Will NCLB ever make sense?
Gloria Salazar, a fifth-grade teacher in Somerville, Massachusetts, welcomed an immigrant child to her classroom last year with a No. 2 pencil. No English? No excuses, say testing advocates—he still has to take the state test.
And stop that crying already!
“It happens all the time,” Salazar laments. “And there’s no way to explain to them, ‘It’s okay, we know that you don’t understand this material.’ They see the formalities and they know it’s important.”
Important, but also impractical—how on Earth could English Language Learners succeed on a standardized test that’s administered in a language they don’t understand?
When it comes to requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, those pertaining to ELL and special needs students are particularly bewildering.
This year, as Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal education law, NEA asks that it recognize the individual needs of students, including non-fluent English speakers and those with disabilities. More than test scores should be used to measure student learning and school progress.
“I believe in assessment, but I also believe they need to recognize that children are different. We need to recognize those differences and equip educators with tools to help students improve,” Salazar said.
Coalescing in Colorado
No quick fixes for Colorado! Funding for education and other public services in this era of fiscal restraint requires long-term solutions—and teamwork! That’s why the Colorado Education Association (CEA) is one of 10 founding organizations that have set partisan politics aside to form the Colorado Reform Roundtable.
With lawmakers preparing to cut $260 million in K–12 education funding this year, “the state doesn’t have enough revenue to provide for schools and other services that citizens expect,” says CEA President Beverly Ingle. It needs creative solutions and thoughtful partnerships.
Enter the Roundtable group, which meets at CEA offices and includes the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Service Employees International Union, and the Cattlemen’s Association. Among its first tasks will be promoting a ballot measure in 2011 to reform the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment, a poorly conceived and constructed attempt to limit the state’s revenues.
Who is trying to kill Raza Studies?
You would think Arizona state superintendent Tom Horne would have more pressing education issues to worry about. But over the past years he has spent significant time and resources relentlessly pursuing one target: the Tucson school district’s ethnic studies program, known as Raza Studies.
Last June, Horne, who denounces the program as “ethnic chauvinism,” lobbied for a state law to cut state funding to Tucson if Raza Studies isn’t dropped. What he would prefer, his critics say, is the imposition of a white majority viewpoint on all Arizona’s students.
Meanwhile, this is a program that engages students and gets them excited about education, says the district’s student equity director Augustine Romero. Horne’s attacks and accusations just undermine the academic achievement of those students, he adds.
“Horne’s behavior is that of a politician, not an educator,” says Tucson superintendent Roger Pfeuffer.
“It is unprofessional and he’s abusing the authority of his office. He’s inserting a personal, political agenda into a public school district.”
Even as some schools are banning chocolate milk from their cafeterias, a recent study shows it might not be so bad for you folks in the faculty lounge. The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that regular consumption of skim milk with cocoa boosted “good” cholesterol levels and was almost as effective at preventing heart disease as red wine. (And you know you can’t drink that in the lounge!)
Failing economy = Failing grades?
When the economy sours, so does student achievement—at least for those whose families have been directly impacted, according to a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The study from the University of California, Davis, found that children whose parents recently lost a job had a 15 percent greater chance of repeating a grade. For students whose parents had a high school education or less, it was worse, they added. That’s no surprise to retired Rhode Island counselor David Stephenson: “When Mom and Dad are worried about where the food is coming from, then the last thing they’re worried about is whether the algebra is done.”
The College Try
Ask Nebraska professor Bill Clemente about his achievements over 17 years at Peru State College and he points to his students instead. Many are the first in their families to go to college. “But they go on to succeed because we give them a quality education … and we want to be able to do our jobs even better.”
NEA believes an investment in higher education faculty is an investment in a community’s economic future. But instead of giving members of Nebraska’s State College Education Association (SCEA) a reason to stick around, they get a minimum $30,685 salary—among the worst in the nation.
