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Ravitch notes that it is clear that NCLB remedies are not effective and not working. For instance, students had the offers to attend other schools, but rejected them. They had free tutoring but more than 80 per cent turned it down. Students signed up for tutoring companies, but the systems rarely monitored the quality of their services.
Some tutoring companies just came up to exploit opportunities that NCLB created. Such tutoring companies were recruiting students by offering money and gifts to principals and parents. Some of the companies’ employees even had criminal records (Ravitch 103).
According to Ravitch, the most technical challenge in NCLB is the legislative command. It requires that all children in all schools must be proficient in reading and mathematics by the year 2014.
The legislative states that all must be proficient by then with no regard to other factors, such as students with special needs, students whose first language is not English, students who lack social advantages or are homeless, or those who have the social advantages, but have no interest in school works. All are suppose to achieve proficiency by 2014 or else their teachers will suffer the consequences.
The Congress goal of 100 per cent proficiency by 2014 seems to be an aspiration. Ravitch argues that the goal is unrealistic, and no one believes that all students will achieve proficiency by 2014. She shows that no state or nation as ever achieved such goals. Finn and Hess note that only politicians can give such hollow promises.
Critics see such targets as impossible to achieve, and their consequences are laughable. Educationists believe that such goals are undermining states working hard to improve their education systems. Therefore, there is no need to enforce remedies which are never effective and to assume that they will work is utterly unworkable.
Ravitch suggests that politicians should leave the running of school to educators and teachers who understand what the students require. She believes that incentives and sanctions can only work in private sectors where profit is the highest priority. However, these approaches are not the best for schools. The central ideas of NCLB such as choice and accountability cannot bring effective changes in schools.
In contrary to Ravitch, Guggenheim examines the problem of public schools in the US through the movie, Waiting for Superman. The movie gives precise account from the point of view of students, parents, educators and reformers who are struggling to find genuine and lasting solutions to dying system.
He acknowledges that progress of NCLB has not been successful and federal government has failed fully to fund some of its mandate. However, he points out that NCLB has provided hard information on which schools’ successes and failures can be seen.
Guggenheim believes that NCLB is a reform towards the US public education system. The system has created exemplary public schools which are competing with lottery for admittance. However, only few children will get admission, and in the other neighborhood, some families do not even have a lottery to pin their hopes on for better education.
Guggenheim believes that the noble vision of America’s public school is attainable. Waiting for Superman stresses that all students can learn, and all neighborhoods can have better school. The problem is that parents do not have the truth in order to change the noble vision of America’s public schools. Guggenheim says that every kid can have a chance, and it is possible to fix the problem in public education system (Chilcott).
Another challenge to NCLB is the definition of a highly qualified teacher. The term refers to a bachelor holder, fully licensed/certified to teach, and have demonstrated sufficient subject matter competency. However, the requirements differ with regard to new teachers and to some extent, by the grade level of teaching. Further, this term applies only to teachers teaching in core academic subjects.
The problem arises because there is no standard definition of a highly qualified teacher. NCLB leaves it for states to decide what to include under the core subjects, and special education is not a core academic subject. The requirements of a highly qualified teacher are standard to all states. However, how states determine a highly qualified teacher does vary from state to state.
NCLB local implementation in Bay Area
Bay Area has had strong district accountability features with regard to implementation of NCLB. Bay Area holds districts directly answerable for any poor performance. Bay Area system imposes sanctions and warnings in cases of incessant underperformances.
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Since the inception of NCLB, Bay Area has recorded a few cases of low performances in some schools. The trend emanates from early 1996 when the districts identified low performing schools and recommend ways of improvements. Consequently, Bay Area has had a low number of low performing schools standing at about 2 per cent by the year 2002.
Bay Area support system is intensive and elaborate. The state departments maintain a low profile in NCLB implementations. Bay Area relies on grants from locals, local districts and the schools wise spending of the money. These have made Bay Area ahead of other states in regard to NCLB processes (Mintrop and Rosie 1).
However, the structure of management supporting the implementation of NCLB is weak. Early studies demonstrated that the schools’ reactions and responses to NCLB varied depending on the varying methods and quality of the evaluator. Low performing schools lack sustainable quality interventions and support structures. In response to this, Bay Area has put measures in place to handle problems associated with intervention burdens.
Responses among students to NCLB in Bay Area are promising. Students in low performing schools that did not transfer to other schools tend to score high after a period of more than four years. KIPP schools in Bay Area have strict rules to govern their performance. More often, they perform better than public schools. However, parents and students cannot keep up with KIPP schools demands leading to a high rate of attritions.
During the 2008, 60 per cent of students enrolled in KIPP schools quit between fifth and eighth grade in San Francisco. Besides, long working hours led to teachers’ attritions. Therefore, application of KIPP schools’ model to regular schools might not work.
Bay Area does not allocate additional funding to low-performing public schools. However, the schools receive support and oversight on improvements. Bay Area has designed a system of assigning external assistances to such schools. External team works with schools for a period of one academic year and report on the schools’ progresses to local boards or the Bay Area state departments.
Discussions of NCLB
Educators believe that if public schools are given the money and power as in charters schools, then public schools will perform better and stay. They argue that if the federal government continues to invest heavily in charter schools, then charter schools will enroll motivated students and public schools will be the last option for students who never qualified or applied but rejected. The system will force public schools to enroll disadvantaged students, which will ensure poor performance is perpetual in relations to charter schools.
