I attended Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s visit to Cedar Rapids’ Jefferson High School on March 14th. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Dave Loebsack were among the panelists discussing the future of No Child Left Behind.
Sec. Duncan identified fill-in-the-bubble assessments as part of the problem with NCLB, as well as the focus on absolute scores rather than growth. He gave an example of a teacher starting the year with a child three years behind grade level and helping that child end the year with two years of growth. Under NCLB the school is still failing (child is not proficient, ends the year two years behind) but Sec. Duncan wants that teacher recognized as excellent (for squeezing two years of growth into one year). No discussion of how to discover why the children are so far behind so we can fix it. Just change our expectations and assessments to relabel that failure as a success.
Several attendees suggested that children in Iowa could learn more if they just exercise more at school.
A local teacher wants parents held accountable for student performance in the updated NCLB legislation. Sec. Duncan would not go quite that far, but indicated that involving parents is important. He suggested that schools staying open later and offering programs such as classes for parents, family counseling and health care might help get parents involved in their child’s education. I would note that the crowd appeared to be almost exclusively teachers, school administrators, and elected officials. It was almost comical to watch this crowd puzzle over the problem of parental involvement. Here is an idea. Ask the parents why they are not more engaged and how the parents would like to be involved.