Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Of Possoms and NCLB Waivers...

I received this from a friend in the Tulsa area week before last.

Melissa Abdo is a very hard working wife and mom in the Jenks school district. She and other parents in the district have an organization called, PLAC (Parent Legislative Action Committee - ((I hope that's right!)).

This group actually goes and lobbies the legislature during session and keeps in touch with the administration and teachers in their district as a way to stay educated and involved in their children's education.

This piece was sent to Melissa by the site Principal at Jenks Middle School. He has given me permission to repost his comments below.

I learned a lesson from a backyard possum a few weeks ago.

This possum had been rooting around in our back yard for several weeks and making a mess of things. He had to go. So, I borrowed a large (non-lethal) metal trap to catch the varmint so I could release him in someone’s else back yard a few miles away! I set the trap on our back patio and placed a delectable piece of raw chicken in the holding area. How could the possum possibly resist? I waited only a few hours until I watched him come onto the patio and began examining the trap that would soon change the course of his life. He seemed to know something was wrong. He walked around the trap very cautiously as if he was thinking to himself, “it just has to be a trap---no one would just leave a piece of delicious chicken sitting around!” He should have listened to his instincts.

It took about five minutes for his hunger to get the best of him and to finally succumb to the aroma of the chicken. The lure of something that I assume tastes infinitely better than road kill and insects (no firsthand experience here) was too much for him to resist and he walked with trepidation into the cage. The door snapped down behind him. He was trapped. When I went out to examine the cage, he looked up at me as if to say, “I feel so dumb, I just knew it was too good to be true.” Then he rolled over and played dead! For the animal lovers reading this, I did release Mr. Possum in a beautiful open area about two miles away from my house and he lived to fight another day – this time anyway!

Here’s the lesson I learned: I think we need to be very careful to follow our instincts when it comes to the NCLB waiver that is moving with alacrity through our SDE. NCLB is road kill. It is rancid and sure doesn’t taste very good. At the same time, it is the law of the land. There has been no action on the part of the US Congress to repeal or reauthorize this legislation. Who gave the executive branch the absolute power to circumvent established federal law? What happened to balance of powers? Are not Arne Duncan and the President overreaching on this point? Are we (the states) all just so tired of eating road kill that we ignore the trap into which we are about to walk?

We have to be careful that our hunger for something “different” doesn’t cause us to accept a result which we may find more repugnant. In other words, the chicken in the cage may be laced with poison. There may be things that are toxic to the effective and efficient management of public schools. I urge all of us to look closely at what is being put into this waiver request: TLE, letter grades for schools, more carrots and sticks, and the coup-de-grace for me--- more testing. The middle school alone already gives 6500 OCCTs and EOIs a year. To test students three times a year would bring us to 19,500 tests and up to 12-15 weeks of disrupted instruction. This would be a death knell for teaching and learning and we would simply turn to testing factories focused on achieving a new set of goals. Teacher morale will suffer as they will be forced to follow a rigid and narrow instructional path designed solely to have students perform well on tests, while losing a emphasis on student engagement and love of learning.

Is this a situation when the medicine (and its many side effects) may be worse than living with the disease of NCLB? Why is there such a big push for states to take this medicine in the first place when the people with the cure (the US House and Senate) are failing to make the cure available to those who need it? Maybe the pressure needs to be placed on our legislators to stop playing partisan politics (both sides) and do what is right which is to fix or repeal NCLB.

What is the worst case scenario of not making AYP? More sanctions? A state takeover? Not likely. What is likely is that as every school in the state and country gets placed on the improvement list, people in those communities will finally stand up and say “enough is enough.” They will see that the NCLB law as written is ridiculous and unattainable. They will demand action (ok, I’m being a little hopeful here).

I will admit I have not had the time to read through the entire draft of the state’s waiver request. Like the possum, I’m not sure I should come up on the porch at all. The smell of the chicken might be too strong to resist! Maybe I should just accept the fact that road kill and insects are the only items on the menu right now, hold my nose, and keep on going!

Wow. First of all, the guy can write! What a great piece! Secondly, it follows eerily a post I made on the Oklahoman website to the article, "Oklahoma request for NCLB waiver should benefit students". Here it is:

Editorialist, could you please tell me what would happen should our schools go on the Needs Improvement List?

I wonder
wonder, have you read for yourself what would happen? Various things would in fact happen should a school go on the NIL from getting federal funding yanked to getting MORE federal funding.

So, what is the NIL all about? Money. Money from where? The Federal government. According to studies, a very large percentage (sometimes as high as 40%) of the money we get from the federal government for public eduction goes to hire staff to manage the money, or to filling out paperwork, or other some such mindnumbing activity that has nothing to do with children in classrooms.

There is such a gasp at the thought of the NIL, but the fact of the matter is, we've had an NCLB in one form or another since LBJ! It's called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Every president since LBJ has amped it up, put their name on it and forwarded it on like it was a Christmas re-gift!

It is an absolute fact that public education simply will not improve until we get all the government MONEY out of the system. So, you can parrot what the 'education establishment' is saying, or you can research the idea for yourself. A waiver from NCLB mandates will do nothing but remove more liberty from Oklahoma legislators and educators and put more power into the hands of Washington bureaucrats.

Oklahomans know better how to educate Oklahoma children...but then, if you abdicate responsibility for Oklahoma children to someone else (the feds), then I guess it's not Oklahoma's (Governor, Superintendent, etc.) fault should we 'fail'. Interesting concept, just not one from which Oklahoma's children will benefit.
So, as I start out my day readying the kids to go to the Port of Catoosa to see faithful 'copies' of Christopher Columbus' ships the Nena and Pinta, I go with the knowledge that not all those in the public school system are supportive of the tact taken by our Superintendent and Governor.

I just hope we can find more of them out there before it's too late.