.

We have these issues across the pond. As my loyal readers know, I too believe that parents should play an active role in their children’s education and that our current laws do not encourage that. (Our current laws simply ask parents to ‘advocate’ for their children and demand information and file complaints. They do not ask parents to ‘parent’ their children, get them to bed on time, feed them properly, find them a quiet place to do school work, etc., etc. etc.

The Brits have a proposal. Is this the way to go with it? An interesting read.

(New proposals for NCLB will not fix it)

I always enjoy reading Daniel Willingham–the cognitive scientist from University of Virginia. Loyal readers will see earlier blogs about his work (e.g., about the fact that ‘learning styles’ may not exist at all!)

It’s great to see in print what I’ve always believed–that is, most teachers are good enough. Some great; some should leave the field, but most are capable of doing the job. Firing teachers may not improve education.

The issue is–what is the job we expect of them? Closing gaps? And who is responsible for getting it done? I don’t believe student achievement should be placed on the backs of teachers. It is a shared responsibility–starting with the student him or herself, the parents, the teachers, the principals, the superintendents, the community, etc.

Willingham opines that the new NCLB proposals are long on WHAT we want to achieve (close gaps in challenging schools) but short on HOW we should do that. In my view, expand the responsiblity to where it belongs, starting with the student, the parents, etc… Then, we may really get somewhere –higher learning standards, not a race to the bottom.

Massachusetts has high standards. Massachusetts students do well on NAEP and international tests. Now, comes the proposal for ‘voluntary’ national standards (voluntary because states don’t have to follow them if they are willing to forgo national funds. Good luck with that! By history, states all fall in line sooner or later.) People who have read the proposal are telling us that the national standards are lower than Massachusetts (and Virginia? and other states with high standards?) standards.

Now what? Where will it settle down. Where will the compromises lead? My fear is that the voluntary national standards will settle down in some vague, ‘lowest common denominator’ middle. Not a good place.

(Will Massachusetts maintain its high standards?). An important story to watch.

(Fire the parents, not the teachers)

The good news is that education is on the front burner. People are chiming in. This opinion has a lot going for it. A lot.

I remember Al Shanker discussing in his NY Times column, Where we stand, a related issue… “Imagine saying we should shut down a hospital and fire its staff because not all of its patients became healthy.” He concluded by saying that students won’t learn if they don’t work harder. And they are unlikely to work harder if they hear that all of their teachers will be fired if they don’t. How does that make sense? It does not–not in the real world of hard work and working at learning.

Bill Maher is onto something. Unfortunately, our laws expect parents to sit back and watch the school educate their children. The laws tell parents to make demands and complain, but not to ‘parent,’ doing the hard work of helping their children be better students. There is work to be done. We need to have parents do it. Maybe Bill’s will be a wakeup call!

Yet another wake up call–testimony before Congress, as it considers reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

(Many countries passing U.S. in education)

What amazes me in this and other news stories that bemoan the state of America’s schools, is silence on the positive role of parents. While the article mentions that our students are ‘overentertained and distracted,’ and that we should do something about that, again we would be tackling the symptom, not the cause, of our situation.

The laws and policies we have expect nothing from parents, beyond making demands for information from schools, complaining if things go wrong, advocating for their children (against their schools), and (in special ed), filing law suits.. The laws do not expect parents TO PARENT their children. How amazing is that! While our President has used the bully pulpit well, reminding parents to turn off TVs, put children to bed on time, feed them well, help them with schoolwork, etc., our laws and public policies remain silent on this parental role. It’s as if we expect schools to do it all! Well, that hasn’t worked.

Rather than just comparing our nation’s schools to those of others (South Korea, Finland, Poland, as the article does), how about comparing our nation’s school-family climate to theirs. I believe a pot of gold lies in that comparison. It is time to take it on.