Chat Transcript: The Bush Education Agenda
The Bush Education Agenda
About the Guest:
Sandy Kress is an education adviser with the Bush
re-election campaign, and advised the Bush administration on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. He is a partner with the the law firm of Akin Gump, focusing on public law and policy, and serves on the Education Commission of the States. He previously was president of Dallas public schools’ board of trustees, and was a member of two statewide committees assembled to recommend improvements in public education in Texas.
Editor’s note: As part of its coverage of the 2004 presidential election, Education Week invited both the Bush and Kerry campaigns to take part in online chats with our audience to discuss their candidates’ education proposals and records. Sandy Kress, an education adviser with the Bush campaign, participated in this chat on Sept. 15, 2004.
Robert Gordon, advisor to the Kerry campaign. was our guest in an online chat on Oct. 15, 2004. Read the transcript of that chat.
Erik W. Robelen (Moderator):
Good afternoon. Welcome to Education Week’s live chat. We’re very pleased to have Sandy Kress with us today. He’s advising the Bush campaign on education, and previously worked at the White House, where he helped to craft the No Child Left Behind Act. He’ll be taking your questions about what a second Bush administration would mean for education policy (and no doubt, lots of questions about a certain federal education law).
I’m Erik Robelen, a reporter here at Education Week, and will be the moderator today. Now, to your questions.
Question from Jeff Camp, Parent, Piedmont Unified School District:
Legislation as substantial as NCLB inevitably requires fine-tuning, which is very hard to do in the politically charged environment of a presidential campaign! What process do you think would make sense to smooth out some of the rough edges, and what do you think are some of the issues that would be addressed in such a process?
i agree with you, jeff, that nclb is a very substantial piece of legislation and that it requires hard work on the part of many people to implement. happily, the process is already underway. states have developed their own plans which generally reflect input from teachers, local officials, state legislators, board members, chief state school officers, and other citizens. i believe that the u.s. department of education ought to continue to promote this sort of collaboration to move implementation along. likely issues: making accountability true to state and local policies while still faithful to the requirements of nclb, assessing disabled youngsters rigorously yet realistically, determining creative ways to place more highly qualified teachers in the classroom, generating more effective, research based practices to improve schools in need of improvement, encouraging more effective parental involvement in school improvement, and so forth.
thanks for a great question!
Question from Paul Rigmaiden, teacher, Franklin School, Modesto, CA:
Please explain why so few teachers have been involved with education reform efforts.
i think teachers are more involved than we may see on the surface. in most states, standards are set with substantial teacher input. a secret that needs to be let out: most test questions developed for standardized tests are written by local teachers, and passing levels on those tests usually involve teacher panels that have significant say in the process. in effective schools, teachers are deeply involved in demanding and using student data to improve instruction and in seeking relevant help in the way of needed, research-based professional development and other assistance from state, local, and other resources.
i’ve seen the role teachers play in my own children’s school. teachers there are increasingly adept at teaching to more diverse students, using diagnostics and other assessments to structure their instruction, understanding the state standards and assessments and incorporating their requirements nicely into the instructional process, etc. it is this sort of professionalism on the part of teachers that will make education reform really happen.
thanks for an important question.
Question from Suzanne Miller, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo:
Around the country, schools and whole states have found that the amounts of money promised by the Bush administration to fund NCLB have not materialized. If education is important, why doesn’t the administration fund NCLB fully?
suzanne, i’ve heard this concern around the country, and frankly it baffles me. i was the president’s chief negotiator on nclb. i was there. the president never promised funding that failed to materialize. the democrats demanded during the negotiation that the administration agree at least to a $4 billion increase in appropriations for k-12 education. as unusual as this request was (usually appropriations are decided later in the legislative process) and as controversial as it was for omb and both democrats and republicans on the appropriations committees, the president agreed to, and helped deliver on, this deal!
the democrats wanted further increases, and, with support from both democrats and republicans, we’ve seen the largest increases in education funding during the president’s first term than any other period in our history! for example, there’s been a bigger increase in funding for title I in bush’s 4 years than clinton’s 8, and by a huge margin. i think maybe you’ve heard that nclb has not been funded at the levels at which the congress authorized it. these levels represent a “wish” for funding, not just in education but in other areas as well. the authorized levels at the time were not attained or even proposed to be funded by president clinton. in fact, house democrats today are not proposing a budget to fund education at current authorized levels. those who make this criticism of bush but did not do so with clinton are operating by a double standard. the main point i want to make is that you’re right: education deserves more funding, and every year the president has been in office (including his years as governor of texas), there have been very high increases in education funding.
