News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

The end of public school as we know it…

It was too surreal: First thing I heard this morning is that Kansas City is closing half their public schools due to budget woes; a few hours later, I learned that Hawaii cut its school year short by 17 days to save money. All this is on top of news earlier in the week that a Rhode Island superintendent fired all 93 teachers and the principal of the high school.  At this point, twisting the above-mentioned R.E.M. song to make a point isn’t being overly dramatic, it’s too true. If the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), with its unreachable goal (100% at grade level by 2014), punitive approach to accountability, and lack of funding, was the beginning of the end of public schools, the recent economic crisis appears to be the final note.  For a national perspective on this issue, check out today’s NPR interview with Diane Ravitch, author and former assistant secretary of education under President Bush.  A NCLB supporter now converted, Ravitch argues that punishing schools under the mantra of accountability while pushing for privatizing our educational system is not good for kids, communities, or democracy. She claims her research shows that charter schools have not outperformed public schools.

 In Massachusetts, where our public schools enjoy national recognition as leaders in student achievement, our state Department of Elementary and Secondary Schools (DESE) has determined 35 failing schools (level  4) have not made adequate progress in student learning.  All 35 schools are from urban districts. (In Lowell, we have one, level 4 school, the Murkland, which will undergo various punitive/restructuring options such as described here in the Sun .)  As Joan Vennochi mentions in today’s Boston Globe, the problem with these supposedly bold reforms is their limited success in actually improving student learning. She cites Chicago’s Draconian measures as having mixed results and compares it to other cities whose students made greater gains without the turmoil.  According to Vennochi, the problem is more complex than redistributing students and staff: “How to improve learning in public schools, especially those located in poor, urban neighborhoods, is worthy of debate. The problem is that even the staunchest reform advocates can change their mind about what really works up against the cumulative effects of poverty.”  Perhaps the problems of poverty are just too hard to fix:  much easier to blame it on the schools.

posted in Education, In the News, NCLB | 0 Comments

Congresswoman comes to Lowell

I was using an old website for Congresswoman Tsongas and couldn’t figure out why it didn’t seem up to date. Here’s the proper link
A friend forwarded to me Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ email update, called “Congress in your In-box.” I learned what Niki had been up to lately, especially that she had been in Lowell visiting the schools with our new Super. She heard from teachers about the demands of No Child Left Behind and summarized her findings:

The law was also supposed to provided additional funding over subsequent years as standards and expectations increased; however, the federal government has not provided the resources that the law promised for the succeeding years. These funding increases called for under the Act were intended to keep in step with the increase in targets for student performance. As a result of the lack of funding, schools are often unable to meet student learning standards required by the law further compounding the problem it was intended to address.

In other news, Niki recognized the efforts of ONE Lowell to help decrease truancy among ethnically diverse high school and middle school students, achieving improvement in 76% of their cases so far this year. From Niki:

Earlier this week, I was pleased to announce that the Department of Health and Human Services had awarded a federal grant in the amount of $93,397 to ONE Lowell in support of their efforts.

It is great to hear that this organization is getting the funding and recognition that it deserves. This is truly how we stop leaving children behind, rather than through unrealistic, unfunded mandates.

If you want Congress in your inbox, sign up here.

posted in City Life, Education, In the News, Local Groups, NCLB | 0 Comments

More on NCLB at Richardhowe.com

I was planning to post on NCLB today, especially in light of the Fifth District Congressional Candidates’ recent remarks on the subject; however, instead I’ll refer you to this latest study of this deeply flawed legislation.  In his post on the topic, Dick Howe does a great job of summing up the lack of consistent standards nationwide and the problems that creates–for instance the states that set the highest standards end up with the most schools labeled ‘failing’ under NCLB.  This is particularly irritating when politicians or reporters start throwing around the term “failing schools” and using this unfair and unrealistic designation as a way to criticize teachers and undermine public education. 

posted in Education, NCLB | 0 Comments

Candidates view on NCLB important

I noticed in today’s Lowell Sun, an article illustrating the congressional candidates’ surface positions regarding No Child Left Behind, which is up for re-authorization and will be instrumental in shaping the future of public education in this country. Where the candidates stand on this issue and their understanding of the implications of the law are areas I’m hoping to learn more about during tonight’s candidates forum at Lowell High School’s Little Theater, beginning at 7 p.m. In the meantime, if you want to update yourself on the No Child Left Behind debate, check out this May 24 article in TIME magazine, which was sent to me by Sheila, a retired teacher.

posted in Education, Local Politics, NCLB | 2 Comments

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