More than a year ago, SCEA and PSC trustees reached an impasse after the chancellor rejected an arbitrator’s ruling to give 7 percent raises last year and 4 percent this year. But faculty members remain united, perseverant, and committed to a contractual win. “The administration boldly talks about ‘excellence,’ about excellent faculty doing great work. But we can’t reinforce excellence by only giving average compensation,” Professor Clemente said.
—By Dave Winans
Cooking like the Cafeteria Queens
What’s on the menu for St. Patrick’s Day dinner at your house? Corned beef, cabbage … and Ilene’s Irish Cake! It’s as green as the Chicago River in March— and the recipe comes from Ilene Hoffman, a food service worker in Rhode Island.
Ilene’s cake and other favorites for all times of the year have been published in a cookbook produced by the ESP Caucus of NEA Rhode Island. (You know it’s from Rhode Island because it offers three variations on linguini with clams!) Available at www.neari.org/ for $8 each or two for $15, proceeds go to the NEARI Children’s Fund, which helps needy children with everything from eyeglasses to home heating bills. Over the years, through fashion shows, sizzling dance parties, and bingo, the state’s support professionals have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the fund, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this month.
Ilene’s Irish Cake
Beat eggs well with mixer. Add oil, cake mix, pudding, and water a little at a time, mixing well. Add almond extract. Pour two-thirds of batter in Bundt pan, layer chocolate chips evenly, then add remaining batter. Bake at 350° for 50 to 60 minutes.
As the world reels from the economic crisis, there’s never been a more appropriate time to demand adequate education funding for schools from Morocco to Mauritania. This year’s Global Action Week (April 25–29) calls on governments to “Fund It NOW!” At least 29 million children worldwide are likely to be denied an education
in 2015, despite global efforts to establish education for all. The problem? Money. Find out how you can help in your own classroom through Global Action Week activities.
From P.E. to Prison
“Child poverty and neglect, racial disparities in systems that serve children, and the pipeline to prison are not acts of God. They are America’s immoral political and economic choices that can and must be changed…”
—From an essay entitled, “The Cradle to Prison Pipeline: America’s New Apartheid,” by Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund president. Read the entire essay.
Teachers Blast Off!
Watching a Shuttle launch as a child, science teacher Rachael Manzer of Connecticut dreamed about heading into space. Now she’s on her way—as one of seven new Teachers in Space. Within the next few years, the “Pathfinder 7” will blast off on flights donated by five companies currently developing reusable space vehicles. The seven will conduct experiments and create lesson plans based on human spaceflight, and aim to inspire students to become space scientists and engineers.
“One of the main messages I want to get out to kids is: ‘You can go to space too!’” Other NEA members who’ve been tapped as Pathfinders: James Kuhl of New York; Stephen Heck of Ohio, and Robert “Mike” Schmidt of Arizona.
“I have seen more students who can pass [the test] but cannot apply those skills to anything if it’s not in the test format. I have students who can do the test but can’t look up words in the dictionary and understand the different meanings.”
—A Texas teacher
With test scores playing an ever-growing role in rating students, teachers, and schools, the federal Department of Education is putting serious money into improving the tests—up to $350 million. It’s coming from the economic “stimulus” fund, but it’s supposed to stimulate kids’ brains, not just the economy. So how should it be spent? At a Department hearing, Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond suggested taking a closer look at questions from other countries, like the ones to the right, that measure thinking, not just memory.
Our question to you What does a great test question look like?
Discuss at www.nea.org/test.
First, two questions from the eighth- and 12th-grade science test of the United States National Assessment of Educational Progress.
NEA continues to fight the unfair Social Security offsets (GPO/WEP) that have denied rightful retirement benefits to teachers. Our latest weapon? A video featuring NEA members telling their own stories.
As Congress turns its attention this spring to No Child Left Behind, NEA will be there. In January, NEA analyst Barb Kapinus testified to the feds about the value of “formative assessments,” the kind that might actually promote learning instead of just ranking students. “We need to build the capacity of teachers to analyze student work and to plan and adjust instruction that focuses on the progression of learning and student needs…” she said.
Are you a teacher interested in national education policy? Consider applying for a fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education. Check out their Web site.