Question from David Hartnett, Principal, Eden Elementary:
Moving past doubt and suspicion, will we ever see “highly qualified” politicians? If we are demanding HQTs, why not HQPs? (Demagogues are worse than frogs during rainy season...)
well, david, i fear you won’t agree with my answer, but it will be a true answer from my perspective. i’ve known george w. bush for over a decade. when we met, i was a democratic leader in dallas who was serving on the school board. he was the president of the local baseball team and, obviously, a republican. i have spent a great deal of time with him on education matters since. of all the politicians i have known in my life, and that’s a lot, no one has studied these issues more, spent more time on bipartisan education policymaking at the state and federal levels, and frankly gotten more done for the sake of students than george w. bush. people may agree or disagree with him, like him or dislike him - that’s fair enough. but i’ve experienced it first hand for 12 years - as to education, the president is not only highly qualified; he’s the the most qualified politician i’ve ever known.
thanks for your question. (and, i agree, we could do with more HQPs!)
Question from Diane D. Painter, Adjunct Professor, George Mason University:
What advice are you giving the Bush administration with regard to revising the mandates of the NCLB law? I am referring specifically to the recommendations of the National Education Association (NEA) to make the law’s requirements more reasonable and fair to subgroups such as ESOL and special education students.
professor painter, secretary paige has been working hard to implement the law in a rigorous yet flexible way. he has issued rules to help make the implementation of these policies reasonable. with a law this far reaching, there’s further work to do, of course. but we’ve come a long way. the state plans show a considerable amount of variation, which shows me that there is increasing flexibility in the administration of the act.
having said that, i would also suggest that we need to be careful not to bend too far. the fairest and most reasonable thing we can do for disabled youngsters and english language learners is to insist that their education be as effective and rigorous as possible and that those who have them in their charge be more accountable for their growth. we have not expected enough for our children, including especially the subgroups you’ve mentioned.
Question from Sharon Elin, 7th grade teacher, Hanover Co., Va.:
Many of the proposals for education reform seem to focus on administration and curriculum, which of course are important. As a teacher, I want to know how the candidates plan to help teachers face the increasing challenges of their positions. Simply put, we don’t get paid enough or recognized enough for the professionalism and accountability that are expected of us!
i agree! we need to do more. i think the work of the bipartisan teaching commission suggests several concrete ways to help teachers. president bush just recently proposed a major initiative to recognize effective teachers and encourage more of them to teach in high need schools. he has supported historic increases in title II to help teachers. he has supported a variety of incentives for teachers as well as better support for teachers in the classroom with, for example, reading first dollars. i wish i had more time for this important question, but i completely agree that treating teachers as professionals is absolutely key to success with kids.
Question from Ronald Kahn, Science Specialist, East Bay Educational Collaborative:
The nation’s mathematics and science education programs, elementary through college level, are at a crisis stage. With our nation’s security forefront in everyone’s minds, the dependence on foreign PhD’s in science and the critical shortage of US science and mathematics educators in our schools raises a number of issues including a dismal futue for US technological development, medical care, and pure scientific research. What are you going to do about it?
ronald, you are absolutely right. that’s why the president proposed in his acceptance speech the other night yet another increase in math and science partnerships. under nclb, success in math is emphasized as a key part of the accountability. and, for the first time, states will have to have not only standards in science but also tests at least at each of the three levels of k-12 education. the president began with reading. math and science are next. the president set the stage for more emphasis on math and science, particularly at the secondary level, in his last term as governor of texas. watch for him to do the same in his next term as president.