Educators assert that NCLB accountability system is not helping schools. This is because its remedies are too narrow and precise with severe consequences. The problem is that NCLB bases its accountability solely on students’ tests scores to reform public education in America.
They believe that a good accountability system relies on professional judgment rather than tests score. Still, measures of grades, evaluation of teachers, graduation rates, school attendances and students work should rely on professional and scientific measurement systems (Popham 147).
NCLB accountability system should also focus on what districts and schools give in relations to class sizes, learning resources, type of curriculum, and highly qualified teachers. For the credibility of the NCLB, the accountability should have external evaluators to observe quality developments on a regular basis.
Educators say that stakeholders should not see inspection process as a prelude to closing schools or imposing severe punishments but as a way to help them improve. Educators insist that they know what works and what does not work. The solution to NCLB accountability system is to apply the right accountability standards in order to get best results.
Guggenheim shows political forces that conspire to stop educators from replicating successful education reforms in America’s public schools. Consequently, there are no adequate good public schools in America for children who want to attend them. At the same time, the movie shows that the lottery system is a mockery of America’s belief in democracy.
Some parents have had problems with the NCLB testing and accountability systems in America public schools. Parents who did not find favor in the system opposed tests, protested and filed lawsuits but to no avail. Courts rejected such lawsuits and politicians called them anti-testing fanatics.
Parents need good neighborhood schools where they can meet and share factors influencing their children’s education. Public schools create a sense of community among strange students and their parents. Privatization of public schools means losing institutions where parents meet and discuss problems related to solving local problems. They feel that the consequence of privatizing public schools is a peril to neighborhood.
Guggenheim shows that every parent aspires for better education for their kids. Parents see participation in public schools lottery process is a chance for families’ hope and opportunities for a better life. Parents believe that the lottery system denies their children chances to acquire quality education because a relatively small number eventually join the best public schools while the rest wait, or do with poorly performing neighborhood schools.
Parents believe that consequences of NCLB to the education system in America are severe. In 1990s, low performing schools could encounter a mild form of public stigma, suggestions on improvements, administrative focus and scrutiny of a review process. For instance, in California, the state authority threatens teachers and principals with sacking or reassignments. Sometimes, the district can take over the school.
The state does reorganized, close, or assigns schools to management of other educational institutions, or some non-profit based organizations. Parents have opportunities to apply for charter school status or apply for different public schools. They fill that this process disrupts children’s progress. In a state like Maryland, state take-over is the most severe form of sanction to public schools.
Commentators believe that America’s public schools are failure factories where children have virtually no chances of learning. In spite of this, parents send off their children to schools with the high hopes of better education and opportunities in life.
Commentators show concerns that there are well-intended reform programs involving spending of large sums of money and resources, no tangible results have come out since 1970s. They see the NCLB system as a good program but with severe consequences on low-performing schools. For instance, more inner city schools will experience sanctions than schools in rural areas. Difficulties in NCLB lie in the testing, reporting the results and definition of a highly qualified teacher.
Commentators commend the accountability process as a means to unmask schools with traditionally low performances. It will also uncovers the follies in provisions and supports the states and schools give to students with low proficiency in core subjects, students with disabilities, and minority students.
Proficiency in California
From the point of view of the American law, the term proficiency depicts a very high level of academic achievement. Federal testing program has used it since 1990s where they test students’ achievements. NCLB 100 per cent proficiency achievement is by the year 2014. Different states define their own proficiency.
All states face dilemma in relation to definition of proficiency. Some states decided to pursue modest goals, but with close attention to accountability, since NCLB is not flexible in its performance standards. Conversely, other states refrained from rigor in their testing system and pursued cognitively complex assessments.
Studies outcomes show that it may be difficult to achieve proficiency within the short time frame NCLB prescribes. Therefore, achieving proficiency require policies and strategies that go beyond tests outcome-based accountability. Ravitch notes that proficiency should be redefined to reflect minimal or functional literacy with designated low passing marks.
California situation regarding low-performing schools is low. Proficiency development in California is still in its nascent stage of development together with support and intervention structures. However, studies show that the first group that enrolled in the program only a quarter met California’s proficiency standards.
In this regard, California based its decisions on the idea that the NCLB law will ease with time, so educations officials decided to increase the number of student they expected to attain their standard proficiency of 2.2 per cent between the year 2002 and 2007 (Hess and Chester 6).
From 2007, California gave an estimated increase of 11 per cent growth per year in order to achieve full proficiency by the year 2014. This was over ambitious and unattainable goal.
However, in the year 2008, researchers from the National Science Foundation demonstrated that almost 100 per cent of California public schools would fail to achieve proficiency by the year 2014 based on their yearly progress. These researchers concluded that due to disaggregation of the scores by students, the lowest performing students will finally determine the proficiency of schools, districts and even states. This is in line with Ravitch proposal to redefine proficiency.
Hess, Frederick M. and Chester E. Finn. No Remedy Left Behind: Lessons from a Half-Decade of NCLB. Washington, DC: The AEI Press, 2007. Print.
Mintrop, Heinrich and Rosie Papazian. “Lessons from First-Generation Accountability Systems.” Systemic Strategies to Improve Low-Performing Schools. Vol. 45 (2003): 3-37. Print.
Popham, James. America’s “Failing” Schools: How Parents and Teachers Can Cope With No Child Left Behind. New York: Routledge Falmer, 2004. Print.
Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of Great American School System: How Testing and Choices Are Undermining Education. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
Waiting for “Superman”. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Perf. Lesley Chilcott. Electric Kinney Films, 2010. DVD.