Question from Trudy Hensley, Director, RMC Research Tampa Office:
Reading First is just getting off the ground in many states and appears to hold the promise of making a major difference in student achievement. What plans do you have to continue and strengthen this valuable initiative?
thank you, trudy. you are so right! being vigilant about the continued effective administration of reading first is vital. as nclb provides, we must constantly assess the effectiveness of the programs funded by reading first and make adjustments where necessary and reward success where achieved.
there’s so much more to do. even when a youngster is at grade level at the 3rd grade, the job is not done, as you know. attention must be paid with other resources to continuing growth in comprehension, etc. also, we must look closely at adolescent literacy problems which are severe in some schools. the president has proposed the striving readers program to address this challenge.
finally, i would add that the head start law and idea are up for re-authorization. the president believes that these progreams can do so much to help youngsters. all children should be ready to read early. and many youngsters who are currently labeled as learning disabled could be taught so much more effectively in science based reading programs that can put them on the right path to learning.
so much to do! thanks for your insights.
Question from Sergio Mercado Jr, Senior Army Instructor, Luther Burbank HS San Antonio TX:
Why are we not spending monies to redevelop our vocational programs? Academics are important; however, our country will soon run out of master plumbers, electricians etc.
sergio, the perkins act is also up for reauthorization. the congress has done some good work this year on this legislation to try to make sure that youngsters get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the workplace. you’re right: there are many jobs that require technical skills of a vocational nature. but, just as i suspect is the case with your work as an army instructor, most work has become more complicated in this technological era in which we live. we must be sure that the workers of tomorrow are prepared for the many changes and challenges they will face, and that will generally require, i believe, a broad education.
Question from Virginia Burney, Indiana Assn. for the Gifted:
Is there a way for No Child Left Behind to be modified to hold schools accountable for each child making annual progress rather than a percentage of the children in the school demonstrating minimal competency?
i believe there’s flexibility under nclb for a state to do both. the ayp provisions of the act do look at the proficiency of subgroups as the key measure. i believe firmly that the congress passed these provisions because of a passionate and bipartisan commitment to close the insidious learning gap that dimishes hope for many children in these subgroups. yet, states can incorporate growth measures into their accountability systems to reflect the progress you’re describing. indeed many have done so already.
as states become more familiar with options under nclb, i think there will be new opportunities for the use, alongside the required elements, of such “multiple snapshots” in accountability.
thanks for the thoughtful question.
Question from Dot Furbay, Principal, Carbon County AVTS:
Does the president’s agenda include an increase in the federal level of funding for education to assist schools who’s AYP is not up to par?
yes, dot, there is funding under nclb for schools in need of improvement. but, additionally, i would hope that a good portion of the 50-plus percent increase in title I funding is being used at the state and local levels to support improvement in these schools.
i think the expectation was that states and local districts would use the flexibility under nclb to coordinate better use of title I, reading first, title II, title III, and the other sources of funds (including funds such as those from nsf programs, for example) to improve achievement in schools where student results suggest problems.
and, yes, the president is proposing new funding to grapple with some of the most serious problems that cause schools to miss ayp - striving readers funding to help with adolescent literacy problems, increases in math and science funding, a focus and funding for 8th grade issues that affect not only middle schools but also high schools.
yes, the president is proposing more funding to assist these schools. but the performance will not improve as much as we need for our children until we find more effective ways to deploy the local, state, and federal dollars (now over $500 billion a year!) that are currently spent.
thanks for the question.
Question from Krista Ottino, Teacher, St. Paul:
I support accountability in education 100% but what ever happened to the “it takes a whole village to raise a child”? Shouldn’t the whole community be held accountable for children not making adequate progress or “failing”. Many students are not doing well because of factors completely out of the school system’s control such as poverty, drug addiction, and poor parenting, yet the schools are punished. What is the Bush agenda for these issues?
well, krista, i would take issue with the notion that schools under nclb that are in need of improvement are being “punished.” first, they’re typically given more money! then they’re asked to come up with an improvement plan. then they’re expected to take some kind of corrective action. only then are the parents given some kind of choice of supplemental tutoring or perhaps another public school option.
i agree completely with you that there are other problems external to the school that make it difficult for you and other teachers to succeed. for that reason, i hope that schools will incorporate in their improvement plans requests to public and private entities to help the schools deal with these problems. i served on a school board years ago in dallas. we established along with our accountability system a network of youth and family centers through which governmental agencies and private charities mobilized to help deal with these issues that limited school success. teachers can and must do their part to improve, but you’re right, krista, the burden must be shared by all who can make children’s lives better.
Question from Joy Zabala, Educational Consultant, Lake Jackson, TX:
How does the current administration propose funding the professional development and training of teachers so that all teachers are highly qualified?
joy, title II of nclb received a 30-plus percent increase to over $3 billion a year. this title is to be used principally for professional development and training for teachers. there are other federal funds that can be used in this ways as well. local districts and states have tremendous flexibility in how they use these dollars, but i would hope that making sure their teachers are highly qualified would be at the top of the list.
btw, i think there are some extremely creative ways that states and districts can do a better job in making professional development more user friendly and effective for teachers. technology poses wonderful possibilities. i wish i had more time to discuss this, but suffice to say, there are numerous, cost effective ways - many indeed that are not being discussed widely - to help teachers strengthen mastery of the content they teach.
be creative and push! thanks.
Question from Simmie Raiford, Chief Legislative Analyst, Council for Educational Policy Research and Improvement:
How do you see NCLB evolving over the next decade?
great question! a few thoughts, in no particular order:
1. above all else, nclb demands data for teachers and parents. over time, this data will become so much better! just as in medicine, when the diagnostic tools improve, “treatment” will improve dramatically.
2. greater accountability will yield improved student scores. at first, the process will be rather crude. there will be (has been) resistance. but parents and taxpayers will press for improvement. it will come first through better leadership and greater intentionality in the process. then data driven decisionmaking. then greater alignment in the use of resources. then a greater demand for real scientific research in what works to solve discreet educational problems. education will become far more fully professionalized!
3. as the president says so eloquently, education will become more individualized. we will ask not so much what a child’s age is, but rather what he or she knows. teachers will be far better prepared over time to teach diverse kids. technology will help. data will help a lot, too. real research properly deployed in the classroom will as well.
4. being well educated will be this generation’s premier civil right. the issue will shift at least in part from how much money is spent to how effectively it is spent to get all kids educated to a high standard.
5. pre-k through college will be far more tightly aligned to respond to pressure from parents, taxpayers, and job providers for greater effectiveness and efficiency in the education process.
6. when nclb is up for re-authorization, there will be more emphasis on the “s” in esea, that is, secondary education. the president points the way there with his college and work-ready initiatives.
7. there will be greater alignment in federal education policy. actually with head start, idea, perkins, higher ed, and esea all up for re-authorization, the next term is an excellent time for this to begin!
i’m an optimist! i don’t know for sure that we’ll accomplish all the goals of nclb, but we’re on the road. there’s no turning back. as americans, we’ll tackle these challenges, and we’ll get the job done.
Question from :
How does the candidate plan on utilizing the growing core of retiring professionals as part of their education plan to improve the potential of young teachers?
that is a great question. it sounds like you have some good ideas, and i wish i could pose the question to you!
schools and school districts have a lot of flexibility in how to spend these increased funds in professional development. i would think that tapping into the excellence of effective teachers who are nearing retirement would be a superb way to use those dollars. my daughter had a veteran teacher in the first grade last year. i hope she’ll teach many more years, but, oh, the tricks she knows. perhaps her greatest accomplishment is that my daughter insists she will grow up to be a first grade teacher!
thanks. i’m going to keep thinking about your question and bring it up in campaign discussions.
Question from Glenna Vasoli, Reading Specialist, Pennridge High School:
How does NCLB justify using the same criteria to test all students? How can NCLB expect special education students, (especially those with limited ability or severe learning disabilities) to perform at the proficient level as discerned by the tests? Is this a reasonable expectation, and why or why not?
glenna - nclb starts with the proposition that all children should learn, and be proficient, to the standards that their parents, their teachers, and the other adult decisionmakers in their state have established generally for the education of appropriate knowledge and skills. yes, there are some youngsters who are seriously cognitively disabled, and that condition limits their ability to learn. the recent rule that secretary paige issued on this topic permits states to come in and show how many such youngsters are in their schools and ask for an exception as to how they’re assessed and viewed as to proficiency. i believe a few states availed themselves of this flexibility, and i anticipate more will over time. while i hope the process will be as open as the law allows for such flexibility, i hope even more that we will set higher expectations and do better by disabled children than we have in the past - much better indeed.
Question from Charlton Wolfgang, Teacher of the Gifted, Manheim Township Middle School:
I am a strong supporter of President Bush, but as an educator of the gifted, I am concerned about the effects of the narrow focus on standardized testing. What steps will the President’s administration take to address the unique needs of gifted and talented students who are already scoring proficiently or better on the tests? Our funding at the local and state level has been eroding as attention is drawn toward the population that is not yet proficient.
charlton, as i mentioned in another answer, the president wants each child to be educated to his or her needs. while there is a special emphasis in nclb for youngsters who have been left behind in terms of basic proficiency and a bold plan to bring them to proficiency, the act supports talented and gifted education with funding and in policy. further, states and local districts are not required or encouraged to cut funding for talented and gifted kids. yes, there is a high priority on getting all kids to proficiency, but it seems a “budgetary cop out” and frankly educationally unsound to cut programs for the talented and gifted, particularly those in poverty.
keep up your efforts.
Question from Frank Schlatter, Retired teacher of English in Roswell, NM; member of founding Bd of Directors for NBPTS:
In the NY Times news article of Sept. 5, 2004 “Good Schools or Bad? Ratings Baffle Parents” by Sam Dillon, it is noted that “School ratings issued under the terms of the president’s No Child Left Behind law have clashed with school report card systems administered by some states, leaving parents unsure which level of government to believe or whether to transfer their children...” What is the view of the Bush administration regarding this issue? That is, how does the Bush administration intend to resolve this issue?
frank, certain states have done an excellent job of integrating the accountability requirements of nclb with their own school rating and accountability policies. ohio, michigan, massachusetts, and texas come to mind. in these states, schools in which certain subgroups do not reach the bar will be in need of improvement and will require a response. indeed for the sake of these students, this is important to closing the gap. yet, the states can also give these schools credit for growth or other results they deem important, and fit ratings and other consequences accordingly.
i have a lot of confidence in parents to understand both “snapshots.” parents are very smart generally about their children’s schools. they will tend to use options if the schools are not performing well for their children. and they won’t generally if the schools are working well and improving but have certain problems that cause identification.
nclb does not call these schools “failing,” and the press and key players ought to avoid doing so as well. if all players would simply work to improve schools where ayp criteria suggest improvement is needed and acknowledge the states’ role in further establishing ratings and accountability consequences, all states can move ahead as constructively as the states i’ve mentioned.
thanks for your important question.
Question from Lynn G. Marlin, Director of Bands, Warren G. Harding HS, Warren, Ohio:
Although the premise of the No Child Left Behind Act is excellent, some of the negative consequences of this Act have resulted in widescale cutbacks in the arts. What is President Bush going to do to ensure that the Arts and other essential non-core subjects, do not disappear from curriculums because of limited funds?
lynn, as an avid supporter of the arts and a believer in arts education, i am very sympathetic with your question.
total k-12 education spending in our country has gone up from $404 billion in ‘99-'00, to $423 billion in ‘00-'01, to $443 billion in ‘01-'02, to $482 billion in ‘02-'03, and to $501 billion in ‘03-'04. i do not understand why local schools and districts are cutting back on arts education.
these decisions are made locally. they always have, and they probably always will. given the fact that the most effective schools in reading and math also tend to preserve atrs education, i encourage you to push back on these decisions, as important as we agree the stakes to be.
Question from Carolyn Reinhart, Consultant for School Improvement and Gifted Education. Hamilton County Ed. Service Center, Ohio:
1. As Houston seems to be the model for the NCLB legislation, how do you resolve the issue of their high drop out rate as it relates high accountability for students in testing and in grade retention?
2. Is there any thought regarding service for students who are advanced and ready to move on when the focus is necessarily on intevention for those who have not reached the standard? Bush’s budget proposals continually hold a $0.00 line item for funding for gifted education.
nclb places great importance on reducing dropouts. in fact, completion rates are required to be used in the determination of ayp for high schools. this was a major advance in nclb.
the president is proposing major new initiatives in the area of adolescent literacy and math and science, particularly at the middle and high school levels. these will be instrumental in reducing the dropout rate.
as to houston and texas, i would just say that all states and big districts are struggling with defining and preventing droputs. the good news, partly because of nclb, is that there are major steps in texas and elsewhere to emphasize and improve completion rates.
Question from Eric Kelderman, staff writer, stateline.org:
Of all the reforms that the president could propose for a second term, why would he choose to increase testing: adding an 11th grade test and requiring NAEP for high school seniors
if we want our children to be ready for the workplace or college, we must know whether they have reached the “ready” standard. do states have standards for secondary education that lead youngsters to college or a good job? and do we know year to year whether our students are on course to meet those standards? as the president says, we won’t know if we don’t measure!
the president has proposed important new tools to help secondary schools: striving readers’ funds, additional math and science programs, more ap, support for a more rigorous curriculum, and 8th grade preparation and assistance. but, even with all this effort, we must know where we are succeeding and where we are failing, and we must hold high schools accountable. that is the purpose of the testing.
Question from Heidi Maier, Ed.S. Kindergarten Teacher - College Park Elementary; Marion County Florida:
Greetings, Mr. Kress. Can you explain the future of early childhood education, “specifically” Head Start, if President Bush is reelected? The pushing down of curriculum is making robots of my students. Thank you; Heidi Maier
we know from research certain skills that children can acquire that have specific validity as to how well children will perform in the early grades. vocabulary development, phonemic awareness, and alphabet recognition are three such skills. i hope you’re not suggesting that the teaching of these skills in pre-school settings is making robots of your students. they’re the skills that children who come from well-to-do backgrounds are generally taught at home or in private pre-ks. we need to be sure that poor kids get these opportunities as well. these skills can be taught in developmentally appropriate ways, while tending to emotional and social development. this is the president’s agenda.
Question from Walter Paul, Parent:
As a parent I have one expectation of what “highly qualified” means, but the reality seems quite different. States have set passing scores on tests of subject area content knowledge so low that they would earn grades of D or in many cases a low F (just look at Alabama in mathematics or Kentucky in physics). The net result is that the “highly qualified” label will soon be applied to many teachers who are at best mediocre and often incompetent. Are you aware of this and will anything be done to make the label “highly qualified” more meaningful?
walter, you make a very good point. while nclb pushes states to do more to assure that teachers are highly qualified, states clearly have the authority to set these criteria. many states are doing this well and at a more rigorous level, and most chief state school officers i see are pushing for higher standards. but i encourage you to press state leaders in your own state to move in the direction you suggest..
Question from Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, Policy Specialist, Center for Community Change:
What are the major strengths of the education agenda of the Bush re-election campaign, compared with the Kerry campaign.
sean, i know that you will read carefully all that we say on behalf of the president and all the other side says on behalf of the senator. what i want to say in this short space is that president bush has spent well over a decade in public office studying, working on a bipartisan basis, and achieving major policy and program successes at all levels of education. we have seen student progress as a result of these deep and rich initiatives that he has sponsored. we can expect that since this has been a hallmark of his public service to date he’ll continue an aggressive education agenda in a second term.
the opponent has proposed a number of ideas, but what has his record been? what did he do as lieutenant governor of massachusetts? what did he do in the senate? what did he do when nclb was on the floor of the senate for several weeks?
the bottom line: president bush has a long record of action and achievement in substantial and significant education reform. his opponent does not.
Question from Susan Thompson, Trustee Southern Humboldt Unified District, California:
How does NCLB plan to address the unique problems of small rural schools? Example: what accomodations are made for “highly qualified” teachers when we need ONE teacher to teach multiple classes, such as both chemistry and physics, when they do not have a major in both subjects. Also, when parents have philosophical differences with testing, even a few opting out makes it impossible to reach a 95% participation rate.
secretary paige has given rural states some flexibility in this area. states have other options for rural areas to make these provisions work.
but let me make two further points:
1. be creative! work with state leaders to build online professional development and assessment tools that can used easily anywhere in the state to help these teachers be more qualified in the subjects they teach.
2. remember that it is particularly vital for children in rural areas to have just as good an education as any other child in the state, and that means having teachers who have mastered the content they are teaching.
Question from :
As an educator, I am sick to death of the political rhetoric that indicates that schools who “fail to meet adequate yearly progress” are NOT failing schools! It is not just “the press” who are using this term. If the school are NOT failing, what is the administration planning to do to CHANGE THIS IMAGE?
i’m sick of it, too! every chance the secretary has, he points it out. both democrats and republicans on the hill do, too.
the act does NOT say failing. we need to say it every chance we have. the act seeks improvement in schools where all children are not performing up to standard. that is appropriate. but labeling these schools broadly as failing is not. they are schools that are “in need of improvement” for certain students in certain areas.
i have travelled all across the country working on this. many of the states where i’ve been, michigan, for example, have done a pretty good job with their press and publics. let’s keep after it!
Question from Molly Bowden, ESOL Teacher, Youth Elementary:
It is well researched that multiple choice question format tests do not always accurately assess what a child actually knows. Are there any initiatives planned to promote more evidence-style tests, such as portfolios, in place of standard, multiple-choice tests?
molly, while i hope that schools will use a variety of tools to assess student achievement, there is no research evidence that says that portfolio is superior to multiple choice. multiple choice is the most objective measurement we have and must play a critical (though not exclusive) role in assessing students.
Question from Dr. Susan Padgett-Harrison, Director, Office of Assessment:
What did President Bush mean specifically during his speech at the convention when he spoke of extending NCLB to high schools?
based on all sorts of indicators, we are seeing real improvement in the performance of elementary schools across much of the country. but when it comes to the middle and high schools, we too often have a fall off for many students. various groups such as achieve and edtrust have spoken and written passionately about this breakdown in our system for many older students and their lack of adequate preparation for college and the workplace. the president listened and responded just as he did in texas where secondary reform was the last major education initiative of his term as governor.
his initiatives in a second term to promote adolescent literacy, algebra readiness, science, tougher course work, opportunities to take ap - all with testing to assure evidence of achievement - will, along with greater access to college and good jobs, comprise the greatest secondary reforms and k-16 policies in our nation’s history.
Question from Jean M. Hess, EdD., Educational Researcher with NCREL of Learning Point Associates:
As a former special education classroom teacher, I understand the importance of utilizing research-based practices. Currently as a researcher, I appreciate the President’s call for more research. How is research to remain empirically relevant with NCLB’s call for “what works” and the resulting scramble for numbers? If re-elected what are this administration’s strongest areas of research interest in the next 4 years?
a few areas: adolescent literacy, english language acquisition, math instruction and pedagogy, general program effectiveness.
we have good research on reading disabilities which also needs to be promoted and furthered, and this research needs to be translated far more aggressively into practice.
Question from Ed Jadallah, University of Maine:
Please explain how the following emerging outcomes of No Child Left Behind are intended to effect long-term educational improvement:
1.The school curriculum is being monopolized by math and reading instruction while other equally important areas of student learning (i.e., social studies) are marginalized or disregarded.
2. A “test-generated” curriculum has become the focus and priority of instructional decisions and professional development.
3. The ideal of a “highly qualified” teacher is being primarily equated with subject area course credits, or a score on a PRAXIS II exam.
if a child cannot read, a child cannot learn science, social studies, or math for that matter. reading is first. i’m sure you agree. math is essential in its own right and vital to learning science. again i assume you agree. without the basic skills of reading, writing, and math, students simply will not succeed at the rest of the curriculum.
nclb calls for standards in science and social studies and actually takes the first step to assure that there will be science assessments at all three levels in all the states.
the bottom line, however, is that curriculum choices are made at the state and local level. nclb does NOT endorse a narrowing of the curriculum, nor would I. and indeed most of the high performing schools in reading and math haven’t narrowed their curriculum. resist this tendency by encouraging teachers, principals, and local leaders to make sound educational decisions.
Question from Laura Varlas, ASCD:
One of the problems with No Child Left Behind is that sanctions that it imposes on schools for low test scores have no record of success as school improvement strategies. There is no record of improvement with vouchers. There is no record of improvement with the drastic wholesale replacement of staff or the imposition of private management on public schools. In fact they’re not even educational strategies at all. They’re political strategies to bring a kind of market reform to public education, and many of us fear that this is going to increase an inequality in education, just like it’s increased an inequality in health care and housing, not reduce it.
laura, i simply disagree with you. if you’re more liberal politically, go to the edtrust website and see how these standards-based reforms have indeed improved schools. or, if you’re conservative, you might look at the work done by heritage.
the bottom line: the strategies in nclb have been proven successful in states like massachusetts, north carolina, and texas at lifting the achievement of students, particularly poor kids.
if you’re worried about inequality in education, i suggest that your greatest fear ought to be perpetuation of the status quo.
Question from Lynda Snider, Founder/Family Advocate, PARENTS FOR PARENTS:
Why do schools have the opportunity to refuse fed funding if they cannot meet the requirements of NCLB? If this is the case, what is the point of NCLB?
when the congress and the president reached an overwhelming consensus on nclb, there was a fine line in how far the federal government could go. we have a federalist system in which education is principally the function of states and localities. further, the feds only pay roughly 8% of the costs of education. the federal government has chosen to place its emphasis on helping disadvantaged children and closing the achievement gap. and indeed nclb does that with great strength. the federal government now is insisting for its investment that these dollars be used accountably toward this purpose. what it can’t do is make the states or districts take the money. i can’t believe responsible districts will refuse the federal funds just to evade the accountability provisions of the act.
Question from Paul Montgomery:
The “Highly-Qualified” requirements of the NCLB seemed originally intended to ensure that teachers had reasonable content knowledge about the courses they teach. Yet the States were allowed to create their “HOUSSE” rubrics - which in almost every state, allow teachers to bypass these requirements. How will this egregious error be addressed and fixed?
as i mentioned in another answer, there is a fine line in the law. education is principally the province of the states, as is teacher credentialing. the “highly qualified” requirements of the act are a step in the right direction. states are being watched by national organizations and vigilant citizens, such as yourself, paul. i think and hope that laxity in raising teacher qualifications will be exposed and fought. the administration is encouraging states to make their housse rubrics stringent and will press on this front in coming years.
let me use this opportunity to mention the president’s recent initiative to put $500 million toward encouraging states and districts to reward teachers with additional pay for proven effectiveness in lifting student achievement and for effective teachers to serve in schools with high need. these proposals, the various provisions of nclb such as “hqt”, and the significantly increased funds in title II and elsewhere for teachers will lead to real improvement in teaching in our schools.
Question from Melanie Smith, Parent, Ohio (and President Gifted Advocates in Nordonia):
No school district wants to limit the learning of their kids. Many of your responses today have implied that school districts have not made the right choices in setting educational priorities - social studies, the arts, gifted programs. How can schools meet the demands of NCLB (the demands of both time and money) and still offer a well rounded curriculum that meets the needs of all students?
a well taught and well rounded curriculum is really the answer. there’s no inconsistency between nclb and sound practice in this regard. but always keep in mind: you can’t learn the curriculum if you can’t read and do math.
Erik W. Robelen (Moderator):
I’m afraid that’s all we have time for today. We received a ton of questions--nearly 600. Thanks to Sandy Kress for joining us, and to those of you who asked questions. A transcript of this chat will soon be available on the Education Week web site
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